WHILE RESEARCHING MATERIAL for this timeline I’ve come across shedloads of pics which lack an exact date or background information. Rather than leaving them to moulder away unlooked at, here they are. The illustrations are in an approximation of chronological exactitude; I’ve grouped the Indian, Harley and ‘other US’ pics together but in general this is just a box of old pics to browse through for your pleasure. Motor cycles and motor cyclists from out past, they live on in our memories. A great many of these pics appear courtesy of my chum Francois, who has an astonishing archive of motor cycle photos and postcards including many from France, Germany and the USA. Many more of his illustrations may be found in the Leicester Phoenix MCC’s excellent site lpmcc.net which is required reading for any touring/rallying enthusiast. Francois’ contributions are to be found in the galleries of rally badges/reports and, primarily, in his commendable
Memories of Yesteryear. I’m obliged to Francois and to Ben at lpmcc.net for allowing me to reproduce the Yesteryear series which you can reach via the main menu. I update this gallery regularly so you might care to take a regular look-see. If you happen to have information on any of these pics for use as captions, or indeed pics you’d like to see included get in touch via email@example.com.
Messrs Osmont and Fossier on the racing trikes that were, for a time, leaders of the racing pack.
This worthy is named Rigal.
Cycle pacers used some monstrous engines to achieve the speeds they needed to fulfil their role, but judging by that lump of 2×2 this is a static posed pic. For your delectation, here’s a selection of pacers…
The rider in this nicely posed shot of a pacer, Jules Thé, was equally at home on a racing motor cycle.
Another champion motor cyclist aboard a pacer: Henri Cissac set a number of world records (you’ll find details elsewhere in the timeline) and, judging by the postcard caption he and cyclist Tommy Hall had just set a cycling record too.
There’s something of the cyberpunk about this streamlined pacer which, according to the caption on the original postcard, was dubbed ‘Lucifer’. Messrs Luthier and Brunier set a world one-hour record at Montléry; presumably the device on Lauthier’s back was a receptacle for Brunier’s forehead.
This one was taken at the Vélodrome de Tours.
Pacers were huge; racing motor cycles were lighter and more nimble…
French racer Champoiseau doing his thing on a wooden velodrome.
Another velodrome French daredevil; this is M Pernette.
Andre Grapperon was a French champion boardracer, pictured here during a visit to the US aboard his Anzani-powered Alcyon.
Road racing flourished on the Continent during the first decade of the 20th century; this big twin is an Alcyon.
Photographer Jean Gilleta with his De Dion trike.
This postcard was marked “Hull ACU Rally”. It’s clearly pre-WW1 which is decades before the first ACU National Rally; is this a Hull-based club? Let’s hope they enjoyed their run.
This bike is pictured next to a heavy haulage rig in the village of St Pardoux la Riviere in the Dordogne.
Laon, in north-west France, was the medieval capital of the Carolingian kings; it had clearly quietened down a bit by the time this rider appeared.
“Une entree de Paris” was the caption on this postcard.
As the postmark shows this snap dates from 1903. Finistère is on France’s north-west Atlantic coast; Quimperlé is a flourishing city. The bike is a 1903 FN.
Best known of the FN amily, the in-line four.
The Contal Triporteur was a familiar sight on Parisian streets with a tradesman’s box up front (the Brits generally opted for tradesman’s sidecars). Prinarily designed for stop-start deliveries, of course, but a couyple of heroes took a beefed-up version on the 1907 Paris-Peking rally. The made it home by train (find out more in the 1907 page).
This snap was taken in Nancy and seems to show a group of posties.
Next time you’re astride a moden motor cycle and wishing you could put both your feet flat on the ground, remember that seat heights used to be lower…sometimes much lower.
Note the foot-guard (surely too small to be called a legshield) at the front of the footboard. A reminder that in those pre-tarmac days keeping road mud away from the rider was at least as important as the weather-protection gear we fit nowadays, which is why legshields were once more common than windscreens.
‘Action’ shots were hard to get in the days of whole-plate glass negatives but a French snapper managed it during this long-distance trial.
No details to hand of this group, except that the riders were members of an Ohio club.
In the early years of the 20th century Peugeot twins were almost unassailable—one powered Rem Fowler’s Norton to victory in the first TT—but most, of course, were installed in roadsters.
As the legend on the postcard reveals, the exquisite model combo and pram were made for a royal dolls house. There’s posh.
