One of the founding father of American motorcycle racing, Chicago's Freddie Huyck sits atop one of the rarest prototype Indian factory machines ever made shortly after arriving at Los Angeles’ Agriculture Park, arguably the birthplace of professional motorcycle racing in America. However, the rider, the venue, nor the rare machine is the focus of my upcoming project, what will soon be my second large format book. It is the photograph itself that has occupied my focus for the last 2 years, just one from a collection of over 250 rare and largely unpublished photographs belonging to one of the most important men in American motorcycling history, Ashley Franklin Van Order. Van Order was not only an active participant in the Golden Age of American motorcycle racing, but he later became the first great champion of our history, spending the last half of his life dedicated to preserving and documenting those early days of this great culture.
Van moved from Illinois to Los Angeles just in time to witness the birth of the Motordrome frenzy. Initially trying his hand at racing, he soon began snapping photographs at the races, quickly becoming close friends with the pioneers of the sport. By the 1920’s, Van was traveling the country and was so chummy with the boys of Harley-Davidson's legendary Wrecking Crew that he could have been considered an unofficial member of the team. In the decades that followed Van went on to recount the glory days of racing in articles for Motorcyclist Magazine, and still found time to form an organization of pioneer enthusiasts and racers in 1936 that would become the Trailblazers Motorcycle Club, a group that continues to preserve our history today. A photographer, a racer, an enthusiast, a salesman, a collector, a writer, and an ambassador, Van dedicated his life to the sport of riding motorcycles and helped preserve many of the iconic photographs that we all admire today. A.F. Van Order was our first historian and without his commitment and passion we would have considerably less knowledge of our own beginnings. I am truly honored and humbled to have the opportunity to share the remarkable story of Van's life and the images that define our culture.