Bruce Craig, auto racing photographer dies

By Len Ashburn = Special to Motorsport.com Bruce R. Craig, 63, of Pohatcong Township, New Jersey died Monday, Nov. 19, 2001 in his home. He was a self-employed auto racing photographer, videographer, and historian who was well known...

By Len Ashburn = Special to Motorsport.com

Bruce R. Craig, 63, of Pohatcong Township, New Jersey died Monday, Nov. 19, 2001 in his home.

He was a self-employed auto racing photographer, videographer, and historian who was well known throughout the United States. His photography collections on auto racing, numbering some 86,000 negatives, could be compared to those of Mathew Brady on the Civil War. In addition to taking photos he was very adept at acquiring outstanding collections. One example was the vast and respected work of photographer Frank Smith who documented midget auto racing.

Born July 26, 1938, in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, he was a son of the late Milton and Anna Searles Craig.

He was a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, and of the Williams Grove Oldtimers; an organization dedicated to preserving auto racing. He was a longtime and active member of the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing in Dillsburg, Pa. He was a member of numerous historic racing organizations.

He is survived by his wife, Jeanne A. Hinnershitz Craig; a stepdaughter, Denise Read of Fleetwood, Pa.; a stepson, Michael Wunderlich of Douglasville, Pa.; and three stepgrandchildren.

Tributes from various sources follow:

"My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Bruce Craig 4(four) or 5(five) years ago at the fabulous Hershey, Pa. fall antique car meet where he was selling old racing photos in the flea market area. We bought several old time racing photos from him. We enjoyed meeting him him several times at several auto racing events since. A nicer more sincere person cannot be found.

"At racing events, his sales display outfit consisted of a beat up old folding table, a half dozen cheap plastic portable file folder storage boxes containing the racing photos and sometimes a well used fold-apart display board with examples of the many vintage race prints he had for sale stapled onto the display board. The last I saw him was at Williams Grove at one of the Outlaws events last year.

"His personal knowledge of oval track racing history was staggering. He knew all the great little colorful stories that surrounded the drivers and tracks in addition to the racing itself - from years of personal experience. I believe his wife is the daughter of Pa. racing legend - the late Tommy Hinnershitz. Bruce also put together a photographic booklet of central Pa. sprint car racing during the 1960-70 period.

"The thing I'd like to remember most about Bruce Craig was that he shared his racing knowledge and collections with all of us. A looking through many great racing books will reveal that Bruce Craig enhanced those publications by making available photos from his outstanding collections.

"He was one-of-a-kind will be sadly missed."
--Al Isselhard

"I believe we will all miss Bruce Craig.

"Any review of many past racing publications makes you appreciate his influence and photos. Bruce's archive was a collection of many archives he had purchased over the span of his life.

"Buying a photo from him always included a good backup story which was the value in the purchase. Last year Bruce told me he was thinking about selling his collection of over 80,000 negatives that seems to span the whole time spectrum of racing history.

"What was so remarkable is that Bruce seemed to know something about most of the photos and even more remarkable is that the archive and Bruce were so accessible.

"I don't know if he had much written backup material on each negative or how the archive was organized. It also was apparent that Bruce had not mentored or a successor had developed to the archive.

"The thought about the logistics effort it would take to manage such a collection is staggering. If there is little written material with each photo one would need Bruce to go over each one to get his input.

"If you recorded his review and you spent an average of 15 minutes per photo you would have 20,000 hours (10 years @ a 40 hr work week) of tape alone to manage also. Possessing the photos was nothing in comparison to the back up knowledge, Bruce Craig himself was the major resource of the archive.

"Losing Bruce is a great loss to racing history."

--Kem Roberston

"Bruce will be sorely missed.

"He was a race photographer since the 1960s and he bought a number of collections that covered auto racing from early in the 20th century.

"He even acquired my racing photography from the 1947-64 period at a time when, having no darkroom of my own, he was better able to use the negatives.

"He had some 86,000 negatives, several thousand color slides and color negatives, prints, film, books, programs and other records.

"He was both unfailingly helpful and upbeat to the last about his health problems. Who among us could keep smiling after kidney failure (he was on dialysis three days a week), open heart surgery, diabetes and cancer?

"How many racing books could never have made it into print without Bruce's images?

"I had the misfortune to walk into his home around lunchtime on Monday on a long-planned visit to find he had died a few hours earlier. His wife, Jeanne Hinnershitz Craig, had told me Sunday evening that he was sinking, but that he wanted us to come ahead that next morning. It was not to be, but Jeanne welcomed us and told us Bruce would have wanted us to come in to survey his collection.

"He has been trying to sell it for more than a year and turned down offers from overseas and from people he felt would sit on it and not make it available to those historians, authors and researchers who need it.

"The Craig Collection is the largest, longest, and most comprehensive racing photo collection I believe exists anywhere, certainly in private hands. It is a national treasure.

"My personal hope, further, is that this and other collections might go to the same place, be added to the catalogue, and be readily available rather than rest in the hands of individuals who simply do not have the resources to make prints in large quantities. Armin Krueger's stuff, for example. Where did it go? There are many others.

"Bruce's negatives and prints are going to be unavailable for a few months until the collection can be transferred, catalogued, properly stored in better archival conditions and generally made ready for use, but I have every hope that soon we can buy a comprehensive catalogue from which we can order prints. It may then in a sense be easier to access, but it will never have Bruce's wellspring of knowledge of racing, the cars and the people. R.I.P., old friend.

--Gordon White, Auto Racing Curator, the Smithsonian-

Final arrangements are pending.

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Series HISTORY , GENERAL
Article type Obituary

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