The World's First Motorcycle
Origin of the Word and Device
On Bicycles, Steam Velocipedes, Motocycles
Fantastic Vision of E. J. Pennington
"The Motor Cycle"
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What is a motorcycle? And where did the name and device that we love so well really come from?
(This is an edited version of my article titled, "The World's First Motorcycle, On Steam Velocipedes, Motocycles, and The Motor Cycle," that appeared in The Antique Motorcycle magazine, Summer 2011, issue, pages 26-38. Copyright 2012, H.J. Wagner, all rights reserved.)
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"How can I help being a humbug," he said, "when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can't be done?" -- L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz, 1900
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The motorcycle's magical status in the world of powered vehicles
comes from a peculiar combination of traits. This includes a built-in means of propulsion
like an automobile, but a motorcycle is also a rider-balanced device, much like a
human-powered bicycle once underway.
Anyone who has leaned deep into a turn at speed or blasted up a twisting mountain trail knows that the motorcycle exists in a realm of its own, even among closely related vehicles such as motor tricycles and quadricycles. For that reason, it seems odd and incorrect when history books and experts routinely include vehicles that are not rider-balanced, and have three or even four wheels in their efforts to determine the identity of the world's first motorcycle.
This old controversy surfaced once again in recent issues of The Antique Motorcycle magazine (Spring 2010, pages 8 and 77; Fall 2010, page 14; Winter 2010, page 14; and Fall 2011, page 14). Since no one could agree and the subject only became more confused, I decided to take a shot at the problem myself. Since I've been researching Harley-Davidson and other motorcycle history since the 1980s, I have a large body of primary documentation and early source material to draw upon. As a result, my conclusions here differ radically from the time-worn myths found in most motorcycle history books and articles.
In their book, A History of the World's Motorcycles, authors Richard Alexander Hough and L.J.K. Setright address the long-standing bone-of-contention over motorcycle origins and even name names. "It is common," they write, "for text-books and authorities to quote the designs of the Englishman, Edward Butler, in 1884 [a three-wheeled machine, seen left], or of the German, Gottlieb Daimler, in 1885 [a vehicle with two main inline wheels and two outrigger wheels], as the prototypes of the motorcycle, their choice of the one or the other depending to some extent upon their prejudices and nationality. But by more severe standards, neither of these pioneers should be candidates for the honour."
Two Wheels and a Motor
By "more severe standards," these astute authors mean
the same thing as did Lois, the mom in the TV series "Malcom in the Middle,"
when her sons found a wonderful object in a neighbor's curbside trash and with great
enthusiasm pushed it home. Their mother, however, was not so pleased.
"You're NOT allowed to have a motorcycle!" she screamed, whereupon one of the boys desperately replied: "It's not a motorcycle. It's a minibike. It's only two feet high." But with a mother's all-knowing instinct Lois instantly shot back: "It's got two wheels and a motor. It's a motorcycle!"
On a gut level most of us would probably agree that Lois made a 100% true and accurate statement. That a motorcycle is a vehicle defined by having two wheels and a motor. Therefore, if it's not self-powered and rider-balanced, then it's not a motorcycle. What could be more simple or logical? Yet we continue to be bombarded by claims made by supposedly informed guys that three- and even four-wheeled vehicles like the Butler and Daimler machines are not only "motorcycles," but that one or the other was the first motorcycle ever.
If one rejects those claims as false, however, the subject at first glance only seems to become more confused. Because if the Butler and Daimler machines are not motorcycles due to having too many wheels, then what on earth are they? And if we deny them first motorcycle status for that same reason, then what machine deserves that honor?
To figure out those questions we need go back and take a time-travel tour of 19th-century technology and to the origin of the self-powered two-wheeler in its most primitive form.
There is little doubt that the two-wheeled steam velocipede
good claim as "pre-historic" first motorcycle. Pre-historic (in a sense)
because the term "motorcycle" as used today was not in existence when the
steam velocipede first appeared, and would not appear for another quarter-century.
Instead, the word velocipede was used, a Latin term meaning "swift of foot"
and that was applied to early human-powered bicycles, tricycles and quadricycles.
The first kick-powered, two-wheeled velocipede originated in Baden, Germany in 1817, with an improved pedal version devised in Paris, France in 1867. Built with the crank in the front wheel, frames made of wood or metal, and iron-shod wheels, this later form of velocipede was popularly called a "boneshaker," which is a highly descriptive nickname that says it all. In the 1860s the term "bicycle" also came into use.
