Pittsburgh, Penna., 1939-1955; bulk, 1941-1943]. Approx. 140 signed autograph letters, 45 financial documents, 10 pieces of commercial ephemera, 13 boating catalogs and price lists, 6 bound publications and pamphlets, 19 racing newsletters and periodicals, 1 flip-top notepad. Overall in very good condition. Item #18261
A deep dive into the nuts and bolts of amateur outboard motorboat racing in the 1940s, from the sometime Vice Commodore of the Great Lakes Outboard Runabout Assn., an extensive file of ephemera and correspondence from Squirrel Hill nurseryman James F. (Jim) Wissenbach—all tending to point up a man’s fascination with both the technical challenges and the thrills of motorboat racing. Wissenbach’s enthusiasm clearly seemed to lie on the water; his day job at the family-owned Squirrel Hill Nursery here fades into a background of outboard technical specs, preparations for races, correspondence with outboard enthusiasts, etc. The flip-top notepad, with its 9 pages of handwritten race results from 1940 and 1941, well encapsulates Wissenbach’s methodical enthusiasm for outboard racing; each entry follows the same format, recording the name and date of the race, results for each heat and final, with pertinent observations. Wissenbach’s August 10, 1940 day at the Cleveland Central Divisional is typical; he notes an “upset in 2nd place,” with the “water rough dirty & also warm,” his “boat damaged a little,” etc. The 140 or so letters make up the bulk of the collection, primarily incoming correspondence (with some drafts of outgoing letters) between Wissenbach and motorboat suppliers and service providers, as well as with officials and friends from various racing clubs in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio. (As expected, the line between friend and supplier often blurs.) The correspondence includes much in the way of examples of illustrated outboard or boating letterhead; 24 letters, between 1940 and 1942, are from the Cleveland Johnson Motor Co. distributor Maurice “Beck” Beckman, also secretary of the Great Lakes Outboard Runabout Association. Beckman and Wissenbach were introduced with a June 19th, 1940 letter from James L. Collier, and Beckman’s first rather stiff responses from August 22 soon relax into an evident friendship; as early as September 20, Beckman is passing along good-natured advice, “We race at Fremont, Sunday, September 22, and I am counting on you to be there. And by the way, better get that last R.P.M. out of your ‘Mill’, the boys are really shooting the works – it’s do or die.” Correspondence is rich in illustrated letterheads, occasional trade catalogs and parts price lists, graphic ephemera, membership decals, technical engine manuals, and a few short broken runs of ephemeral newsletters from 1939 onward—including The Ark (later Rooster Tail), the newsletter of the National Outboard Association, and Propeller, the newsletter of the American Power Boat Association. Detailed collection description—including a little more detail on correspondents, Wissenbach’s filing system, and occasional non-motorboat glimpses into Wissenbach’s life—available on request.