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 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 in the southeast section of Akron, became a reality.
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.
SOAP BOX DERBY TIMELINE
1934 - First All-American Soap Box Derby ran in Dayton, Ohio. Eleven-year-old Bob Turner of Muncie, Ind., won.
1935 - Race moved to Akron and ran on Tallmadge Avenue Hill. Maurice Bale, Jr., 14, of Anderson, Ind., won. International media attention was focused on the event when popular radio announcer Graham McNamee was struck by an out-of-control race car.
1936 - Derby Downs opened. Built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
1938 - Grandstands added along track.
1941 - Akron's Claude Smith, 14, won the last All-American Soap Box Derby before a four-year suspension during World War II.
1946 - Soap Box Derby racing resumed.
1971 - Girls competed in Soap Box Derby racing for the first time.
1972 - In Fall 1972, Chevrolet withdrew its national sponsorship of the Soap Box Derby and transferred all program rights to the Akron Area Chamber of Commerce.
1973 - The Chamber conducted the race with local support, but no national sponsor. Champion Jimmy Gronen of Boulder, Colo., was disqualified after the race when an electromagnet was found in his car.
1974 - The Akron Chamber assigned all rights to the Akron Jaycees, which established International Soap Box Derby, Inc., to operate the Derby.
That organization continues today to manage the local and All-American Soap Box Derby activities.
1975 - Eleven-year-old Karren Stead of Lower Bucks County, Pa., became the first girl to win the All-American Soap Box Derby.
In November 1975, Novar Electronics Corporation of Barberton, Ohio, became the new national sponsor
1976 - Officials added the Kit Car-or Junior-Division, in which youngsters 10 through 12 built cars from hardware supplied in a kit and with patterns for the floorboards. Phil Raber, 11, of Sugarcreek, Ohio, won the first All-American Soap Box Derby's Junior title.
1981 - Some junior contestants built cars built for the first time with fiberglass body shells provided by All-American headquarters.
1986 - The first sanctioned rally races were run, in which youngsters accumulated points to earn a "wildcard" slot in the field for the All-American Soap Box Derby.
1987 - Thirty All-American Soap Box Derby world champions returned to Akron to celebrate the program's 50th anniversary. Bob Turner, the first winner, was grand marshal of the Race Day Parade.
1992 - The novice Stock Car division was added for youngsters 8 through 13. They build ready-to-assemble fiberglass cars.
Also in 1992, a new headquarters building opened on the west side of the track's run-out area.
1993 - For the first time, youngsters qualified for a separate All-American rally championship.
1995 - Super Stock ready-to-assemble cars for larger youngsters replaced the Kit Cars.
1997 - As part of the 60th anniversary celebration, the All-American Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame was established. Myron Scott, the youth racing program's founder, returned to Akron to become the first inductee.
1999 - New metal bleachers replaced the aged wooden grandstands. The project was funded by the City of Akron.
2000 - A new two-deck steel bridge, funded by Summit County, replaced the bridge that had stood over the finish line since 1937. Because of the positioning of the new structure, the track was lengthened by 35 feet to its current 989 feet, four inches.
2012 - FirstEnergy Corp., the diverse energy company based in Akron, becomes the program's title sponsor.
More than 550 youngsters between the ages of 7 and 17 represented their home communities in the 75th FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby on Saturday, July 21. They came from 40 states in the United States, as well as from Canada, Germany, Japan and New Zealand.