Roper & Perreaux
Late in the 1860s, at least two inventors working independently in the United States
and in France applied a small boiler and steam engine to the two-wheeled velocipede,
thereby creating a primitive steam-powered bicycle. The best known among these early
steam velocipedes was one built in the United States by Sylvester H. Roper of Roxbury,
Massachusetts (seen left), and another one built near Paris, France, by Louis Guillaume
Neither of these landmark inventions seem to be very well documented. In some accounts, Roper's machine is credited to W.W. Austin, while Perreaux's example is sometimes credited to Pierre Michaux. Their build dates also vary considerably. Some sources claim that Roper had his going by 1865 or earlier, but that seems unlikely, since the pedal velocipede craze didn't reach the United States until mid-1868.
The Smithsonian Institution, which owns the Roper example, equivocates the date by saying it was built "about 1869." Butthat must be close. The earliest reliable date that I have found so far for Roper's two-wheeled steamer comes from an October, 1869 newspaper item telling that the "critter" had badly injured its operator when it crashed at a Pennsylvania county fair. (1) Shades of things to come! The origin of the Perreaux steam velocipede is also uncertain, having been dated anywhere between 1867 and 1872. We will leave it to the steam velocipede crowd to fight it out regarding who actually came first.
While these steam-cycles were pioneers in the world of powered two-wheelers, neither of them were the first motorcycle in the modern sense of the term. If they were, we would still be riding steam velocipedes today and still using that name to describe them. There would also be a traceable line of successor machines from the Roper and Perreaux examples right up to the present form of motorcycle. But neither of those developments took place. To find out why not, we need motor a little farther up the line of two-wheeled evolutionary events.
Safety Bicycle First
Before the motorcycle of today could come into existence, the
bicycle had to be invented first. This modern form of bicycle was developed in Great
Britain during the late 1880s and became popular in the United States shortly thereafter.
Consisting of a lightweight, diamond-shaped frame fabricated from thin, seamless
tubing, with chain-drive pedal gearing, pneumatic tires and light, wire-spoke wheels
of equal size spinning on precision ball bearings inside finely honed races, the
safety bicycle was the necessary platform that would make the modern motorcycle possible.
For that reason, the steam velocipede probably belongs in a class by itself as a dead-end stub on the extended two-wheeler family tree. For the past 110 years or so, we have been riding gasoline-powered motorcycles, with the concept and name coming into existence in an entirely different manner. Those first baby steps of the modern motorcycle comprise a stage of development that nearly every motorcycle historian previous to myself has failed to explore in any meaningful way. Instead, they almost always single out Butler, Daimler or an early steam velocipede and call it a day. For them, the modern motorcycle form appears in full-blown existence around 1900 almost like magic, similar to Athena springing in full battle armor from the forehead of Zeus.
This previously uncharted territory of modern motorcycle origins is so important that we need go back and examine the birth of the word motorcycle itself, as it is there we will also discover the origin of the modern motorcycle concept. This is a fascinating study in which significant new findings have been made, some of which are revealed here for the first time.
As the Bible states, in the beginning was the word. For us the
beginning word was "motocycle." Observe that there is no "r"in this word,
which first appeared in the United States during the 1880s. Although it looks a lot
like the word motorcycle and is usually assumed to be synonymous with it, "motocycle"
originated separately and has a different set of meanings.
Early on, the word motocycle was applied to a steam-powered forecar tricycle that Lucius Copeland attempted to manufacture in Philadelphia around 1887 as the "Phaeton Moto-Cycle." (2) By that time, people were also using terms like "motorcar" and "motorman" to describe trolley cars and their operators. (3)
In the 1890s, the word motocycle had a big revival when America got its first whiff of gasoline and self-propelled vehicles became a national mania. In an 1895 contest held by the Chicago Times-Herald newspaper, "motocycle" was awarded the $500 prize as the best replacement for the cumbersome term "horseless carriage" then in vogue. It beat out words like "automobile," "motorwagon" and "petrocar." As defined at that time, a motocycle was "any wheeled vehicle which contains within itself the power by which it is propelled." (4)
Dissenters who didn't like the term appealed to the American Motor League, but that body judged motocycle to be a perfectly adequate inclusive term for all self-propelled vehicles. As a consequence, for the next few years everything in America from a spring-powered dog cart to the heaviest oil-driven truck was commonly known as a motocycle. There was even an American periodical devoted to powered vehicles during this time with the masthead title The Motocycle.
