Finish in Indy From Cleveland

Attachment cyclists091209 contains an article that was originally published in the August 12, 1909, Indianapolis Star. Part of this is a duplicate and easier-to-read copy of the absolute best summary of the 388-mile motorcycle endurance run from Cleveland-to-Indianapolis that preceded the first motorized competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 14. These races were sanctioned by the Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) - the national governing body for the two-wheeler community. FAM was also holding its national convention in Indianapolis the same week.
The article starts with a call-out box that reviews the agenda of motorcycle events for the day from 9 AM and 8 PM. The activities included: a photograph of riders and bikes at monument circle; a ride to Kokomo; a ride touring Indianapolis; a street parade of motorcycles; a ride to the Riverside "bathing beach" and, in the evening, a reception and entertainment at the German House which included vaudeville acts and band music.
As for the Cleveland-to-Indianapolis endurance run, the event started with more than 90 riders and 64 bikes survived - many of the dusty, oil-splattered riders and their bikes limping into the final destination of the Denison Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. The run required two days with an overnight stay in Columbus, Ohio. The riders left there at 6 AM and were required to be at the Denison by 5:30 PM with a five minute grace period. Fifty-two of the 64 that finished met that requirement so they received no time penalty.
The results of the event could not be immediately announced pending the technical committee's review of the machines. The technical committee included giants of the Indianapolis auto industry: Howard Marmon (Nordyke & Marmon), George Weidley (Premier) and Guy Wall (National Motor Vehicle Company). The trailblazing car of G.H. Hamilton, Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) contest board chair with passengers Earle Ovington, President of FAM; Oscar Hedstrom, founder of Indian Motorcycles and C.H. Wallerich, an executive at Overland Automobile company. Overland was the official car of the run and was the trailblazer.
A crowd started gathering around the Denison, the official FAM hotel, at about 3 PM. The first rider to arrive was Joseph De Salvo of Chicago and second was reportedly "John McCarver" of Indianapolis. My guess is this was the correct spelling of the man's name but it was reported elsewhere to be John McCarber. It is hard to know which reference is wrong, but I have seen it spelled "McCarver" with a "v" twice so it is more likely that what is reported here is correct.
In one of the more remarkable and undoubtedly high-speed rides of the event, Buffalo rider Harold B. Alderman broke a wheel 16 miles out of Cleveland but managed to ride back, replace the wheel and then hustle to finish the event without a time penalty. Other riders were not so lucky. An amateur beginner at the time but also the man in the event destined to make the biggest mark on history was Erwin G. Baker who would later earn the nickname "Cannon Ball" for his relentless gutsy riding and driving. He busted a wheel too but the damage was irreparable and his bike was shipped back to Indianapolis via interurban rail. Rider Harry Graff made the most dramatic exit when he was hurled from his bike while running at 30 MPH. He tried unsuccessfully to pass a farmer's wagon when his wheel caught a rut in the dirt road.
The article reports that the riders were met with not just cooperation from farmers along the way but with cheers and enthusiasm. The history of motorsport occurring on public roads was riddled with contentious friction between farmers on the countryside and motorists the locals resented for "commandeering" roads they felt they had paid taxes to develop and care for. The quality of roads, notoriously bad in those days, varied on the stretches from one town to the next but the riders had the good fortune of dry weather. The G&J Tire Company sponsored a "first aid" car driven by George Stephens which assisted riders with minor repairs along the way, mostly for tires.
Near Indianapolis, in Connersville, a hill climb contest had been organized but many of the riders were exhausted from the long trip. Some demurred over concern for the stress, wear, and tear their bikes had already endured. In the end, there was simply less enthusiasm for that aspect of the overall event than had been hoped. The article devotes a couple of paragraphs to explain the classes of the event but it is unclear whether this is for the overall endurance run or just the hill climb component.
At the finish, the crowds were apparently so enthusiastic the police struggled to contain them as they lined the lane through which the riders steered their bikes to get to the finish. This was particularly important as those arriving at by the deadline or during the five minute grace period were described as speeding like "Kansas cyclones" to avoid a late arrival penalty.
A sidebar article reports that several motorcycle clubs from various cities organized private rides to get everyone to the FAM week of events. The Excelsior Club out of Chicago is mentioned as well as other clubs from such Midwestern cities as Columbus, Ohio and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Another sidebar reported on an "informal get together" at the offices of the Indiana Motorcycle Club that evening. More significantly it reported the false rumors persisted that due to the questionable running surface of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the motorcycle races planned for the coming weekend would be moved to the dirt oval at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Attachment FAMriders091309 is a brief item that summarizes the results of the endurance run. Apparently, there was no clear winner as 38 riders finished with "perfect" scores - meaning there were no demerits assigned to them. Note that listed first is local favorite son John McCarver (arrived second as reported above) who rode an Excelsior motorcycle. Another 28 finished between 900 and 999 points. A perfect score was 1,000. Another 28 riders failed to finish with 103 starting from Cleveland. This number contradicts other reports with lower numbers.
