Oh, Oh-oh…O’Reilly!

Oh, Oh-oh…O’Reilly!

Written by Chris Ritter

If you’re a fan of motorsports, get ready to get your motor running! In mid-April, AACA librarians Chris Ritter and Mike Reilly headed to Eugene, Oregon, to accept, pack and load the photographs, press kits, ephemera, periodicals, and more – a collection so large that it filled a 53-foot semi trailer.

When the collection arrived in Hershey, library staff immediately started the daunting task of inventory, a phase that will last several months as the contents of each box are documented and samples are photographed. After the initial inventory is complete, the material will be moved into archival storage boxes at which time the detailed cataloging process begins. It is expected that the O’Reilly collection will be fully cataloged and available to the public by April 2017.

Don O’Reilly co-founded Speed Age magazine in 1947, becoming the first publisher to offer in-depth analysis of motorsports. At the time of the magazine’s launch, most motorsports (with the exception of the Indianapolis 500) were simply considered stunt driving expositions and glossed over by sports journalists in tabloid form. Speed Age gave racing its due, covering everything from stock car to motorcycle events in the United States and abroad.

In 1948, Speed Age reported on the newly formed NASCAR. Ironically, O’Reilly eventually left his publication and began working for NASCAR in 1954. There, O’Reilly led the NASCAR News Bureau, where he promoted, publicized and validated stock car racing as a legitimate sport. O’Reilly’s time there ended in 1958, when he left to focus on a syndicated newspaper column.

O’Reilly’s “Inside Auto Racing” column kept him busy for several decades. He eventually finished his journaliosm career as a writer for a small newspaper in Florida, when he died in 2000 at the age of 87.

In addition to the collection that the AACA Library recently received, more O’Reilly material can be found at The International Motor Sports Hall of Fame in Alabama and at the University of North Carolina’s J. Murrey Atkins Library. A comprehensive biographical article can be found in the November/December 2011 issue of Vintage Motorsport.

To say that the collection is diverse would be a major understatement. Shown here are just a few of the notable pieces discovered.

– Chris Ritter