Therefore, as odd as it may sound today, while all motorcycles are motocycles, not all motocycles are motorcycles. For that same reason, reports of a "motocycle" race or other event from the 1890s can be confusing to modern readers, because all sizes, shapes and manner of self-propelled vehicles will be included. To further complicate matters, motocycle was sometimes spelled with the "r" and rendered as "motorcycle."
At that time, the term motocycle had a certain logic, as it was then believed that future motor vehicle design was more likely to "follow the bicycle manufacturers rather than the carriage makers." (5) However, that prediction turned out to be wrong when automobile and motorcycle builders took different paths of design and construction. However, until modern trends became apparent, vehicle categories and the words describing them would remain in flux and subject to evolutionary change.
Use of the word motocycle in this broad sense peaked around 1895-'98, after which it gradually fell out of favor. By 1900, the meaning of motocycle had become much more restricted and was used to collectively describe three forms of closely allied motor vehicles built on bicycle, tricycle and quadricycle platforms. At that time, the only solid criterion for a motocycle was that it could be pedal-assisted when desired. (6)
While on the subject of motocycles, we might as well address
an old historical mystery concerning the use of this word by the builders of the Indian
"motocycle" at Springfield, Mass., beginning in 1901. Since so many people
love Indian with a passion, let's sideslip into that subject for a moment before
getting back into the fast lane of our larger story.
The use of "motocycle" (again, without the letter "r") by the Indian people has long puzzled die-hard fans of that famous American make. Convoluted theories involving lawsuits, patent infringement or other speculations have been offered to explain this use, none of them satisfactory or based on actual evidence. As it turns out, however, there is a simple and logical explanation. With our new understanding of the word motocycle and how it was used around the time of Indian's founding in 1901, it was probably an intent by Indian's bosses to build motor vehicles with two, three or more wheels (but still with pedal assistance), that explains their use of the term "motocycle" (over motorcycle) to describe their early product line. By tradition the name later carried over into the adoption of the title "Indian Motocycle Company."
Although out of use for many years, the term motocycle is still useful today when collectively describing all motor vehicles that use cycle technology and are built along cycle lines, including two-wheelers, trikes, and quads (or "cyclecars" as they were later known). This is similar to how Indian used the term. By this logic, machines such as Butler's 1884 petrol-powered tricycle and Daimler's 1885 engine test-bed contraption built on a wooden boneshaker chassis with two additional outrigger wheels are properly dubbed "motocycles," because, while still cycle-like, they break motorcycle rules by having more than two wheels. Using motocycle in this manner avoids the inevitable argument that must ensue when somebody incorrectly calls a self-propelled trike or quad a motorcycle.
The term "motorcycle" (with the "r") is best reserved for the rider-balanced form of motocycle, because, as was noted way back in 1900, by virtue of its "unstable equilibrium," the two-wheeler will always comprise a unique category of vehicle, even if the pedal-assist feature is removed, or other changes made to it. (7) This dictum remains as true today as it was at the dawn of the 20th century. From Malcolm's minibike to the heaviest Harley "hog," motorcycles comprise an elite class of their own.
Pennington: Name Giver, Inventor & Erratic Genius
The word "motorcycle" ("motor cycle" in
Great Britain), in its modern useage form with the letter "r," entered
the English language by a different route. Period evidence shows that the term as we use it today
originated in the American Midwest as the name of a brash new invention dubbed "The
Motor Cycle." Love him or hate him, the honor for that name and for history's
first modern motorcycle is wrapped up with that megalomaniacal American genius and
reprobate, Edward Joel Pennington.
Although fragments of Pennington's exploits in England have been known for a long time, the earlier and more important American side of his story has only been documented in recent decades through my own original research and writings. (8) I myself grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, where Pennington was headquartered in 1895 and where he unleashed his infamous "long mingling spark." My research shows that the word "motorcycle" as used today arose out of Cleveland, Ohio, and first entered the American consciousness and vocabulary beginning in March of 1894. Based in Cleveland at that time, Pennington introduced this new term as a proper name for his latest invention, a gasoline-powered bicycle that he was soon promoting under the flashy title: "The Motor Cycle." (9)
The Motor Cycle
Several things set Pennington's invention apart from other claimants
as the first modern motorcycle. For one thing, it was gasoline powered, not steam, electric, chemical,
compressed air, clockwork, spring, fluid, lodestone, pump, or perpetual motion; all
of which would find adherents no matter how unlikely or nutty. For another, Pennington's
use of the name "The Motor Cycle" appears to be the first useage of that
title in the English language to describe a gasoline-propelled safety bicycle. Not
only that, but Pennington branded it in an unerringly bold manner by capitalizing
the first letters of all three words, thereby giving the phrase and his machine a
very strong conceptual identity and name, both of which would quickly find a home
in the collective human consciousness.
