History of the Soap Box Derby
The idea of the Soap Box Derby® grew out of a photographic assignment of Dayton, Ohio, newsman Myron Scott. He came across a group of boys racing their homemade cars in the summer of 1933 and was so impressed with the event that he acquired a copyright to Soap Box Derby and went in search of a corporate sponsor to establish a national program.
Chevrolet liked Scott’s proposal and agreed to sponsor the first official All-American Soap Box Derby® in Dayton in 1934. The following year, the race moved to Akron because of its central location and hilly terrain. The first race in Akron was run on Tallmadge Avenue.
In 1936, Chevrolet and Akron civic leaders-including legendary journalist John S. Knight-recognized the need for a permanent track site for the youth gravity racing classic. That year, through the efforts of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Derby Downs became a reality in the southeast section of Akron.
The Soap Box Derby ran continuously from its inception until the onset of World War II. After a four-year hiatus, the All-American Soap Box Derby resumed in Akron in 1946 and has been held at Derby Downs every year since. From its inception through 1970, the Soap Box Derby was open to boys only. Girls began racing in 1971.
In the fall of 1972, Chevrolet officials decided to withdraw from sponsoring the Derby program. All trademarks and copyrights for the event were transferred to the Akron Area Chamber of Commerce. After initial attempts to secure a new national sponsor were unsuccessful, the Chamber announced that its organization would assume financial and administrative responsibilities for the 1973 All-American Derby program.
Early in 1974, the Chamber’s Derby corporation assigned rights for the All-American program to the Akron Jaycees, which established International Soap Box Derby Inc., to operate the Derby. The corporation’s affairs are administered by a board of directors of community leaders from Akron and other cities.
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