Reflecting a bygone era: San Francisco International showcases early American motorcycles – The Moodie Davitt Report

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During this pandemic times, if you will be traveling and passing through San Francisco International. Stop by and visit the exhibition on Motorcycling
At a time when many flight restrictions are still in force, an exhibition in the airport’s International Terminal explores the history and the wonders of another mode of transport, motorcycling.

USA. An exhibition exploring the history and development of motorcycling has opened at San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

The SFO Museum exhibition, in the International Terminal Departures, started on 11 February and will run through 19 September 2021.
According to exhibition organisers, early American motorcycles “reflect a bygone era of mechanical innovation and bold industrial design”. They are prized by collectors around the world and displayed on vintage rides, endurance runs, and at special events.
The exhibition presents fourteen ‘exceptional’ examples made prior to 1916, along with a collection of rare engines and photographs from the pioneering era of motorcycling.
It follows the development of the motorcycle – “one of the earliest and most exciting applications of another new invention, the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine” – from the 1890s until 1915. The exhibition highlights the progress of motorcycle technology during that period and the evolvement of riding “from a novelty, to a hobby, sport and a reliable source of transportation”.

Augusta and Adeline Van Buren on Indian motorcycles in Tijuana, Mexico 1916 [Courtesy of Bob and Rhonda Van Buren and Cris Sommer Simmons, The American Motorcycle Girls]

Charles Henshaw and Oscar Hedstrom on a Hedstrom Motor-Pacer [Courtesy of Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History]

As the presentation points out, “motorcycling in the early twentieth century was always an adventure”.
“Road conditions were generally poor and hitting a pothole or other hazard on a motorcycle supported by a primitive, stiffly sprung suspension could easily throw a rider off the bike”.
It also underlines the need for “athletic ability” to start and ride these machines and that motorcyclists had to be mechanically minded to keep them in working condition.

The Flying Merkel twin-cylinder racer dates from 1912 [Courtesy of Dave Scoffone]

The 1914 Jefferson twin-cylinder racer (left) and the 1910 Harley-Davidson Model 6 both feature in the exhibition [ Courtesy of Dave Scoffone]

Its mission is to “delight, engage, and inspire a global audience”; to collect, preserve, interpret and share the history of commercial aviation, and to enrich the public experience at San Francisco International Airport.

Source: Reflecting a bygone era: San Francisco International showcases early American motorcycles – The Moodie Davitt Report