Pennington could call his invention "The" Motor Cycle and get away with it because there was nothing else like it in America nor probably in the entire world at that time. From the moment of The Motor Cycle's unveiling in early 1894, widespread publicity in magazines, newspapers, bicycle shows and public demonstrations attended the exploits of Pennington's amazing automatic two-wheeler. This public awareness spawned a legion of imitators and instilled a desire in people to possess this marvelous new device as their own. This represented just about every red-blooded male in America including two enthusiastic young boys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who may have seen The Motor Cycle in action in 1895 just a few blocks from their homes. Their names were William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson. (10)
In 1896, Pennington would take The Motor Cycle to England and the Continent, where he dazzled the Brits (including their future King Edward VII), and other Europeans with his notion of a gasoline-powered bicycle that was fast, nimble, simple, light and handsome. In partnership there with Harry Lawson, who was known as "the little man" for his diminuative size and to whom Pennington sold his English patent rights for a large sum of cash and other inducements, the hypnotically convincing and physically imposing American inventor came out of the deal very much the "big man." In Great Britain they still pay ghostly tribute to Pennington by using his original construction of the term as two separate words: "motor cycle."
Although for mechanical and other reasons The Motor Cycle designed by Pennington proved unsuccessful in actual useage (not a little part of its failure being the faulty nature of the inventor himself), the name and concept of the device would achieve immortal status. Promoted as being lightning fast, as wildly outrageous as its inventor, risky and loud, the idea caught fire and overnight Pennington's trade name for his invention became a generic mantra both here and abroad to describe any automatically propelled bicycle with a small gasoline engine or other means of propulsion. In the war of words, motorcycle (with the "r") would muscle the once proud term motocycle (without) into the shadows, where it languishes in limbo to this day.
Original Wild One
As it turns out, The Motor Cycle's claim as prototype of the
modern motorcycle goes beyond just a pretty name. With his certifiably erratic genius
(some considered him insane), Pennington endowed his machine with an entirely new
persona or identity, one that transformed the ordinary pedal bicycle into a motor-machine
that could move (at least in theory) like "greased lightning." On two continents,
the charismatic Pennington convinced people this was true by the addition of his
absurdly abbreviated, open-crank, thin-cylinder, "electro-oil" (i.e. gasoline-spark)
engine originally designed to power his line of airships. Although The Motor Cycle
never got much beyond the prototype or demonstrator stage, its widespread presence
on two continents sparked in the human mind the perceived existence of something
most experts had believed impossible: a bicycle driven to mile-a-minute speeds as
if by magic, yet always under the perfect control of its operator.
This was a breakthrough notion at a time when most motor-vehicle inventors hoped that their creations would "mote" at all (1890s slang for "to motor"), let alone outrun the fastest horse or move at locomotive speed. Pennington's futuristic vision in this respect is best seen in his notorious 1896 catalog illustration seen here on the cover of the Foreign Motorcycle Edition of Floyd Clymer's series of historical motor scrapbooks. This unique image (left) portrays some well-dressed English gentry folk out for a quiet country stroll, who are seem enjoying pleasent conversation and the singing of birds while a small skiff glides past in a bucolic scene worthy of a Wordsworth poem. But this peaceful landscape is suddenly violated and the gentlefolk scared out of their wits, shocked, and rudely alarmed by the unexpected appearance of The Motor Cycle, demonically driven by a maniac, that then hurtles through the air high over their heads across the stream valley with a raucous exhaust bark and leaving in its wake a stinking hydrocarbon haze, thereby disturbing the peace and outraging the citizenry in their moral sensibilities. Nobody in Victorian England (or anywhere else for that matter), had dreamed of a motor-machine like The Motor Cycle. At least not until that crack-brain American inventor Pennington landed upon Albion shores and branded the mind of every repressed young Englishman with the impossible possibilities of this outrageous new device.
With perfect confidence it will be stated here that with E.J. Pennington and The Motor Cycle the original "Wild One" had arrived on the world scene. For good or ill, this same outlaw character on two wheels is with us still, demonstrated by a modern industry worth billions devoted to the rebellious bad-boy motorhead archetype that Pennington originated back in 1894-'96. The reckless speed freak foreshadowed in Roper's steam velocipede of 1869 would now take hold and stick!
