Some images truly captured it all. A world class machine, a pioneer American racer, crisp competition threads, and an abundance of attitude radiating from the marrow of these men of true grit. Taken in downtown Birmingham, AL, around 1912 by local photographer and motorcycle enthusiast O.V. Hunt, this image stands as a perfect depiction of professional motorcycle racing culture during the height of its first epoch. The man, sometimes referred to as “the Bulldog,” is New Orleans native Arthur Mitchel, a true pioneer American racer who began his career in 1905, later making a name for himself as the sport first started coming together on the various tracks around Los Angeles. The machine, a 61ci Flying Merkel factory racing twin is perhaps one of the most rare and iconic machines of the era. One of only a small handful of factory racers constructed after the Miami Cycle Manufacturing Co. of Middletown, OH, purchased the Merkel-Light brand in May of 1911, the newly renamed Flying Merkel with its bright orange paint was a standout machine even then. In the hands of men like Mitchell and the legendary Maldwyn Jones the Flying Merkel presented a solid competitor to Indian and Excelsior, the titans of early teens racing, and today it remains one of the most coveted, adored, and replicated in the antique motorcycle community. At the time that this photograph was taken Art was well into his 30’s and his racing career was beginning to wind down. However, his involvement within the culture continued to occupy his life, spending his time out of the saddle traveling as a FAM official, ambassador, and a dealer representative for a number of the biggest manufacturers throughout the teens. A veteran of late-1800’s cycle racing and a pioneer of early 20th century American motorcycle racing, Arthur Mitchel defines the spirit of America’s pioneer motorcycle racers and is without question an icon of the culture.
A full profile of Arthur Mitchel’s life and contributions to American motorcycle culture will soon be available exclusively here at ArchiveMoto.com