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The Indian - America's First Motorcycle

Whenever we speak of bikes for the big boys, big names in the history of motorbikes, such as Harley-Davidson, instantly come to mind. But perhaps only the hardcore bikers and fans are familiar with the Indian, America's first motorcycle.

Oscar Hedstrom, Indian Co-Founder, in 1902.

In 1901, two years before the iconic Harley-Davidson came into the picture, there was already the Indian—the brainchild of bicycle racers Oscar Hedstrom and George Hendee. The duo, who also happened to be self-taught engineers, started out by attaching small engines made by Hedstrom onto Hendee’s bicycles. Around this time, Hedstrom and Hendee also designed and built a prototype and two production units, which were also successfully tested.

The very first Indian bikes with streamlined styling and chain drives were sold to the public a year later. The company would set out to achieve more milestones in their early years—-Hedstrom would set the world record of 56 mph for motorcycling speed in 1903, and the company would introduce the Indian’s signature dark red color in 1904.

While it’s apparent who won between the two pioneers of motorbiking, the Indian nevertheless had significant presence in the racing scene (several Indian racers and riders were able to set records and win tournaments) and also in the military. The Scout (produced from 1920 – 1946) and the Chief (produced from 1922 – 1953) were the company’s best known models.

A nice photograph of the 1921 Indian Scout.
A photograph of Walter Parrish, Vice President and General Manager, taking a look at the “new and improved” Indian Chief in 1946.

Now, it’s time for us to take a ride down motorbiking’s memory lane with some vintage photos of America’s first motorcycle!

All photos via The Selvedge Yard

Sources & Additional Readings:
Indian | America’s First Motorcycle on The Selvedge Yard
Indian | The Golden Age of Icons The Scout, Chief, and Big Chief on The Selvedge Yard
Indian (motorcycle) on Wikipedia

written by plasticpopsicle

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