Although such a performance was impossible for Pennington's crude prototype or for the technology of the time, The Motor Cycle as flying machine (actually jumping but Pennington preferred airship metaphors and reveled in the sobriquet "Airship" Pennington), came like an sudden punch in the gut, terrifying some while wildly inspiring others. Symbolically, The Motor Cycle was a joining of ancient mythology to technological destiny, calling to mind images of a sorcerer riding the enchanted broomstick, but also to a vision of a yet-to-be-born Evel Knievel jumping the Snake River Canyon on his rocket-powered skycycle!
When the Comte de Dion, co-inventor with Bouton of the first fully successful lightweight gasoline engine, saw the Pennington "flying" motorcycle poster at an English auto show in 1896, it's said that he burst out laughing. But if both men could return from the grave (sadly, Pennington's grave remains unmarked), and view how the motorcycle is seen today routinely jumping through the air on TV and on the pages of motorcycle magazines, it's pretty clear who would have the best and final laugh.
Pennington's vision for The Motor Cycle seems to represent a
shift or break-point in human-mechanical possibilities, one that cast an almost hypnotic
spell over the consciousness of people on a mass scale. The elusive promise of the
earlier steam velocipede was now perceived as practicable reality in the form of
an exciting new mechanical object of great desire. Pennington thus created a new
paradigm in the relationship between the human being and the bicycle, which had millions
of wildly enthusiastic followers in the decade of the 1890s; a time when people also
had unlimited faith in the potential of rapidly developing science and technology
to turn seemingly impossible dreams into reality. In the case of powered flight,
submarines, motor-cars, the machine gun, radio, telephone, x-rays and the generation,
transmission and application of electricity, unlikely dreams indeed became realities.
The motorcycle was no different. With Pennington's application of gasoline power, it seemed that the ordinary pedal bicycle had become transformed into a super machine, one capable of breaking free from the bonds of earth, thereby liberating the human animal from its own puny muscle power and substituting near god-like mechanical force instead. This dream, which now appeared to be within grasp (although somewhat delayed by an underlying imperfect reality), created a whole new set of emotions in the rider's bipedal brain while balanced upright on two revolving wheels. This fantastic vision or heart's desire represents the coming into being of the modern motorcycle with its promise of great excitement and happiness, almost like something issuing through a magical portal from the world of make-believe. This is essentially how we interact with the motorcycle today and why we love it so much in spite of its intrinsic dangers, discomforts and flaws, and probably--hopefully--always will.
Bicycle Platform Ideal
In addition to a name and new persona, Pennington also gave
the world the modern motorcycle build formula. This was the simple addition of a
lightweight gasoline engine fixed to a "safety" or diamond-frame bicycle.
While that may sound easy, it was actually a major technological hurdle. When the
first fully successful motorized bicycles equipped with de Dion-Bouton engines appeared
a short time later, they would follow this same build formula.
We need only look to the 1901 Indian and other early makes to see how carefully the diamond frame was retained, essentially the same idea seen in Pennington's patent applications filed in early 1893. Although in practice Pennington favored a horizontally placed engine hung on the frame stays outboard of the rear wheel (U.S. Patent #574,818), one of his other patented designs, U.S. Patent #570,440 (seen at right), placed the engine within the diamond portion of the frame, very much like the 1901 Indian and some French designs dating back to 1897-'99. Both Pennington styles, however, retained the standard bicycle form. This would remain a key component of motorcycle design well into the early years of the 20th century.
Monsters & Freaks
Other possible claimants as first modern motorcycle from the
1893-'96 period include the French Millet (below) and German Hildebrand & Wolfmueller.
Although authentic pioneers (the German model even saw some production), both machines
from accepted bicycle practice to accommodate their gasoline powerplants and as a
consequence eliminated or greatly altered the familiar diamond frame. By straying
into forbidden territory, they were condemned with terms like "monstrosity,"
"freak" or "too cumbersome." For that reason, these machines
do not prototype the modern motorcycle nearly as well as do the Pennington forms.
