Photographs like this one are what initiated my interest in researching early American motorcycle culture. Most of us have seen it a million times thanks to the internet, but we seem to know so little about it. However, despite it ubiquity the image still pulls out the same feeling as it did when I first stumbled across it. All of the buzzwords apply, but they never quite capture that common feeling that stirs in all motorcycle enthusiasts, shared equally back through the decades. I hope that collectively we can root out the details of this very unique moment in our past, so I throw the challenge out to the community, what do we know about this photo?
What we can surmise is that, based on the livery, this Pope would most likely have come from between 1911 and 1918 based on the Westfield, MA manufacturer’s production years. Though a handful of Pope’s were raced throughout those years, there seems to have been no great factory racing program like those of their competition rivals, and the machines that did pop up at the track tended to be more “stripped-stock” iterations of the production 1,000cc OHV twin platform. Based on the castings of the shortened, keystone frame as well as the modified fork arms, which include what must be the most bizarre handlebar placement in history, this machine was most likely assembled in the mid-teen’s with the 1/2 mile dirt track in mind. The single cylinder, direct chain drive engine is most likely between 2 and 5 HP, though the mag placement behind the cylinder points more towards the 5HP, OHV Model K from 1913. The rider, who seems determined to split his face open from chin to brow is tucked in tight like a seasoned pro, but his coveralls allude to his possible responsibility in the machine’s creation altogether.
Enough with the speculation, what do you guys think?