No date on this one, but the rider on that daunting velodrome is Verscaeve, ‘The demon of Liege’.
“No sand too deep, no hill too steep”…the freedom of motor cycling.
While we’re on the subject of Indians, here are some more.
These Indian Powerpluses are lined up outside an Indian dealers.
Not just an Indian, nor just any Indian rider. This is Arthur Moorhouse with the Indian he rode to 3rd place in the 1911 Senior TT.
Also from 1911, this is the Indian team on their happy hunting ground, Daytona Beach.
This is Harry Glenn, pictured in 1912 against the almost sheer surface of the Atlanta Motordrome.
Racing the boards on an autodrome—these board tracks were chillingly known as ‘murderdromes’ in response to their safety record.
When Indian riders married, the tribe went to church.
This veteran was pictured in 1914. It’s a sobering thought that he might have fought in the war between the States, when Springfield was know for firearms rather than Indians.
This smartly dressed youngster was pictured in 1915, just a couple of years before the US doughboys headed for the Western Front.
No, not a Great War outfit—this Indian machine-gun carriage is in the hands of police officers. The Brits had to make do with their truncheons.
This 1,000cc Indian, ridden by a chap named Vanella, is pictured at the 1913 Grench Grand Prix.
Two pots good…
It would be rude to leave out the Harley boys (and girls)…
This Harley combo with its delightful sunshade for the passenger (who is presumably wielding the camera) was pictured in the first year of peace.
Same year, same marque.
Harley teamsters Jim Davis, Maldwyn Jones and Irving Janke.
Bill Brier was another Harley ace; he’s pictured at the Sioux City track in 1915.
And in those days Indian and Harley-Davidson didn’t have the Stateside market all to themselves…
Flying Merkels made their name on the motordromes but there were plenty of them on the road too…
There’s no doubting that this radical racer is a Pope. Note the position of the handlebars.
This Pope twin looks rather more comfortable.
Two smartly turned out nippers; one smartly turned out Pope.
A Pope single roadster…
…and a Pope twin racer.
Sears motor cycles were supplied by a catalogue company.
This fine combo is an American Excelsior…
…as is this one.
This Excelsior rider preferred to carry his passenger behind him…
…this Excelsior shows how the pillion seats of the time were mounted over the carrier…
This Excelsior carries the legend ‘Excelsior Auto Cycle’.
…and an Excelsior clearly had room for two strapping chums.
This Excelsior, carrying what is presumably a club pennant, dates from 1915.
As well as making stylish roadsters, Excelsiors were competitive racers.
This is the Excelsior-Henderson plant.
Here’s a rarity: a Curtiss, and the nipper who had it, and flogged it. Check out the original press agency caption, below.
This American gem is an Emblem.
Another fine American rarity, this is a 1912 Wagner…
…this Wagner dates from 1909.
With a big twin, a canoe for a side hack (as our colonial cousins described their sidecars) and his trusty longarm, this hardy pioneer was clearly able to live off the land.
…and while these smartly dressed chaps look less like pioneers, their outfit is still just the job.
“Scarcely tempting now—but when they are broiled there is nothing better than broiled lobsters. Mrs John E Hogg, wife of the well known writer, shows off a few of the day’s catches.” Fowl, fish, lobsters, outfits brought home the bacon.
This unusual indoor snap features a Yale, a Merkel and an Indian, as well as a rather cute puppy.
Seattle, 1914 and what seems to be the start of a road trial.
These cheerful chaps were pictured in 1915.
This tri-car was pictured at Le Mans; judging by the competition number this elegantly dressed chap was engaged in a rather gentil race.
Back in the day our American cousins used to say you could find anything you wanted in the Sears catalogue (sorry, catalog); including motor cycles.
“An unforeseen breakdown. To become engaged it’s good to hurry—parents must be asked for the one we wish to marry.” (Apologies to French speakers, not least Fanfan, for the clumsy translation.)
The French seem to have been worried about the effect of breakdowns on engagements (and, yet again, sorry for the schoolboy translation): “Crack! No way to move forward—what will my fiancee say? Damn this breakdown, you will destroy my happiness!”
Another fine studio pose, but this enthusiast seems to be having more luck with his lady love.
1900s CIRCUIT DE L’EURE1900s CIRCUIT DE L’EURE
This pic, and the next two, are of the Terrot factory which was at one point the biggest in France. The marque was established in 1901—these snaps date from 1902—and survived into the sixties.