Retaining the diamond bicycle frame as part of essential motorcycle design was something Pennington had grasped back in 1894 in a newspaper interview. "The Motor Cycle," he stated, "is built on the most approved lines [my emphasis], heavy enough to withstand hard usage, with pneumatic tires four inches in diameter, will run over all kinds of roads, against heavy sands and climb hills, may be run at any speed, from one to as many miles per hour as the rider desires." (11)
By promising super performance while still adhering to the bicycle ideal, Pennington combined the extraordinary with the familiar. As a result, The Motor Cycle did not scare off or disgust the highly opinionated bicycle rider of the day. We see this ready acceptance and enthusiasm shown by the riding public in the various cities where Pennington had businesses or where he promoted The Motor Cycle, including, Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Washington, D.C.,; New York City, Cortland and Elmira, New York; and Milwaukee and Racine, Wisconsin, during 1894-'95, and during his sojurn in Great Britain during 1896-'97.
This same diamond-frame platform would prove highly successful
in the developing motorcycle industry after 1900. So successful, in fact, that industry
leader Indian (below) would stick with the diamond frame pattern until 1909, long after some other
makers (noteably Merkel in 1903, and Harley-Davidson in 1904, both built in Milwaukee,
Wis.), considered it obsolete and had abandoned it.
In his classic work "Motorcycles and Side Cars," Victor Page alludes to this critical point when he writes: "It was but natural that the regular form of diamond frame bicycle should be adapted to motor propulsion by the attachment of a simple power plant and auxiliary devices."
But was it natural? Pennington's contemporaries Hildebrand & Wolfmueller and Millet didn't think so. It may be that we consider it natural only because Pennington had already devised the basic formula and branded his archetype machine upon the popular mind, which, along with his catchy name for it and radical "Wild One" ways of showing it off, provided the anvil upon which the modern motorcycle was forged.
As developed by 1900, the motorcycle was a combination of prior
work, with the safety bicycle portion coming from Great Britain; the name, concept
and basic design formula coming from the United States; and a small, reliable gasoline
engine invented in Germany and improved in France. Thus, after being conceived, named
and prototyped in the United States in 1893-'95, the motorcycle went to Europe in
1896 where it was made practicable, and then came back to America again around 1899.
A full turn of the wheel, so to speak.
That Pennington has not received credit for his contributions to the development of the motorcycle is probably because at heart it's an American story. And we Americans have been late and careless in researching our own two-wheeled past, especially those primordial events that occurred pre-Indian or before 1900. Instead, we have allowed guys writing from other continents with their own "prejudices and nationality" (to quote Hough & Setright again), to divert us away from our own indigenous motorcycle history, which in the 1890s was significant, colorful and wildly exciting.
Add to this Pennington's later reputation as a swindler with a maniacal fondness for spending other peoples' money (especially British pounds sterling), that he lavished on women, luxurious living, wild parties, and the best liquor and finest cigars, and it's no wonder that when respectable historians mention him at all, it's usually with a disparaging sneer. As Hap "Uncle Frank" Jameson's son Bob recently remarked of him: "Pennington shot himself in the foot, didn't he?" True enough. As a result oddball machines like Butler's tricycle and Daimler's test-bed creation have received credit as the first motorcycle, although in truth they were never motorcycles to begin with. They were motocycles.
With Pennington and The Motor Cycle now part of the story, however, a previously unrecognized chapter in how the modern motorcycle came into existence is possible. Instead of being some gum-chewing backwater, the United States of America takes center stage in two-wheeled power developments during the early to mid-1890s, and when Roper is added to the brew, back to around 1869. Both of these men were world-class trailblazers and pioneers in motor vehicle history, and they deserve greater recognition as such along with their better known European counterparts.
Nor should we ever forget that motorcycles have never been pink lemonade, white shoes or kid gloves. But rather scuffed boots, greasy leather and school of hard knocks. By their very nature motorcycles represent a dangerous and risky proposition that has terrified parents and has outraged respectable citizens for generations. It stands to reason, therefore, that when the motorcycle was invented, it should have begun with a loud, reckless and unsavory bang. Now we know that it did. (12)
Click for Endnotes
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If you enjoy my fresh research approach and unique writing style you might consider purchasing a copy of my landmark book either for yourself or as a gift: At the Creation, Myth, Reality and the Origin of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, 1901-1909 (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2003). This 228 page work with many period photographs and advertisments tells for the first time anywhere how and when the Harley-Davidson motorcycle actually came into existence, thereby busting decades of advertising mythology and continued modern hype on the subject. It's a must read for anyone who wants to be well-posted with the true facts about the Harley-Davidson motorcycle and its humble beginnings in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
This webpage was created by Herbert Wagner in January, 2012 on the recycled Mac laptop computer using photovoltaic electricity generated by the fusion power of the sun!
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