First Day: Cleveland-to-Indianapolis

The article in attachment cyclists091109 was published August 11, 1909, in the Indianapolis Star. It reports on the first day of the 388-mile endurance ride from Cleveland-to-Indianapolis that kicked off the big motorcycle events that week in the Hoosier capital. These events included not only the first motorized competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but also a convention of the national governing body of motorcyclists - the Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM).
I find the report colorful and romantic as it describes 96 starters departing Cleveland at 6 AM to traverse a vast countryside course lined with farmers and villagers. Of the 96 competitors fully 76 ended the day with perfect scores - which meant they received no "demerits" for mechanical issues or not staying on schedule. A list of bike brands that achieved perfect scores is provided in the article and include Indian, Yale, Excelsior, Marvel, Merkel, Thor and Harley-Davidson.
Running a half hour ahead of the swarm of two-wheelers was the Overland "pathfinder" automobile driven by two of the leading organizers, George W. Stehpens and G.H. Hamilton. They blazed the trail to inform the communities that the "caravan of cracking, spurting machines and their daredevil riders" would soon arrive. In response villagers and farmers drove wagon loads of sight-seers and stationed them under shade trees. There was a continuous buzz of excitement all along both sides of the road perimeter. Others placed chairs outside their homes and all about children were waving flags and running along the roadway.
There were mishaps along the way with riders veering off into ditches and one rider is called out on a story of a broken frame. This was New Era bike rider J.H. McLaughlin who broke his frame after an encounter with a brick resulted in a spill. He found a carpenter who fashioned something like a splint from wood and continued. Organizers required that if he were to finish the ride the next day he would have to continue with the damaged bike because no replacements were allowed.
An ominous sidebar article foreshadowed the perils of the Speedway's running surface of crushed stone. The practice incident at the Speedway occurred the same day as the endurance run. Ray Seymour, a 17-year-old phenom, got out of shape when he hit a bump entering one of the turns. Observers were impressed with his ability to regain control of the bike and not take a spill. A second sidebar reports on swelling enthusiasm for a motorcycle parade through the city that was planned for Thursday, August 12, starting at monument circle.
Attachment IMSmotoNews081009i contains two very brief items of early reports on the endurance run. The first item shares some interesting details that both paint the setting but also help us to visualize how these events were orchestrated.

  • The Overland official car scattered confetti behind in the manner of breadcrumbs to help riders identify the route they were required to travel.
  • The weather is described as "ideal."
  • The first four contestants were started at 6 am, with others released in groups of four at one-minute intervals.
  • The riders were expected to travel at the rate of 20 mph.
  • The first stop was Coshocton, Ohio, and later a brief rest at Newark with the first day's night rest in Columbus, Ohio.
  • The plan at that point was to have stops at Dayton and Richmond, Indiana before concluding in Indianapolis.

The second article of this attachment starts with immensely colorful language. The first sentence is flat-out compelling. Check it out:
"A trail of dust and the echo of staccato exhausts marked the trail of the ninety-nine entrants as they swept through this city (Wooster, Ohio) on the annual reliability contest of the Federation of American Motorcyclists from Cleveland to Indianapolis."
Accidents, no surprise, received focus. Two are noted. W.G. Moss of Dayton, Ohio had to lay his New Era bike down after losing traction on gravel near the town of Seville. Apparently, he hopped back up almost immediately with little or no damage to himself or his machine. H.A. Peterson, who hailed from Buffalo, New York, was thrown from his Topeka brand motorcycle and struck by two other riders, Frank Allerman and R.E. Unlleghllis (sp?) just outside Cleveland. Peterson suffered a serious knee injury and his bike was damaged. Nonetheless, Peterson hobbled on, arriving in Wooster 10 minutes behind schedule.
L.J. Mueller, captain of the Cleveland Motorcycle Club, and his riding partner, P.B. Whitney, were first to Wooster. The article indicates the roads from Cleveland to Wooster were very good.
Attachment IMSmotoNewsiiiii is a simple list of all 99 participants in the endurance run. This was published in the August 10, 1909, Indianapolis News. Here you will see a wonderful reference for the riders and the brand of their bikes. Note, too, among the number are some true super star riders such as:

With respect to Kellogg, it honestly troubles me a great deal that he is listed as an Excelsior rider when, in fact, he is noted as a Merkel rider in every other reference. I am incredulous that Merkel would have let him sit on another brand bike. This leads me to believe this reference contains at least this one error.
Attachment IMSmotoNews081109 was published early in the day that the riders expected to conclude their run at the Dension Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. Apparently, by this time three riders may have dropped out as the report indicates only 96 of the previously reported 99 riders would arrive in the Hoosier capital. After checking in at the Denison Hotel, the bikes were to be taken to the Cadillac Garage at 13 East Ohio Street for tech inspection. Scores for performance in the endurance competition were to be calculated immediately.
The article indicates that hundreds of motorcycle owners were gathering to receive the endurance riders. Most of those in the run were expected to compete in the Speedway meet later in the week. Keep in mind a hill climb in Connersville was planned as part of the final leg of the endurance run. The arrival of the endurance riders was to mark the beginning of the FAM convention.
The parade through Indianapolis was planned for the following day. The route was to start at the Monument Circle and traverse a route to take them past some of the most important businesses in the city. Organizers expected as many as 1,000 bikes to be involved. A variety of entertainment activities was planned for FAM membership during the evenings. The convention on Friday was primarily to decide on national-level club officers, but apparently, there were other business matters addressed as well.
This report indicates that 76 of 96 starters in the endurance run scored perfect scores during the stint between Cleveland and Columbus - the end of the first day. Bad roads were reported for a portion of the course, but expectations were high for much better roads on the second day. It may be the bias of the reporting, but the newspaper indicated that the roads would be better in Indiana. A summary of the participating bikes and the numbers representing each brand appeared in the article, but the copy is poor and not fully legible in the attached. Among the brands represented in the 76 bikes with perfect first day scores are the following:
Reading-Standard; Indian; Marsh?; Metz?; Marvel; Reliance; Flying Merkel; N.S.U.; Thor; Pierce; New Era; Yale; Excelsior; Harley-Davidson; Emblem; Kiefler; Torpedo; Curtiss.
Ray Seymour, the 17-year-old "daredevil" rider was not in the endurance run but instead practicing at the Speedway where he had a big scare when he got out of shape in one of the turns. The article described him as having a "narrow escape from death," but given that he did not even take a spill this is a bit sensational. Nonetheless, it was a big moment and people noticed.
A small article in the attachment reports that Cleveland's P.B. Whitney, on an Indian, was the first rider to reach Richmond, Indiana. He checked in at the famous Westcott Hotel at 12:32 pm. B.A. Swenson, another Indian rider was second. John McCarver of Indianapolis was running fifth on an Excelsior.

cyclists091109.pdf4.82 MB
IMSmotoNews081009i.pdf484.15 KB
IMSmotoNewsiiiii.pdf366.23 KB
IMSmotoNews081109.pdf926.01 KB