Four gentlemen from the Milwaukee Motorcycle Club posing on their new, top of the line Harley-Davidsons in the Sumer of 1916. Featuring several unique design features, including a new rounded tank profile, the 1916 lineup seemed to anticipate the coming Art Decco movement of the 1920’s. 1916 marked the final year for the iconic Renault Grey Harley and the new, all-electric, three-speed grey fellows were adorned with beautiful factory pin striping and gleaming with nickel plating. Lined up on Highland Avenue in front of the Motor Co.’s factory, these four gents were gathering to take part in Milwaukee’s big Preparedness Parade that summer. At this time in America, the country swelled with patriotic pride as the rest of the modern world continued to destroy itself on the battlefields of Verdun and Ypres. For many German-Americans, the patriotic sentiment was coupled with a growing anxiety as an undercurrent of anti-German suspicion had begun targeting German families, communities, and culture. Preparedness had become a national campaign, with most major metropolitan area’s staging massive parades to illustrate their dedication to the country. With Milwaukee having such a heavy population of ethnic Germans, the city was determined to put on quite a display for their parade. On Saturday, July 15th, 1916 just over 30,000 Milwaukeeans, including these four enthusiasts took to the streets and filled the cream city with the stars & stripes and patriotic cheer.
Not only were these men members of the local, and quite active Milwaukee Motorcycle Club, they also happened to be key figures within the Harley-Davidson Motor Company as well. On the far left is E.J. Mueller, owner of the hometown Harley-Davidson dealership and future Assistant Sales Manager for the company. Next to Mueller is Arthur Herrington, a new hire in 1916 brought onboard to assist in the company’s expanding military supply segment as well as to act as a traveling representative in Wisconsin. Part-time apparel and accessories model, factory test rider, and full-time factory racer Irving Janke is beside Herrington, mounted on the machine with the distinct Firestone Non-Skid tires. Janke had earned the Motor Co. their first “official” podium back in 1914 when he finished 3rd at the Savannah 300 road race. Janke had since become a star of the new factory program, having just piloted one of Bill Ottaway’s new 8-Valve machines to victory at the prestigious Dodge City 300 a week prior to this photo being taken. Janke was famous for his infectious smile, but this hometown hero’s beam was no doubt a bit brighter given the $1,000 purse he had just won in Dodge City. Unfortunately, though his face seems quite familiar, the handsome young chap on the end with the mischievous grin is yet unidentified. Most likely he too is a factory jockey, which if true would mean that he may have also just returned from Dodge City with Janke. If that is the case his identity can be narrowed to one of three of the younger members of the Harley-Davidson team, Clarence Johnson (who's Grandson has confirmed this gent is not), Floyd Clymer, or Harry Crandall, though it very well may be that the mystery man is none of the above. No matter the case, this photo remains a gorgeous moment captured at a pivotal point in America’s history, from the early days of American motorcycle culture.