The Pacesetter: The Untold Story of Carl G. Fisher

Overview

Carl G. Fisher did not live the American dream - he made the American dream. The dirt poor Indiana Boy built his dreams into vast fortunes, nothing was impossible to Carl G. Fisher. He had the vision to see, the daring to plan, and the courage to build.

Overlooked and forgotten by the editors of Who's Who, Carl G. Fisher is at long last being recognized. A "Practical Visionary," he created the first Transcontinental Highway, built the 500, ...

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Overview

Carl G. Fisher did not live the American dream - he made the American dream. The dirt poor Indiana Boy built his dreams into vast fortunes, nothing was impossible to Carl G. Fisher. He had the vision to see, the daring to plan, and the courage to build.

Overlooked and forgotten by the editors of Who's Who, Carl G. Fisher is at long last being recognized. A "Practical Visionary," he created the first Transcontinental Highway, built the 500, developed Miami Beach, and Montauk, New York, known as "Miami Beach of the North."

Now Jerry M. Fisher, a cousin of Carl's, has written the definitive biography of the man who built what he dared to envision. Carl G. Fisher carved the playground of Miami Beach from the swamps of a mosquito infested jungle. He was "Mr. Miami Beach." He sculpted Montauk, New York, and made Long Island a fashionable place to live. The Indianapolis 500 remains the worlds premier racing event. The Lincoln (Transcontinental) and Dixie highways, awesome accomplishments for their time or any, brought the country into the 20th century the way the railroad brought the country together in the 19th century.

Presidents called him a friend; the Gasoline Alley Gang of Ford, Chevrolet, and Firestone regarded him as a pacesetter. Al Capone considered him a nuisance. When Carl G. Fisher drove the pace car for the first Indy 500 in 1911 he was not only setting the pace car for that race, but for all Americans who venture onto highways on vacation.

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Editorial Reviews

Indianapolis Star
. . a fascinating book about a fascinating but forgotten man. Fisher doesn't whitewash his relative's faults or embellish his assets. This is a cards-on-the-table biography. The Pacesetter is heavily notated and draws on hundreds of sources to light the shadows of a marketing genius who shunned the spotlight. [It] takes Fisher through his quarrels with Miami Beach resident Al Capone, the liquor Fisher hid during Prohibition, the developer's fights with Florida's anti-Semitism and racism, and the death of his only child, 26 days after the boy was born.
Packards International
This book is riveting, especially for a fan of biographies of people who achieve great things. If you like reading about achievers, and want to know more about the great builders of the 20th Century, you'll love this book about Carl Fisher.
Library Journal
Carl G. Fisher was an early 20th-century entrepreneur whose energy and gift for promotion carried him through a number of very successful and historically noteworthy ventures: He created the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its annual 500-mile race, and he was the motivating and organizing force behind the Lincoln Highway, the nation's first transcontinental road. Fisher seems best known as the primary developer of Miami Beach, then little more than a tropical swamp. He similarly began to develop Montauk, Long Island, before going bankrupt during the Great Depression. This portrait was written by a Fisher relative to offset a general lack of biographical information about him. (Fisher's first wife, Jane, wrote an earlier biography, Fabulous Hoosier.) Extensively researched, it gives significant detail about Fisher's projects, yet at times it reads too much like a mere gathering of facts. Nonetheless, Fisher's achievements deserve to be documented. Libraries in Indiana and South Florida ought to have this title, as should those with collections about American entrepreneurs.--David B. Van De Streek, Pennsylvania State Univ. Libs., York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781882897216
  • Publisher: Lost Coast Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 440
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: An Enterprising Young Man
Chapter 2: A Businessman at Seventeen
Chapter 3: Love Affair with the Automobile
Chapter 4: Prest-O-Lite Leads to Fortune
Chapter 5: Speedway is Born
Chapter 6: A Surprise Marriage
Chapter 7: A Road Across the U.S.A.
Chapter 8: The Hosier Trail Blazers
Chapter 9: Most Direct Route
Chapter 10: Government, the White Knight
Chapter 11: Miami Beach: An Active Retirement
Chapter 12: Of Coconuts and Avocados
Chapter 13: A Bridge to Development
Chapter 14: "Crazy" Fisher Again
Chapter 15: Sales Begin at Alton Beach
Chapter 16: Home of the Beach
Chapter 17: World War I
Chapter 18: Carl Scores a Coup with President-Elect Harding
Chapter 19: Personal Tragedy
Chapter 20: The Dixie Highway
Chapter 21: "Its June in Miami"
Chapter 22: The Boom Begins
Chapter 23: The Binder Boys Arrive and Carl Heads North
Chapter 24: Moving Towards Divorce
Chapter 25: "Miami Beach of the North" and a Hurricane
Chapter 26: Montauk Opens and Capone Comes to the Beach
Chapter 27: Old and New Friends and A Confrontation with Capone
Chapter 28: Depression
Chapter 29: Final Years
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First Chapter

