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Thread: Harley-Davidson's Wrecking Crew

  1. #31
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    Maldwyn Jones said Joe Merkel was an odd man, and very camera shy. You really don't see many pictures of him considering his name was on his motorcycles. Thanks for the picture ArchiveMoto.
    Eric Smith
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  2. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by HarleyCreation View Post
    Can you document the source? That would suggest that originally it was something of a generic term among rival factories. Not H-D specific. That would be cool to know.
    The reference appeared in an Excelsior ad in Motorcycle Illustrated, but I imagine it was used in other trade journals. We reprinted it in American Excelsior, our recent history of Excelsior and Henderson.

    As mentioned in other posts, the term was common at the time. It’s not completely clear whether the factory was trying to us it as a nick name for Excelsior racers. They did use “Big X Team” as such in the teens.

    On the other hand, 1920 was a difficult year for the factory in competition. They soldiered on in 1919 with the pre-war Big Valve races that were not really competitive, while the OHC racers were being developed. However, that effort was stopped by the death of Bob Perry at the beginning of 1920. Further resources were devoted to the new Henderson models.

    ---------- Bob Turek

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarleyCreation View Post
    On my work computer I may have those 1911 refs. But mine are just an H-D being tested on the drome. It sounds like you found them in a drome race. I wonder if maybe Lang was doing that on his own, or possibly on behalf of H-D? Any clue in the article? Can we see it somewhere?

    Certainly H-D drome racing refs will be found. Any rich guy or dealer could compete under FAM rules. But factory support seems to be entirely absent--esp on the hometown Milwaukee motordrome. H-D might have tested the waters though. It's an important question. Racing was good publicity, but it sure did cost!
    I am attaching the article found in the July 2nd 1911 Chicago Examiner. I see no mention of C. Lang or any local dealer efforts. There were multiple classes of racing, professional, trade rider class and even amateurs later listed among race results. The trade rider class was for smaller displacement 30.50 machines. I would agree it is doubtful that there was any official H-D factory involvement, quite possibly all were privateer entries. Now, this information comes a full two years before the Milwaukee Drome opened in 1913. The MoCo may not yet have developed it's stance against the dangers of the small board tracks. When it comes to Milwaukee Drome information and race results found in the local Milwaukee newspapers of the time never is there mention of the manufacturer of machines ridden by the racers.

    Attachment 18335Attachment 18336Attachment 18337Attachment 18338

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchiveMoto View Post
    As for HD on the pre-speedway motordromes, Badger you I have been discussing this to a degree already with some interesting theories. In all of my digging I have uncovered only a few mentions of a Harley-Davidson ever being run in any sanctioned events, and even then they are seemingly being run by privateer's or as early mounts for young riders before their professional debut. The idea of Ottaway testing his developmental 11k on the boards in Milwaukee as a result of the dust up with the folks at the local horse track is by far the most intriguing to me... throw in the idea of a young lanky redheaded crack fresh off the train from Denver (racing Indian's no less) and my hairs start to stand up. Ha! Until more substantial evidence turns up though the idea that HD had anything to do with motordrome racing before the post-1915 speedway boom will remain in my eyes as an extremely rare exception.
    I think Red's comments from the 1936 Motorcyclist article provide likely evidence of him testing an 11K at the Milw Drome.

    "When 1914 rolled around it was back to the Milwaukee Drome again. While there Harley-Davidson came out with a racing motor and I tried it out for them on the Drome. It was fast enough, and I seemed to handle it to suit them, so they hired me to ride it in the Dodge City 300-mile on July 4th. That made me the first racer riding for the Harley-Davidson factory."

    When he uses the term "motor" I believe he is referring to a complete cycle not just the power plant.
    Last edited by badger34; 09-28-2016 at 10:46 PM.

  5. #35
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    I did a quick search and found the earliest reference to the "wrecking crew" term to be associated with boat wrecks in 1871. The wrecking crew was the group of men who would go to the site of ship wrecks to re-float/remove ships which were grounded or stuck on rocks. It was also used by at least 1871 to describe the railroad crews sent to repair the tracks/train after a wreck. It appears quite common pre 1900. No doubt it was a slang term used by the boys back in the day. It appears to me that the "crews" were exceptional men who had skills that were more than common. Maybe in motorcycle terms it was used to describe the racers who were sent by the factories to save the day. IMHO!

  6. #36
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    During the recent discussions on inaccuracies in the Harley & the Davidsons mini series on my blog FB page, Jonathan Rowland, shared the text of a 1912 editorial by Arthur Davidson, that appeared in the Harley-Davidson dealer magazine. It was in response to the death's of Eddie Hasha, and Johnnie Albright at the Vailsburg Park Motordrome in Newark. It appears to confirm, that the MoCo was producing racing bikes for select privateer racers as early as the early teens. Sorry, I don not have an image of the original editorial.

