FAM Motorcycle Program Announced

Here you will find two brief but power-packed articles originally published in the July 16, 1909 Indianapolis Star and the July 17, 1909 Indianapolis News. This was about one month before the motorcycle race meet that was the first motorized competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The same week as the races the seventh annual Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) convention was to be held in Indianapolis largely thanks to the christening of the newly constructed Indianapolis Motor Speedway with FAM national championship motorcycle races.
Both articles share the planned program for the races with events on Friday, August 13 and Saturday, August 14. The schedule would end up changing due to complications with rain and a crushed stone track surface that was simply too dangerous for the two-wheelers at high speed. Nonetheless this announcement shares their intentions which called for the following:

  • Event 1 - 5 miles, private owners
  • Event 2 - 1 mile, FAM national championship
  • Event 3 - 5 miles, handicap for Indiana Motorcycle Club members only.
  • Event 4 - 10 miles, FAM national championship
  • Event 5 - 5 miles, machines less than 55 cubic inches without exhaust ports.
  • Event 6 - 10 miles, professionals
  • Event 7 - 5 mile, open handicap
  • Event 8 - 25 miles, open for machines less than 30.5 cubic inches


  • Event 1 - 2.5 miles, handicap, private owners
  • Event 2 - 5 miles, national championship
  • Event 3 - 1 mile trials, flying start
  • Event 4 - 10 miles, handicap
  • Event 5 - 5 miles, professionals
  • Event 6 - 10 miles, machines less that 3.5 cubic inches
  • Event 7 - 1 hour FAM championship

The Star's article also promoted that the following top riders planned to compete:

The News' article has a bit more detail and discusses arrangements for the FAM national convention, expecially entertainment actitivities that promoted the central Indiana hotbed of motoring. An endurance ride starting in Cleveland on Tuesday was scheduled to conclude in Indianapolis on Wednesday. The distance between the two cities was reported at 361.4 miles.
On Wednesday an informal reception and luncheon was scheduled at the Indiana Motorcycle Club, located at 444 West Vermont Street. If that doesn't make you want to travel to Indianapolis and find that address to just stand there and soak in the special vibrations...well, I can't understand not taking absolute joy in that.
It's interesting to note that women attending the convention were "to be shown every courtesy." Plans called for them to be taken for automobile rides to see Indianapolis.
Thursday there was a special event at the Speedway. This was an economy run where riders were provided a measured quantity of fuel. The winner was the person traveling the greatest distance.
The article also reports that on Friday morning FAM would conduct their business meeting at the Board of Trade. Unfortunately no better information about the location is provided. Races, as noted in the program were planned for Friday. That evening visitors were invited to attend a "smoker" at Avondale. While the article was not specific I believe attendance at such events were restricted to men and food, alcoholic drinks and cigars were provided. If any females were in the room they typically were entertaiment performers such as singers or belly dancers - which were popular during this era.
The Indiana Motorcycle Club was part of FAM. Officers of the Indiana club were:

  • Charles Wyatt, president
  • H.L. Dipper, vice-president
  • Harry Graff, treasurer
  • Robert H. Sturm, secretary

The article also reports on the committee membership charged with making the Speedway motorcycle event a success. Wyatt chaired the executive committee with the following men serving under him: H.L. Dipple, Harry Graff, Robert H. Sturm, L.M. Wainwright, G.H. Hamilton, F.I. Willis.
Other committees and their members:

  • Finance Committee: Gus Habich (chairman), F.I. Willis, George C. Detch.
  • Press Committee: G.W. Stephens (chairman), F.O. Minter.
  • Program Committee: H.A. Githens (chairman), Frank B. Willis, Loe (?) Chapman.
  • Entertainment Committee: G.H. Westing (chairman), Harry Graff, John McCarver.
  • Prize Committee: W.D. Dean (chairman), C.E. Ball, P.C. Hudson.

I am also attaching a third article, again from the Indianapolis News, concerning plans for the Cleveland to Indianapolis endurance run. This was published July 23. This article, which draws the analogy of the motorcycle ride to the Glidden Tour for automobiles, provides some detail I have not seen before. In particular, the run was restricted to amateurs. Keep in mind, though, that this meant some pretty distinguished riders such as Erwin "Cannonball" Baker was eligible.
The riders were divided into two classes, A and B. "A" was for private owners while "B" was for riders somehow affiliated with the motorcycle trade (industry). FAM rules required that an endurance run must average at least 150 miles each day. Motorcycles had to be stock machines not over 60 cubic inch engine displacement. This meant the engines of the day produced no more than seven horsepower with that cylinder capacity. Rules specifically barred "freak" machines - purpose-built bikes or those modified for racing.
Riders intending to enter the endurance run faced an August 5 deadline to file with G.H. Hamilton, who was based in Indianapolis. They were required to be at the Cleveland, Ohio starting point by 10 am on Monday, August 9. The bikes were to be "sealed" at that time. This meant that some type of device - probably a wire of some sort - was wrapped around components so that the seal would have to be broken to work on parts, such as engine components. This would provide evidence that the vehicle was serviced during the ride - a violation of rules.
The race start time was 6 am, Tuesday, August 10. The first day's run was 173.7 miles to Columbus. The second day's run was to Indianapolis 188.3 miles.
Each rider was to start with 1,000 points and demerits were detracted as various penalties were incurred. The planned running time was 18 mph as organizers did not want local speed laws violated. Those who arrived early were penalized for excessive speed.
Gold medals were prepared for those with perfect scores. Riders scoring not less than 900 points were to receive a silver medal. Bronze medals were for those finishing the course within two hours of the planned schedule each day. A hill climb at Connersville was part of the endurance course. Each contestant was permitted a 150-yard start with the goal to get up the hill without pedaling (these bikes had pedals like a bicycle to supplement engine power). The time for scaling the hill was not included in a runner's elapsed time for course completion.
An item of interest but of no relevance to the motorcycle event is included in the penultimate paragraph of the overall article concerns the local Buick sales agency. It notes that Buick, based in Flint, Michigan, assumed control of an indendently operated agency - the Buick-Losey agency of Indianapolis. This had been announced the previous day. R.H. Losey had been president of the company and the announcement called for him to remain as manager.
The final paragraph concerns Barney Oldfield, who had returned to Indianapolis from Chicago the previous evening, driving his new National touring car. That car was purchased when he acquired his "Old Glory" racer from the company. People were buzzing about the news that Oldfield had been struck by a car while walking on the street in Chicago. He had been walking with Lewis Strang, who was under contract with Buick at the time. He actually had been struck by one car and knocked into the path of another, which apparently also hit him.
Neither blow could have been of great consequence as Oldfield was reported to be in good shape. He did spend about an hour in the Windy City's St. Luke's Hospital.

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