This week’s post covers yet another photograph that has made its way around the internet several times over, yet the story which accompanies it remains untold. At this point 100 years ago today soldiers from the United States military had only just begun pouring into France, and nearly 3 years after the first trenches were dug America had finally joined the gruesome chorus of the first World War.
At 6 a.m. on August 10th, 1909, from in front of Cleveland’s Hollenden Hotel, 96 enthusiasts from America’s heartland set off on a grueling endurance run. The 362-mile adventure was to terminate in Indianapolis on August 12th in conjunction with the grand opening of the newly constructed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and as such made for a staggering level of interest and fanfare. It was reported that the citizens along the route retired from their daily duties, making an unofficial two day, midweek holiday. Every city along the way set up a grand reception with bands, parties, and performances, while the farmers and their families lined the dusty country roads, watermelon patches, and front porches along the way.
These gentlemen were each a successful manager in an ever-expanding mid-teen’s network of Harley-Davidson dealerships. They are set up with a display of beautiful 1914 Model 10F Harley-Davidsons in front of William Specht Jr.’s new Harley-Davidson dealership in downtown Birmingham, July 1914. Astute businessmen no doubt, this crew had no interest in spending their days on the dealership floor, however, as they were all avid competitors, racing the tracks and road courses up and down the Eastern seaboard. In fact, this image was staged as they were in the midst of the F.A.M. Southern Championship Endurance Race on the Fourth of July, 1914.
The Spring of 1915 marked the beginning of a new era in American motorcycle racing. The sport of professional competition was now a fully formed industry complete with high-dollar factory racing programs, lightning-fast purebred machines, lucrative endorsement deals and sponsorships, a nationwide circuit with a near year-round calendar, and self-made superstars with household names.