    “The news that Eddie Hasha, John Albright and six spectators met death at the Vailsburg Motordrome, at Newark, N.J., on September 8th, was no doubt startling to everyone, but to none more so than the writer for the reason that a close friendship had existed, for some time, between Eddie Hasha and myself, dating back to the time at Dallas, Texas, when Hasha was starting his racing career. At that time we had a racing machine shipped to Dallas, and Eddie Hasha was given a chance to ride against Robert Stubbs, and defeated him. From then on his entry into the racing game was fast and remarkably successful. Not so very long ago, Mr. Hasha took up the selling of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Dallas, but the race track fever got him again and he went back to it. And, while it was with very deep regret that I heard the story of his death, as well as that of John Albright, I was not a great deal surprised, as I had expected it to come in the course of events. But to cause the death of spectators was more than any of us had predicted.” (Arthur Davidson editorial, Harley-Davidson Dealer, Oct 1912)
    Last edited by dlm32; 09-29-2016 at 07:54 AM.
    David Morrill
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  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by dlm32 View Post
    During the recent discussions on inaccuracies in the Harley & the Davidsons mini series on my blog FB page, Jonathan Rowland, shared the text of a 1912 editorial by Arthur Davidson, that appeared in the Harley-Davidson dealer magazine. It was in response to the death's of Eddie Hasha, and Johnnie Albright at the Vailsburg Park Motordrome in Newark. It appears to confirm, that the MoCo was producing racing bikes for select privateer racers as early as the early teens. Sorry, I don not have an image of the original editorial.

    “The news that Eddie Hasha, John Albright and six spectators met death at the Vailsburg Motordrome, at Newark, N.J., on September 8th, was no doubt startling to everyone, but to none more so than the writer for the reason that a close friendship had existed, for some time, between Eddie Hasha and myself, dating back to the time at Dallas, Texas, when Hasha was starting his racing career. At that time we had a racing machine shipped to Dallas, and Eddie Hasha was given a chance to ride against Robert Stubbs, and defeated him. From then on his entry into the racing game was fast and remarkably successful. Not so very long ago, Mr. Hasha took up the selling of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Dallas, but the race track fever got him again and he went back to it. And, while it was with very deep regret that I heard the story of his death, as well as that of John Albright, I was not a great deal surprised, as I had expected it to come in the course of events. But to cause the death of spectators was more than any of us had predicted.” (Arthur Davidson editorial, Harley-Davidson Dealer, Oct 1912)

    I believe that the race Arthur Davidson was referencing took place in Waco, August 29-31, 1910. Hasha was reported sweeping the races that weekend on both an HD single and an Indian twin, but I have found no actual evidence of Davidson being present. I will have to figure where I read it but I seem to recall mention of Hasha working at the HD dealership in Dallas (actually remember seeing that he managed it but I find that difficult to imagine for an 18 year old racer), which according to the 1910 census he is listed as a motorcycle mechanic in Dallas so there is a very likely direct tie in with Davidson.

    There is also a report from the state fair races that October of Hasha running an Indian against a man named Brewster on an HD, Robert Stubbs and Art Mitchell were both competing as well. These are some of the earliest references to Hasha racing, the first of which being onboard an Indian in 1909 beating Robert Stubbs and Bobby Walthour in a nine mile free for all when he was 17. If the Aug 1910 races are in fact the occasion that Davidson refers to in that piece I would love to know more about a 1910 Harley Davidson factory race bike.

  8. #38
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    Locally in 1914 there was an HD dealer age 14,supported by his family who bought the dealership for him,so manager at 18 is not suprising.The pic in Wille Gs book of crate is salesmans sample ,not race bike
    Last edited by duffeycycles; 09-29-2016 at 10:36 AM.

  9. #39
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    You guys know plenty. It's humbling for a poor scribbler like me. No joke.

    ArchiveMoto,

    Yes, I consider Walter Davidson and other factory boys speed-racing in the early years a "factory program." But they did not promote it as such. Almost like Walter was out there for the sport of it on a stock machine--altho in 1905/06 already they were building higher compression racing engines. They pursued a simple, privateer, underdog image as opposed to Hendee who followed his endurance riders with an auto stocked with spares, tools, food, cigars, and liquid refreshments. After emphasizing endurance for a few years, Harley did take it to a new level after 1913 by hiring Ottoway, professional riders, and building new dedicated racing specials. To go head-to-head with Indian, Ex, and Thor on the big speed circuits they had to do that. For H-D that was a major change. But they had plenty of speed experience from that earlier period to draw upon. But now they put it into a dedicated department of its own. The endurance emphasis came between the two speed eras. Three very distinct periods. The first one has often been ignored by historians. As if it never existed.

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by badger34 View Post
    I am attaching the article found in the July 2nd 1911 Chicago Examiner. I see no mention of C. Lang or any local dealer efforts. There were multiple classes of racing, professional, trade rider class and even amateurs later listed among race results. The trade rider class was for smaller displacement 30.50 machines. I would agree it is doubtful that there was any official H-D factory involvement, quite possibly all were privateer entries. Now, this information comes a full two years before the Milwaukee Drome opened in 1913. The MoCo may not yet have developed it's stance against the dangers of the small board tracks. When it comes to Milwaukee Drome information and race results found in the local Milwaukee newspapers of the time never is there mention of the manufacturer of machines ridden by the racers.

    Attachment 18335Attachment 18336Attachment 18337Attachment 18338
    Good article. I like the part saying this 90 mph banked drome saucer will be safer than a dirt track. Again: all great liars! I wonder how many Harleys actually showed up on race day and who rode them? That would tell plenty. In this article the H-D contingent reads like a vague promise. But did it actually happen? Being H-D on the drome, it's a really important question.

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