The Indian Motorcycle

The Indian Motorcycle

The Indian Motorcycle Company first started around 1901 (a year or so before Harley-Davidson) in Massachusetts and is known as the first American motorcycle. The company was formed by George Hendee and Carl Hedstrom, the engineer behind the motorcycles design. They first sold their motorcycles under the Hendee Manufacturing Company name but later reincorporated into the Indian Motorcycle Company.

The Indian Motorcycle in early print advertisements – The first ads for the Indian Motorcycle that I was able to find were from the St. Louis Republic in 1902 with this simple text ad.

1903 and 1904 produced very little in the way of Indian Motorcycle advertisement or articles. There was mention of the Indian Motorcycle club in the New York Evening World. These years also produced the first actual advertisements (also from the St. Louis paper) for buying the motorcycle as well as a short clipping about George Hendee entering a race.


St. Louis Republic 1902

1904 indian motorcycle ad

St. Louis Republic 1904

MOTOR CYCLE RUN TO-MORROW -(New York Tribune 1904)

george hendeeThe six days motorcycle endurance contest under the auspices of the Federation of American Motor cyclists, which begins tomorrow has attracted a field of twenty-seven entries, including George M. Hendee, the winner of the gold medal in the two previous contests, and the former champion amateur bicyclist of this country. He has taken on weight since, end is now rated at 242 pounds, twice as much as any other man in the contest. (George was a big guy for that small bike!)

era-recordingPlay a period tune below – St. Louis Blues – 1921

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 Laugh Of The Day


The Salt Lake Tribune produced the image below in 1905 with this caption – The upper picture, Stanley Kellogg nearing the summit of the mountain on his wonderful 1 ¾ horse-power Indian motorcycle, with which he twice reduced the record in one day. On his first attempt he was timed in 26 minutes 24 seconds. This was reduced by Oscar Hedstrom to 22 minutes 42 seconds. Then Kellogg made the phenomenal time of 20 minutes 59 1-5 seconds. (The mountain they were racing up was Mount Washington, the highest peak of the White mountains).

motorcycle race 1905

The Salt Lake Tribune 1905

indian advertisement 1908

To Whom It May Concern. As the Northwest representative for the Hendee Mfg. Company of Springfield, Mass., manufacturers of the famous INDIAN MOTORCYCLES, we have duly authorized Mr. Miles McIntyre of Grant Pass, Oregon, as our Agent for Indian Motorcycle from Josephine County, Oregon and take pleasure in recommending him to all prospective purchasers to whom, we are confident he will extend every courtesy an Agent and Practical Mechanic can. Yours Respectfully, BALLOU and WRIGHT, Portland, Ore..


San Francisco Call 1911

1911 brought this great photo with the following article from the San Francisco Call newspaper – Volney E. Davis, captain of the San Francisco motorcycle club and the only motorcyclist who has the record of making the transcontinental round trip, will leave at midnight tonight in an effort to lower the motorcycle record between San Francisco and New York. The present record of 31 days and 15 hours and is held by F.J. Mueller, the agent for the Indian motorcycle in Cleveland. Mueller made this record in 1906. Davis believes that he can cut this time to 25 days and has his schedule figured out this way. He expects to make Reno on the first day’s trip, although he will have some hard roads to travel in the mountain districts. Davis expects to overtake Paul Kottlowski, who left a week ago Saturday on a Thor and Beamer, who left two days later for the east on an Indian. Davis will ride a seven horse power Indian on the trip. He is carrying a letter from Mayor McCarthy to Mayor Gaynor of New York.

1911 also saw this ad for the Indian Motorcycle outside the continental United States in Hawaii.


The Maui News 1911

The 1913 Indian Motorcycle – The following ad appeared in the Mt. Sterling Advocate in Kentucky 1912 for the upcoming 1913 model. Some of the improvements noted most likely came about from those transcontinental rides over rough roads (Cradle Spring Frame).


Mt. Sterling Advocate 1912

Following the 14 Important Improvements of 1912, the Hendee Mfg. Company announce no less than a dozen additional new features in their 1913 model of the Indian Motorcycle.

By far the most significant feature of the new machine is the Cradle Spring Frame. It is something entirely new, a radical departure from the conventional bicycle and recent motorcycle systems of “springing.” Briefly, the new device consists of the application to the rear wheel of the Indian Cradle Spring device as used on the front fork for the past three years.

Extending back horizontally from the frame joint cluster under the saddle, flanking the rear mud guard, are two 7 leaf Chrome Vanadium steel springs. The “C” shaped curls at the rear end of these springs are connected by stays to bell cranks on which the rear axle is hung. The forward end of the rear fork has a hinge joint which enable the rear wheel to yield to imperfections of road surface. All shocks are completely absorbed by the leaf springs. The rear wheel can go through almost any vertical motion without affecting the body of the machine. There is “no bottom” to this spring device. The life of the machine is greatly increased.

The Engineering Department of the Hendee Mfg. Co. devoted 18 months of exhaustive test to the Cradle Spring Frame before finally deciding on its adoption for all models of the 1913 Indian. In addition to the Cradle Spring Frame, the 1913 Indian embodies 10 other important improvements which will be appreciated by motorcycle riders in general. Prices remain the same as last year. (wow – 14 improvements and the price remains the same)

New style, single clinch rims; larger tires, wider mud guards front and rear with larger splashes; casing for upper stretch of transmission chain and curve of sprocket; larger luggage carrier in rear, fitted to all models; foot rests, as well as pedals, fitted to regular 4 h. p. and 7 h. p. models; foot brake lever fitted on left side now operates band brake as well as the pedal action; larger size multiple disc clutch now fitted to all models alike; improved Indian type saddle. All 1913 Indians will be chain driven and finished in Indian red only.

The 1914 Indian Motorcycle – The Omaha Daily Bee brought us the advertisement for the 1914 Indian in November of 1913. The following text accompanied the ad below.


Omaha Daily Bee 1913

Examine the New Indian Features – Thirty eights betterments for 1914 – Electronically equipped – Establishing a new standard in motorcycle values.

For the season of 1914 we will produce 60,000 brand new red machines – a production that no other manufacturer has ever before dreamed of, much less dared to attempt. This 60,000 means much aside from mere numerical preponderance. It means economy gained by tremendous output, It means 11 ½ acres of factory facilities exclusive quality-producing and cost-cutting machinery efficient sales-organization which has reduced distributing cost to a minimum. 1914 Indians will be sold on a basis that must completely overturn all contemporary ideas of motorcycle worth!

I hope you have enjoyed looking at the first 14 years of the Indian Motorcycle as seen through the eyes of readers of the days newspapers. I leave this post with and advertisement for the 1915 model from the Ward County Independent.


Ward County independent 1915

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