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Thread: Comet Motorcycle

  1. #1
    33vld Guest

    Default Comet Motorcycle

    Hi! I'm hoping some club members can help me. I have been researching Comet motorcycles made in Milwaukee in 1909/1910.
    Information is extremely hard to find. If any body has a photo or
    other information to trade or copy it would be greatly appreciated. I have exhausted the local Milwaukee research facilities. I have a copy of a 1910 Comet brochure but I'm looking for names associated with the business end of the company. Also if anybody has one squirreled away I would dearly love to see it.

    Thanks

    Dick Werner
    rww@nconnect.net

  2. #2
    HarleyCreation Guest

    Default Re: Comet Motorcycle

    Originally posted by rww
    Hi! I'm hoping some club members can help me. I have been researching Comet motorcycles made in Milwaukee in 1909/1910.
    Information is extremely hard to find.
    Hi Dick,

    You might already know this, but the Comet was built in Milwaukee between 1908 and 1910. I think most of them were built in 1909. It was very much a local motorcycle and I have never seen an ad for the Milwaukee Comet in any national motorcycle mag of the time. But at least a few dozen were made and it's possible that a bike or parts has survived, altho I don't know of any.

    The Comet "factory" was located on Galena Street just a few blocks from the Harley-Davidson plant. I don't think that was a coincidence either. I have a theory about WHO might have worked at the Comet Company.

    As you have a photo, you know entire Comet looked VERY much like a Harley-Davidson. It was a very early clone bike. Nearly identical. Fancy that! And the Comet wasn't the only early clone of Harley-Davidson either.

    It's funny, but during 1901-1905 the Indian was cloned like crazy, and after 1905 the Harley-Davidson was cloned until 1909 when even Indian was forced to revamp their machine along the lines of a Harley-Davidson -- altho that 1909 Indian was a little bit racier looking except for the single, which still used that stupid looking backwards cylinder. What an exciting and fast-paced time that was!

    Now does anybody know what bike the Harley-Davidson was a clone of?

    Harley's Battle for Motorcycle Supremacy!
    At the Creation

  3. #3
    LouieMCman Guest

    Cool

    Was Harley cloned from the Merkel ??

    Louie

  4. #4
    AdminGuy Guest

    Default

    I'll second that.

  5. #5
    HarleyCreation Guest

    Default

    Originally posted by LouieMCman
    Was Harley cloned from the Merkel ??

    AdminGuy: I'll second that.

    It sure looks that way and you guys get the gold-plated Bent Spoke Award!

    When you go back into the original motorcycle trade literature of the time you can find the 1903 Merkel with loop-frame, forward canted engine, top-frame tanks, triple clamp fork, plug-in handlebars, etc. These would all be features of the first model 1905 Harley-Davidson and both bikes looked very much alike. There were 1903 (late 1902) ads, catalogs, articles, photos about this new loop-frame Merkel. But there is NO TRACE of any Harley-Davidson being advertised, sold, pictured, or ridden by the public until early 1905!

    I keep hoping that somewhere in some old magazine ad or article Joe Merkel crows about other guys copying HIS design, but so far that has not turned up. But clearly the Milwaukee based Merkel was on the market FIRST with that very modern and good-looking loop-frame design that in time every builder would adopt, including even Indian altho it took them until 1909 to throw in the towel and admit defeat that diamond bicycle frame was deader than a doornail.

    But the 1905 Harley-Davidson upped the Merkel by having a bigger engine with more hillclimbing umph. And Merkel dropped the ball by entering the automobile market and I think that crippled the company that led to its leaving Milwaukee and being bought out -- but I forget now by whom.

    ================
    Merkel's Clone but MORE!
    At the Creation

  6. #6
    HarleyCreation Guest

    Default

    Hmmm....I was going to add more about the Milwaukee Comet but forget now what it was....

    Oh yeah.

    While the Comet was a Harley-Davidson "clone" bike in general design even down to the same bore & stroke, it was NOT an literal copy but had some unique features of its own.

    The 1909 model Comet had a very unique belt tightener that moved the rear wheel back, which they claimed some advantages to. On the Harley a pulley tightened the belt. Also, the 1910 Comet had a completely new and different front and rear leaf-spring fork and frame that was very far advanced and that would later find its way onto the P.E.M. motorcycle. The Comet's battery box was different from the Harley too. Gas tank shape slightly different; it didn't have the cool forward slash angle of the Harley. But at first glance it's easy to mistake a 1909 Comet for a Harley.

    I'll bet that made Harley-Davidson mad seeing how they were building these Comets just a few blocks away! Afterall, the Merkel plant had been 2 miles away!

    ==================
    Merkels, Harleys, Comets....
    At the Creation

  7. #7
    Earl Guest

    Default

    Hi

    Can somebody please start posting some early period photos of the early Comet motorcycles.........

    Just love that early stuff.....

  8. #8
    HarleyCreation Guest

    Default

    Originally posted by Earl
    Hi

    Can somebody please start posting some early period photos of the early Comet motorcycles.........

    Just love that early stuff.....
    I may have one that Dick Werner emailed to me.

    Yes, here it is. Hope it works.

    This looks to be a 1909 Milwaukee Comet as it doesn't have the 1910 fork. Notice the similar to Harley frame and motor. Is that a Harley sidecar lug behind the neck? Looks like it.

    Earl, you're good with this early stuff. Can you see how the belt tensioner on this job works? It has a belt pulley, but I don't see a Harley style lever, do you? I can't remember whether the 1909 and 1910 Comet both had the tensioner by moving the rear wheel or just the 1910 model and I'm too lazy to dig around and look it up.

    Not sure how this one operates....

    From the look of those crankcases, I'll bet the Comet was running near identical Harley-Davidson flywheels, etc.

    Nice early bike. Wouldn't it be nice to find one?

    Photo was taken in Milwaukee and appeared in "Wisconsin Motorist."

    Does anybody have any copies of "Wisconsin Motorist" 1909-1915?

    =====================
    Travel back to 1903 Milwaukee...
    At the Creation

  9. #9
    33vld Guest

    Default

    I just wanted to say thanks to you guys for trying to get this thread active. I like to say that Comet was the bastard child of HD. There is no doubt that the Comet people borrowed heavily
    from HD. What the real story is we may never know. Nobody is around to ask. I did manage to find the original lot where the Comet Motor Co. was located in 1908/9/10. The shed(just like HD)where they built them is gone but the house is still there. Also the location of the Comet Motor Mfg. Co. in 1913 was also just located. I believe the original building is still there(it's now a washer & dryer repair business)along with the corner tavern it stands next to. I believe some of HD's earliest employees went to Comet in 1908. We just have to proove it. No corporation papers exist. No diaries that we know of. No letters. No blueprints. You get the idea. It's gonna be tough.


    RWW

  10. #10
    LouieMCman Guest

    Cool

    I found this terrible drawing saved on my computer, but it is a Comet racer!

    Louie

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