Terrot fielded a formidable factory racing team.
This postcard depicts the start of a shift at the DeDion Bouton factory.
…and here’s an equally historic site: Triumph’s original home in Coventry (until 1940 when noisy neighbours from the Luftwaffe inspired to a move to Meriden).
Yes, there was a time when Japanese enthusiasts bought their motor cycles from Coventry.
Clearly a keen motor cyclist, Yvonne Degraine was an Olympic (100-metre) swimmer.
In the years before the Great War a number of enthusiasts volunteered to take their bikes to Army manoeuvres to demonstrate their practicality. This snap dates back to 1910.
Here’s a selection of images of motor cycles and the chaps who rode them in the Great War. Many of them are courtesy of my chum Francois; you’ll find many more WW1 pics in his Images of Yesteryear.
The uniformed Belgian doesn’t look much older than the nippper on the bike.
This is rather poignant; a pedalling poillut pays his respect to the French equivalent of Chelsea pensioners; they’d have won their spurs in the Franco-Prussian war that had left a generation of young Frenchmen eager for a rematch.
1917: Doughboys under training at Camp Dodge, Iowa.
‘Somewhere in England’ Canadian trainee dispatch riders about to set out on a run to prepare them for active service on the Western Front.
This snap was taken in Ismailia, Egypt; these Tommies were part of the forces defending the Suez Canal.
The Empire rallied round the flag: these stalwarts rode with the Fith Australian Light Horse.
It’s good to put a name to the face. Pictured astride his Beeza in 1915 is Sgt Bill Humphreys of the RFC.
Here’s Bill again in 1917 with his off-duty mount, and Indian. With those dropped bars and slash-cut straight-through exhausts it might fairly be described as a cafe racer (it was only six years earlier, in what must have seemed another lifetime to Bill and his comrades, that three of the Springfield twins had taken top three spots in the Senior TT).
WW1 US COMBO OFFICER
These poilus were serving with the 66th Infantry Regiment of the French army.
A Great War machine gun outfit in colour? Americans, of course.
Machine gun outfits were pressed into action as anti-aircraft platforms…
…while in the absence of radios in aircraft DRs were busy delivering orders and collecting reconaissence reports.
Pigeons were a reliable method of communication and motor cycles were a reliable way of getting them where they were needed.
This magnificenty contemporary illustration carried the caption “…during the great German spring offensives of 1918.”
Entente Cordiale, with John Bull firmly in the saddle.
Some RFC oficers enjoyed the services of chauffeuses with P&Ms.
In 1918 the RFC became the RAF. The uniforms changed but officer transport was still handled by plucky gels and P&M combos.
Ok it’s a posed pic, but still a charming one. Bless ’em all.
Peace broke out and so, it seems, did these American flappers and their cannine chum…
…not that sensible Englishmen needed sidecars to transport their terriers.
But on the other hand…( yes I know, this one’s a tad anachronistic but it seemed to fit here).
I was going to suggest that her pillion is giving the Excelsor-JAP its seal of approval, but I thought better of it.
That Scott seems determined to keep climbing…
New Knight was in business from 1923-31, assembling bikes with Villiers lumps from 147-344cc as well as four-stroke 293cc JAPs.
Rush looks like an English name; in fact the marque hails from Belgium where machines were built from 1922-34. A Rush won the 1924 Monza GP, powered by a 248cc ohv Blackburne, but the firm also made its own, from 397-599cc.
Another Rush, whose military rider has a well filled flapper bracket.
Say hello to the Meray, made in Hungary from 1921-44 with engines from 172-996cc courtesy of Villiers, Moto Reve, Puch, Blackburne and JAP (from 1936, according to Tragatsch, they also made their own 346cc and 496cc engines).
Judging by the clothing I’d guess that this snap of the Pioneer Run, and the one below, date from the 1950s.
Judging by the hub-centre-steering front end this is an OEC; the sidecar suspension is equally interesting.
Most of the riders in this melange are shown enjoying their motor cycling: this serious chap, named Huchard, earned his keep as a despatch rider between the Soissons and Levallois-Perret factories of the tyre manufacturer Wolber. His mount is a 1930(ish) 350cc Terrot; when the snap was taken he’d covered more than 140,000km on company business.
Here’s another 1930ish machine, and it’s a rare survivor. Meray, in business from 1921-44, was for a time Hungary’s leading marque.