Twelve-year-old Carl Graham Fisher squinted intently at the writing on the blackboard and then looked around the classroom at his fellow sixth-graders who were dutifully copying what was written there. He glanced at his teacher, who was working at her desk. Then slowly, deliberately, he closed his book, gathered his belongings, and rose from his seat. Carl walked out the door of the red school house and closed it quietly behind him. It was 1886, and there were no laws in Indiana to compel "the stupidest boy in school,"1 as his teacher called him, to return. It would be another eleven years before the state required compulsory education of children between eight and fourteen. Carl knew his mother would object to his ending his formal education, but as the oldest of three boys, he had a winning argument: the family needed any money he could make, and he wasn't making any in school. His job in a grocery story would be a welcome addition to the family income.

Born January 12, 1874, with a case of severe astigmatism, Carl was half-blind. Early poverty and the limited technology of the time prevented his condition from being diagnosed and corrected until he was 31. His poor vision made any writing on the blackboard nothing but an undecipherable jumble of characters, severely limiting his learning. But he had no way of knowing how bad his vision really was, and he did not let it hamper the physical activities at which he excelled.

Running backward was his specialty. He practiced diligently and challenged other students to races, which he usually won running backward while they ran forward. Thirty years later, in his 40's, Carl could still beat his friends this way. Games and sports, from swimming to ice skating and roller skating, seemed to come naturally to him. He used his physical prowess to promote the grocery store where he worked, displaying banners that advertised the store when he sledded down a steep hill in Lebanon, Ohio.

Carl was determined to support his family. Ida, his mother, had left his father the previous year and moved to Indianapolis with her three sons, taking in boarders to support them. Albert Fisher, born in 1847, seemed to have a promising future practicing law when he married Ida Graham, described as "a firm-minded, steady-eyed woman" by Carl's first wife, Jane, and a "`hard, strong, stubborn, determined' woman" in historian Polly Redford's Billion-Dollar Sandbar. Albert had been admitted to the Indiana bar in 1871 and had been "A belligerent county prosecutor." Unfortunately, Albert practiced not only law, but also the art of lifting the bottle. His alcoholism plunged the family into poverty. Carl, their firstborn, was born in Greensburg, Indiana, a town in Decatur County, southeast of Indianapolis.

Ida, a native of Martinsville, Ohio, had lived in Indianapolis with her parents before her marriage. She moved back to Indianapolis when she despaired of her husband's ability to support their family. The small family led a meager existence, but never went hungry or turned to crime. Ida instilled in them early that they must take responsibility for their actions. There was no question that Carl loved his mother. Throughout his life, Carl provided a home for her and showed concern for her welfare. When she died in 1925, it was in his home on Long Island. His father's alcoholism prevented their having a close relationship, but Carl was to support him financially as well. And Carl, whose honesty in business dealings was noted by his associates, may have gained that attribute from his father. He wrote to a prospective client when he was 59: "My father was a lawyer, and he always told me that if I would stick to doing what I thought was right, I would never get in very serious trouble.

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