From the earliest days, the motorcycle industry in America realized the profitable potential between aligning their products with the sporting young gentlemen who slung themselves around the race tracks. No doubt a philosophy carried over from the good ole’ days of bicycle competition, advertisements which initially touted the brand’s superior technology quickly began to backupsuch claims with their successes at speed trails, reliability runs, road races, and hill climbs. Indian Motocycles, one of the first manufacturers to realize the lucrative relationship between competition success and showroom sales was also one of the first to capitalize on their victories, running ads like Indian’s 1904 “Scalps” campaign which trumpeted their titles back to 1902. Naturally, seeing as though motorcycles were mostly a blend of components from a variety of manufacturers, it wasn’t long before the “winning” strategy popped up in advertisements for chains, tires, grips, oil, magnetos, coils, hubs, and more. As the first decade of the 20th Century drew to a close the proliferation of variety throughout the industry, as well as the introduction of the sensational circular wooden motordrome tracks only compounded the importance of competition success in manufacturer’s advertising strategies… a new era of racer sponsorships had begun.
Similar to rivalries between motorcycle manufacturer’s, competition for marketshare amongst tire companies was nearly as fierce. Given the pace of innovation, coupled with the controlled racing environments provided by the wildly popular board track motordromes, speed and distance records were being broken nearly every week in front of tens-of-thousands of spectators. As a result a number of individuals, the top tier of competitors throughout the country found themselves being approached by a number of component manufacturers interested in rewarding them for their loyalty. In 1912, one such racer, the young motordrome darling Eddie Hasha, heralded as the “King of the Pro’s,” had quickly earned a name for himself given his natural talent on the timbers in Denver, Chicago, and Oakland the season before. At the start of the 1912 season the young Texan arrived in Los Angeles with his brand new factory works Indian Big Base 8-Valve machine, a cutting edge machine onboard which Hasha determined to topple every record on the books.
The United States Tire Company, a conglomerate tire company which represented Continental, G&J, Hartford, and Morgan & Wright tires, as well as their own branded offerings was eager to cash in on the increasing visibility of board track racing and the promotional goldmine of speed records. In letters between US Tire management and Los Angeles racing pioneer/industry ambassador Paul “Dare Devil” Derkum, the rubber mega-corp expressed their interest in recruiting the ambitious young Hasha before he knocked down all existing speed records using their competitions tires. In the letters, which were generously shared by a friend, US Tire proposed a reward of $1 per mile for every record Hasha obtains, meaning that a 50-mile record on US Tire’s rubber would mean a $50 check at the end of the day, roughly $1,300 in today’s value. A nice bonus from a single endorsement, but when put in the context that most record runs were done in a variety of distances including 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 mile increments during an event, the 20 year old racing star could potentially earn almost $200, nearly $5,000 today from a single sponsor for a single day’s work. That still may not seem like much, but considering that the average annual salary in 1912 was well under $1,000, making $200 in a day begins to put into perspective the justification of risk these gentlemen agreed to every time they stepped foot inside these perilous board tracks. However good the deal appeared though it must have paled in comparison to the offer laid out by Goodyear, as Hasha ran their Blue Streak series throughout the 1912 season, a fact that Goodyear was more than happy to point out in countless advertisements.