National Auto Show in Atlanta!

Part 2

Atlanta National Auto Show

Industry representation from the Southeastern states was also very strong, thanks to the Auto Show Committee sending invitations to more than 1,500 automobile dealers and garage proprietors.

The same courtesy was offered to the carriage dealers, since many were gradually getting into the motor car business. By 1909, the automobile had already cut the sale of carriages by 50 percent.

The 1909 Atlanta National Automobile Show was part of Automobile Week in Atlanta. Candler, seeking outlets for his rapidly increasing earnings from Coca-Cola, had earlier purchased the nucleus of Atlanta's future Municipal Airport, 300 acres of land near Hapeville.

There he constructed the Atlanta Speedway, which opened during much pageantry on November 9th. Many famous pioneer racing drivers ventured to this area to compete in a series of races during the Automobile Week celebration.

Even though the Atlanta Speedway was a big hit during Automobile Week, it proved to be a big disappointment afterwards. The venue closed after one year due to the lack of attendance. The question of what to do with the track was answered in December of 1910 when the airplane, or "giant man-bird" as it was called then, was displayed at Atlanta's first air show. What followed is, of course, aerial history.

The city also celebrated Automobile Week with a parade on November 9th that was sponsored by the city's morning newspaper, The Atlanta Constitution.

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The newspaper reported: "All is in readiness for the monster automobile parade which is to be held on Wednesday morning when the contestants in The Constitution's Good Roads Reliability Runs will pass through the city, some two hundred strong, convoyed by five hundred automobilists all gaily bedecked in colors and carrying the flag of Georgia."

The newspaper also reported that the starting point for the parade was at the junction of Peachtree and Fifteenth Streets and that two military bands had been secured and mounted on automobile trucks.

As Automobile Week ended, the Atlanta Journal estimated that the total attendance for the auto show and racing events reached 150,000. This early public fascination with the automobile is even more fantastic when you consider that at the time only 1,300 motor cars were owned by Atlantans.

In their closing coverage, the Journal stated, "The success of the whole affair may be summed up in the statement that Atlanta has something to offer, and offered it in the best possible manner.' No other city in the country twice Atlanta's size has ever put on anything in the entertainment line half as big nor nearly as successful as Automobile Week."

Three years passed before another auto show was seen in Atlanta. In 1912, the newly formed Atlanta Automobile and Accessory Association sponsored the Atlanta Auto Show at the Auditorium-Armory.

Five more years passed before the Atlanta Auto Trades and Accessories Association produced the 1917 Southeastern Auto Show in the same facility. Then there would be a long wait of over 65 years before the bright lights would return.

The Auditorium-Armory would never again be the home of a major auto show after 1917. The facility eventually changed its name to the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium. This historic landmark hosted concerts, theater productions, operas, balls, professional wrestling cards and the circus for almost 70 years.

Two events of great note were the Gone with the Wind Ball in 1939 and Muhammad Ali's comeback fight against Jerry Quarry in 1970. The building was sold in 1979 to Georgia State University which now uses the structure as their Alumni Hall.

A large indoor facility for exhibitions finally became available in Atlanta in 1976 when the state owned Georgia World Congress Center opened in the Downtown area. The Metro Atlanta Automobile Dealers Association (MAADA) took advantage of this in 1983 when it sponsored the first Atlanta International Auto Show.

MAADA has continued its support of the show for over 26 years, watching it grow from 145,000 square feet to over 600,000 square feet. The show is now recognized as one of the Top 10 Auto Shows in this country, with 38 different manufacturers exhibiting their best vehicles and displays.

"The pioneer dealer associations and manufacturers responsible for Atlanta's 1909, 1912 and 1917 autos shows would be proud of the growth of the industry during the past century," stated Shayne Wilson, President of MAADA. "They would also be amazed at the size of today's auto show, which is 10 times larger than the area used for the Atlanta National Automobile Show at the Auditorium-Armory in 1909."Retrieve from online on 10/18/2011. Return to Custom Car Show from National Auto Show

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