Attachment IMSmotoNews081209 presents the first half of an article with concluding portion contained in attachment page11jump081209. This article discusses the atmosphere in Indianapolis during the hours following the completion of the great Cleveland-to-Indianapolis motorcycle endurance run. Fifty-two of the original 96 riders checked in on time, with an additional 12 arriving, but late. They were then sent to the Cadillac Garage, where the FAM tech committee had temporarily set up shop.
Rain created problems for the planned program. A scheduled run to Kokomo, sponsored by the Kokomo Rubber Company was canceled. A scheduled group photo set 9 am in front of Monument Circle was postponed to 1 o'clock, just before the motorcycle parade through Indianapolis. The parade was deemed a success as thousands of spectators lined the city streets to witness it.
Indianapolis motorcycle police officers with the following last names led the parade: Stone, Wilson, Todd and Gibney. The riders were decorated with red, white and blue convention colors and carried pennants. Many of the riders ventured out to the track because they were entered in the weekend's races. Here's a great excerpt from the article:
"It was their intention to spend to spend as much time as possible prior to the races on the course. The outer speedway track, two and a half miles long, which has the appearance of a long strip of solid rock, was alive with the thundering machines by 10 o'clock this morning."
This article goes on to describe evening entertainment for the visiting officials, members, and riders. An elaborate reception was arranged at the German House, involving vaudeville acts as well as a band concert. 
The business convention was to begin on Friday at 8:30 a.m. at the Board of Trade building. The election of the FAM officers and revisions of the organization's rules were on the agenda. President Earl Ovington was to preside, the consensus was that he would be reelected to office. Several Indiana Motorcycle Club members were in the conversation for other senior positions, including P.S. Brown, Charles Wyatt, Harry Graff, and G.H. Hamiton. C.A. Mariani of New York, the press agent, was being considered for FAM secretary.
A smoker and more vaudeville were promised for Friday night at Avondale Heights - whatever that place was. The article asserts that despite all the pageantry, the epicenter of focus for the motorcyclists was the new speedway, which is referred to as, "the wonderful Indianapolis speed plant."
We get more color as what is described as an "interested crowd," reportedly filled East Ohio Street as that was the side entrance to the legendary Denison Hotel, the FAM temporary headquarters and the final checkpoint of the endurance run. The Overland official car arrived ahead of the riders at about 4:50. In the car were G.H. Hamilton of Indianapolis as well as Ovington, Indian Motorcycle Designer Oscar Hedstrom, and C.H. Wallerich the driver.
Joseph De Salvo of Chicago and John McCarver of Indianapolis were the first riders in. Note that they turned onto East Ohio Street from Delaware Street after entering the city o Washington Street. The report says that there were very few accidents during the run. Exceptions included Harry Graff of Indianapolis who was "hurled from his machine and compelled to quit the contest near Connersville." Apparently, Graff pulled out to pass a wagon and his wheel slipped into a rut.
Erwin Baker, destined to earn the nickname, "Cannon Ball," was unable to complete the run when his bike broke and he had to ship home on an interurban railcar. Other retirements included H.J. Levis of Rochester, who collided with another rider and the damage was too significant to allow him to continue. H.B. Alderman of Buffalo broke a rear wheel 16 miles outside Cleveland, returned there, replaced the wheel and then sped at such a pace he overtook the other riders and arrived on time without penalty.
One colorful story had a rider break the frame of his bike but he spliced it with pieces of wood and soldiered on. The report indicates he had abrasions and bruises on his face, apparently from a fall. He arrived on time and without penalty, nonetheless.
Here's another excerpt offering wonderful color:
"At the checking station all kinds of machines passed in review, from the elongated, four-cylinder Pierce, to the short, green, red, yellow, blue, and gray Indians, Thors, Excelsiors, etc. There were machines with free engines, as on an auto, and the regulation kind that could not be cranked, except by the pedals."
The article pronounces the endurance run as an unqualified success. It also reports that roads in Indiana were superior to those in Ohio. The hill climb in Connersville was apparently successful but no details are provided aside from the incline being five percent and that times were recorded.
The Indiana Motorcycle Club hosted the riders and members at their headquarters at 444 West Vermont Street. The gathering was so large it spilled out onto the front lawn. This is the point where the article is completed in the page11jump081209 attachment. This portion of the report is extremely brief but also reveals that many local riders had not previously been club members but took the opportunity to join. Among the refreshments at this event were a buffet luncheon, lemonade, liquor, and cigars.
Attachment IMSmoto082109aaa provides a list of 52 riders credited with finishing the ride with a perfect score - complete with their times. Note that Walter Davidson of Harley-Davidson is among that number. His time was five hours, 31 minutes.

cyclists091209.pdf5.96 MB
FAMriders091309.pdf240.58 KB
IMSmotoNews081209.pdf1.12 MB
page11jump081209.pdf573.52 KB
IMSmoto082109aaa.pdf2.38 MB