Possibly one of the most shared archival films from America’s Golden Age of motorcycle racing, however the footage is woefully, if not comically misidentified, citing errors from the locations to the individual names of the racers, errors which have created a considerable amount of confusion among modern day enthusiasts. Revisit this priceless footage from New York's Sheepshead Bay board track speedway, now with an accurate understanding of the history involved, and enjoy a rare glimpse into the excitement of the American board track speedway.
The son of a seamstress and a cigar maker, Irving Edward Janke was born on January 5, 1896 in bustling town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which at the time was home to the world’s tallest building. A city of German immigrants and American industrialism, Milwaukee soon became home to forerunners in America’s transportation revolution, including pioneers Joseph Merkel, William Harley, and the Davidson brothers, the latter gents being responsible for a brand now synonymous with the town, if not the American motorcycle itself. By the time he was just 13 years old young Irving was already infatuated with motorcycles, apparently more so than he was with his schooling as he left the academic life just before entering high school.
Arthur G. Chapple and Walter Goerke, two of America’s finest motorcycle racers are seen here posing just before a hill climb competition in December 1909. True pioneers of both the sport and the culture, Chapple and Goerke can be counted amongst the most influential of American motorcycling’s founding fathers. The two friends from Brooklyn began their love affair with motorcycles as soon as the new machines first appeared in stateside.
Imagine being a 14 year old boy in 1908 holding down a job waiting tables in Denver to help support your family. You have a bicycle, and bicycle racing has never been so popular, so you begin entering into amateur competitions, pocketing a little extra scratch when you win. You are good, and over the next couple of seasons quickly move up the ranks in the local scene, winning more and more and garnering a good bit of attention. So much so that the local super star bicycle champion takes you under his wing. There is a shift happening though, towards the increasingly present and capable motorcycle which your new mentor has already taken to quite successfully. He introduces you to the new machines and begins pacing you on his motorcycle at the big money events until ultimately you too to make the transition into the sport of motorcycle racing. Right at that moment two new venues are built in your hometown, large, circular, wooden stadiums constructed specifically for racing motorcycles. The timing couldn’t be better. Still a teenager, and a novice motorcycle rider at that, you begin your career on the boards of the treacherous motordrome. Such was the case for a young Denver boy named Maurice Leon Fredericks, but by the time he began racing motorcycles in 1911 everyone knew him simply as Curley.