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Motorcycle Mania (1869-1921): Topics in Chronicling America

Motorcylce mania hits America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This guide provides access to materials related to “Motorcycle Mania” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Public showing added interest in improved motorcycle models." July 31, 1910. The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), Image 50. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

The development and adoption of motorcycles and motorcycle riding in the United States represents a significant social and cultural movement. The pleasure and utility of the motorcycle have become an accepted part of American life. Additionally, the contributions of the motorcycle industry to engine and vehicle design are noteworthy. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1869 An article reviews the history of the “velocipede” (self-propelled, wheeled vehicles).
Mid 1890s Races and endurance tests of vehicles called “motorcycles” begin to take place.
1901 Hendee Manufacturing Company begins building Indian Motorcycles in Springfield, MA.
1903 Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company founded in Milwaukee, WI.
1903-1904 The Federation of American Motorcyclists is organized to promote the interests of motorcyclists & organize competitions.
1904-1905 Police departments begin to organize motorcycle units.
1910 Exhibitions are promoting and popularizing motorcycles.
1910-1915 Motorcycles are gaining acceptance as an economical means to accomplish many tasks.
1917 Motorcycles have a role in the US Army during WWI.
1920 Leslie “Red” Parkhurst sets 23 motorcycle speed records on a Harley-Davidson racing bike.
June 1921 Modern motorcycles are an established part of American culture.