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Get Your Motor Runnin’ . . .

Smithsonian Libraries Trade Literature - Indian MotorcyclesOriginally published on the Collections Search Center  (SIRIS Smithsonian Institution Research Information System) blog . . .

This jaunty cover image from a 1916 catalog for Indian Motorcycles shows a happily-waving young gentleman bidding his co-workers goodbye with the tagline "So Long Till Monday!" His stylish and sporty outfit, featuring leather riding gaiters and gloves, jodhpurs, and a tweed newsboy cap with goggles, provides a sharp contrast to the other more conservatively dressed employees flooding out of the office in their dress suits and straw boaters. The beautiful bright red Indian Motorcycle on the cover, with its white tires and shiny chrome accessories, was designed for racing and adventure, and attracted buyers who were interested in both recreation and practical transportation (while inspiring the envy of their friends and neighbors).

Indian Motorcycles, manufactured by the Hendee Manufacturing Company (later renamed the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company) of Springfield, Massachusetts, were the first motorcycles to be manufactured in America. The Company's co-owners, George Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedstrom, focused on technological innovations that would increase the speed and horsepower of their motorcycles, and in 1916 they released a model with a Powerplus engine. Indian Motorcycles from this era were used by the United States military during World War I, as well as by police departments across the nation.

This Indian Motorcycle catalog is part of the Libraries' Trade Literature Collection, which includes more than 500,000 items documenting the history of American products, inventions, and advertising from the 19th and 20th centuries.Diane Shaw

Rolling Thunder is in Washington, D.C. this Memorial Day Weekend.

One Comment

  1. I wanted to share a couple of comments from colleagues on this topic. Meredith McQuoid-Greason, Publications Specialist from the Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, mentioned that “Anthony Hopkins starred in the feature film ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’, about an aging bachelor from Down Under who continually tinkered with his Indian’s motor and put his life savings into shipping his bike by freighter to the Bonneville Salt Flats and entering the speed races there. It was a true story. Great movie! Put it on your Netflix list.” And a motorcycling enthusiast friend remarked that there have been several efforts to revive the Indian Motorcycles brand since the original company stopped making them in 1953. There is now a manufacturer of the latest incarnation of Indian Motorcycles, based in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Speaking of motorcycles, Memorial Day weekend is when the annual Rolling Thunder Run is held here in Washington, DC to remember the prisoners of war and those missing-in-action (POW’s and MIA’s) of the Vietnam War and to highlight the contributions of American veterans and show appreciation for the United States Constitution.

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