Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Solley mss., ca. 1888-2006, consist of the automobile and coachbuilder catalogs, photographs, and related automobile literature of Thomas T. Solley (1924–2006). Solley, born in New York City, served in the U.S. Army, European Theatre from 1943–1946. In 1950, he received his B.A. in Architecture from Yale University, and pursued graduate studies at that institution prior to leaving in 1951 to become an Architectural Project Engineer at Eli Lilly & Co. in Indianapolis from 1951–1961. A grandnephew of Josiah K. Lilly, Solley left private practice as an architect to pursue a graduate degree in Art History at Indiana University earning an M.A. in 1966. In 1968, he was appointed Assistant Director of the Indiana University Art Museum in Bloomington becoming its Director in 1971. During Solley's tenure (1971-1986), the Art Museum's holdings grew from 4,000 to more than 30,000 works of art. In recognition of his service and commitment to the Art Museum as administrator, academic, and philanthropist, Solley was awarded the first Indiana University Medal (1982) and the President's Medal for Excellence (1997). In 2002, Indiana University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. Solley passed away in 2006 at his home in St. Prex, Switzerland.

As a youth, Solley became interested in automobile and coachbuilder catalogs and spent more than 60 years systematically amassing a collection of them focused on the "automobile as art." The catalogs served as the basis for his 2008 monograph Prestige, Status, and Works of Art: Selling the Luxury Car 1888-1942, in which many of them are described in fulsome detail. Solley, also a discriminating collector of luxury automobiles (most notably Rolls-Royce and Bentley), did not limit his catalog collecting solely to Great Britain although these makes et al. are particularly well represented. The collection is also particularly strong in automobile and coachbuilder catalogs from France (Bugatti, Delage, Hispano-Suiza; Henri Chapron, J. Saoutchik), Germany (Horch, Mercedes-Benz; Glaserkarosserie G.M.B.H.), Italy (Alfa Romeo, Isotta Fraschini, Lancia; Castagna), and the United States (Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln, Packard; Fleetwood, LeBaron).

The collection is arranged by the following series: I. Automobile Catalogs; II. Coachbuilder Catalogs; III. Miscellaneous. Catalogs are geographically arranged with automobile/coachbuilder catalogs alphabetically listed (in chronological order) within the grouping. Photographs, articles, and renderings, among other items (where identified) have been filed with the automobile/coachbuilder. When applicable, items have been linked to entries in Solley's monograph, Prestige, Status, and Works of Art: Selling the Luxury Car 1888-1942 (Lilly TL15 .S68 2008), by use of the notation SE (Solley Entry) along with the corresponding location within the text.

An inventory is available

Acquired: 2002-2003

Collection size: 50,000 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.