- Chris Price
If there is one machine which embodies the storied era of the board track motordrome it would no doubt be an Indian, and no configuration to have come out of the Springfield factory was more perfectly tailored for the infamous slanted timbers of America’s fabled dromes than Indian’s Big Base 8-Valve. Perhaps even more synonymous with the treacherous glory of the American motordrome is one of the company’s most notable talents, the young Texan William Edward Hasha.
Arthur George Chapple, the man rocketing up the Fort Lee hill in December, 1909 as covered in this week’s previous post, was one of America’s first and most loved motorcycle racing stars. A pioneer of the sport, Chapple’s racing career dates back to the earliest days of competition, when daring early adopters found themselves duking it out with the very men responsible for the machine’s creation, men like Glenn Curtiss, Oscar Hedstrom, and Joseph Merkel. He became a fixture competitor...
A popular early form of motorsport was the hill climb, which in its original form dates back to the very introduction of the automobile and motorcycle.However, these early hill climbs were not the outlandish grudge matches with nearly vertical slants like the ones America fell in love with in the 1920’s and 30’s. The earlier bouts were timed ascents up inclined local roads throughout the country and were only slightly more civilized. This photo comes from one such early hill climb, an event staged in the palisades of New Jersey in the fall of 1909...
By this day 100 years ago nearly half of humanity had been tearing itself apart across Europe for nearly 2 years, trapped in the desolation of the world’s first global conflict, the war to end all wars. Death had kept busy ushering millions near the tranquil waters of the Marne and the Somme, and from the once peaceful pastures at Ypres and Verdun to their doom, but on this day, April 9, 1917, he extended his necrosed arm across the Atlantic and drew the United States into the carnage.
It was one hundred years ago this week that a reluctant United States finally resolved to enter into the horrifying bog of World War I, the gruesome mechanical death machine. On April 2nd, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson addressed congress citing that America was “but one of the champions of the rights of mankind,” and that “The world must be made safe for democracy.” On April 6th, Congress declared war against Germany and America thrust itself forward into “the war to end all wars,” a terrible new pitch of blood letting across Europe that would tear from humanity nearly 40 million casualties.
On December 30, 1912, on the wide boards of the Playa Del Rey board track in Los Angeles, a local Class B racer named Lee I. Humiston mounted his new 61ci Excelsior twin and set off for the day’s speed trails. Like a lightning bolt of grey and red, Humiston and his Excelsior shot around the massive 1 mile long wooden circle at Playa, the largest wooden track of its time which had a shallow banking of only 20 degrees, and set a new mile record of 36 seconds flat. The occasion was a spectacular moment in American motorcycle history and all who were present knew it, as it marked the first time that a man and a motorcycle had ever reached the 100 mph mark.
At only 17 years old, Ray Seymour, the “California Wonder” had already established himself as one of the top competitors in the sport of American motorcycle racing by 1909. The freckle-faced youngster had only begun racing around the dirt tracks of Southern California the year before, and became a staple crack at LA’s Agriculture Park, one of the first hubs of the sport. His ability to hold his own at such a young age against the country’s first generation of racers, experienced and hardened carry-overs from the glory days of bicycle competition put him at the top of the class of America’s second wave of pioneer racers, and helped earn him a factory sponsorship with Reading Standard.
“Farmer” Joe Wolters debuting the powerful new Excelsior “7” on the boards of Chicago’s Riverview Motordrome in early August, 1911. Wolters had just arrived in the Windy City from racing at the two board track motordromes in Denver, Tuileries and Lakeside that June. Joe had first acquired an Excelsior mount the season prior from the local Denver dealer, and when he discovered that the belt on his ported Excelsior single would slip once it became oily he set about converting it to a chain drive, as such introducing the first chain-driven Excelsior, squeezing 10 mph more out of the machine.
Inspired by French cycling star Henri Fournier’s motorized pacing machine which he brought to the United States in 1897, companies like the Waltham Manufacturing Company, makers of the popular Orient line of bicycles and tandem pacers began acquiring French made DeDion button engines to experiment with their own motor-pacer designs. Paced bicycle races had grown in popularity leading up to 1900, and with the introduction and application of new gasoline powered combustion engines the pacing machines had quickly become a sensation at the track.
The eternally lovely, fearless, and unwavering Miss Vivian Bales onboard her beloved 1929 Harley-Davidson Model D, on which she traversed thousands of miles throughout North America at the end of the Prohibition Era. A seamstress and dancing instructor from Albany, Ga., Vivian grew restless in her small south-Georgia town so she picked up her first Harley-Davidson in 1926 and set out seeking adventure. As she grew more confident and resilient her journey’s grew longer, and the petite Miss Bales eventually caught the eye of Harley-Davidson’s co-founder, then acting President Arthur Davidson.