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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Reading Recommendations on Racing and Beyond

March 15, 2022 Archive Insight

In each new issue of The Henry Ford Magazine, our staff recommend books and other media that have recently caught their attention. In the January–May 2020 issue, we celebrated the upcoming opening of our Driven to Win: Racing in America exhibit with a featured recommendation from Curator of Transportation Matt Anderson, as well as racing-related resources from our collections and library. In addition, staff recommended titles on precision engineering, the 1936 U.S. Olympics rowing team, and communicating in the Internet age.

American Auto Racing: The Milestones and Personalities of a Century of Speed by J.A. Martin and Thomas F. Saal

Black book cover with images of race cars and text

You can read American Auto Racing from cover to cover, but the handbook-like format makes it more rewarding when taken a chapter or two at a time. The book’s many topics are split into 87 short chapters, each generally two or three pages long. All of the key races, faces, and places are here, from the first Vanderbilt Cup competition in 1904 and Harry Miller’s design dominance at the Indianapolis 500 in the 1920s to breaking the sound barrier at Bonneville in 1997.

This is not the sort of book that’ll quickly tell you who won NASCAR’s Cup Series championship in 1988, but if you want a concise overview of Bill Elliott’s career and his impact on stock car racing, it’s inside. In other words, American Auto Racing is a perfect primer for those wanting to study up before or after a visit to our permanent exhibition Driven to Win: Racing in America.

--Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World by Simon Winchester

Blue and white book cover with text, line drawing of gears, and image of space

Occasionally, when holding some object or other, I find myself musing about its creation, about design decisions, and whether it was manufactured by hand or machine. The Perfectionists takes this mentality a step further, probing the realm of precision—the exactness with which something is measured—and how precision engineering and manufacturing have changed the world. Simon Winchester’s beautifully written account covers the advent of precision all the way to today’s ultra-precise electronics, divided into chapters based on the ever-exacting and now near-infinitesimal tolerances demanded. His thought-provoking questions about the nature and necessity of precision, and of the balance between precision and craft, will add another layer to my contemplation of, and admiration for, the materials that surround all of us.

--Louise Stewart Beck, former Senior Conservator

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

In The Boys in the Boat, author Daniel James Brown interweaves multiple stories of passion and drive. Rower Joe Rantz overcame tremendous personal obstacles on his way to becoming an integral member of the University of Washington rowing team. That group of young men struggled to gain respect in their sport, ultimately beating the elite U.S. teams on both coasts on their way to the 1936 national title. And at the Berlin Olympics that year, the team faced the powerhouse German crew in the finals and, digging deep, found a way to succeed when everything was against them.

--Janice Unger, Processing Archivist

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

Yellow book cover with text, some highlighted

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you are participating in humanity’s biggest experiment: language. And if you’ve ever accessed the internet, typed an email, or sent a text message, you have contributed to the massive evolution language has undergone in the digital age. In Because Internet, author and linguist Gretchen McCulloch expertly dissects the complex nuances and development of our modern electronic communications. From GIFs and emoticons (or “emotion icons”) to the abbreviation “LOL” (“laugh out loud”), her book is part history, part linguistics, and part realization that the informal language of our digital spaces is an expressive landscape that is neither single nor finite.

--Ryan Jelso, Associate Curator, Digital Content

More Reading about Racing

Black-and-white two-page book layout with four images of long, sleek race cars, with and without people standing next to them
Plate of illustrations from The Fastest Men in the World—On Wheels. / THF126226

The Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford can put you on the right track if you’re interested in learning more about auto racing in America. For assistance with access, contact the Research Center.

Auto Racing: Magazine of the World’s Greatest Sport
Auto Racing Digest

The Complete Book of Auto Racing by Lyle Kenyon Engel
The New York Times Complete Guide to Auto Racing by John S. Radosta
Auto Racing Yearbook by Eugene Jaderquist
The Fastest Men in the World—On Wheels by Deke Houlgate
Where They Raced, Lap 2: Auto Racing Venues in Southern California, 1900–2000 by Harold L. Osmer
Dirt Track Auto Racing, 1919–1941: A Pictorial History by Don Radbruch
Famous Auto Racing Thrills by George Sullivan

Archival Collections
Dave Friedman Collection, 1946–2009: Materials covering 60 years of automobile racing
Phil Harms Collection, 1896–2003: Collection documenting the history of open-wheel automobile racing in the United States

This post was adapted from an article first published in the January–May 2020 issue of The Henry Ford Magazine.

racing, The Henry Ford Magazine, books

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