It was the bitter cold on the morning of December 10th, 1904 that kept but a handful of motoring enthusiasts from venturing to the Weequahic Park horse track in Waverly, NJ, but for those bundled few who braved the frigid New England air a great show was in store. 

By 1904, the 1/2 mile trotting track, which boasted a 5,000 capacity grandstand had been established as the area’s premier venue for the burgeoning motor culture. The New Jersey Automobile & Motor Club chose the site for their annual event, typically held on Election Day, and as soon as motorcycles made their debut they were given a spotlight in the festivities. 

Motorcycles themselves had only recently been introduced, though it was seemingly within the blink of an eye that the first organized race took place. Ralph Hamlin, a former bicycle racer turned shop owner won that first competition, which was held on a similar horse track at Los Angles' Agriculture Park in May of 1901. Hamlin, who recognized the opportunity motorcycles presented became the first motorcycle dealer on the west coast, and it was on one of his Orient motorcycles that he bested the other 3 competitors and won the 10-mile event in 18 minutes, 32 seconds, an average speed of 32.3 mph. Velodrome exhibitions, hill climbs against the clock, and endurance competitions soon became popular events, but it was dirt oval horse tracks, like the ones at Agriculture Park and Weequahic Park that proved to be the perfect venue for spectators to witness the birth of American motorcycle racing.

The cold may have kept the crowds from flooding the grounds at Weequahic on December 10th, none the less three local men took to the frosty dirt and mounted their machines. The competitors were Allen Reid onboard a 4hp Orient, William Cornwell on an early 1 3/4hp Indian, and Roy Geissler sporting a 3hp Tourist. Reid took the first 10-mile race onboard his powerful Orient with an average speed of 38.7 mph. Despite having nearly double the horsepower of Cornwell’s Indian, Geissler’s Tourist simply couldn’t keep pace and he quickly fell out of the running. For the second 10-mile match, Cornwell allowed his friend Percy Johnson to run. Johnson quickly took the lead over Reid, but after leading the first two miles a valve snapped and Johnson was forced to drop out, leaving Reid the only remaining competitor and default victor.

Seen here, Allen Reid onboard his mighty Orient takes a second to glance back at William Cornwell on his Indian nipping at his heels at Weequahic Park, December 10th, 1904.