Category Archives: Motorcycle photos
In February of 1920, the Harley-Davidson racing team descended on Daytona Beach, Florida with a number of its racing machines and their star riders intent on setting the record books on fire. There they set up camp during the second week of the month and by the time it was over, the effort had set thirty world’s records. Expert riders Leslie Red Parkhurst and Fred Ludlow can be seen above posing with a Harley-Davidson 8-Valve racing machine and the newly-designed Bullet Sidecar rig that they used to set five records with.
The pair set a new five mile record with an average speed of 87.52 m.p.h. and on the same run they set four more records in the sidecar class at the 1 kilometer, 1 mile, 2 mile and 3 mile marks. Without the sidecar, Parkhurst set a record of 111.98 m.p.h. with the machine in the kilometer and also set records at one, two and five-miles. The photos are courtesy of Harley-Davidson, and the period magazine article is courtesy of David Morrill. Learn more about the runs at Harley-Davidson.
Earlier in the year we did a feature article titled: Art Smith - The Life and Times of The Comet. That post tells the story of Smith building his first airplane at the age of fifteen, his career as a stunt pilot, and a trip to Japan in 1916 with his plane, crew and drivers of his baby racing cars to entertain Japanese officials.
Since that time, Marc Tudeau of France has found an album with some of the best photos to be found yet showing the Baby Cars in Japan. The photo above shows one of the two Fiat look-a-likes. This car was driven by Vic Bertrandias and was later wrecked in Nagoya, Japan.
Above left is the other Fiat that was driven by Kaiser Bill. The center photo shows the cars in front of the Crown Price’s stand in Tokyo before the first exposition race run there. It appears that there were at least two races run in the city at the time, and in at one of them Art Smith can be seen flying his Curtis Bi-Plane above the racers. The car on right above is wearing Peugeot style body work.
The cars were built with the help of Dudley Perkins of the Dudley Perkins Company, a San Francisco Harley-Davidson dealership. The left and center photos above show the workshop where the racers were assembled by Smith and his crew in a shop located at 220 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. The left photo is dated as being taken during February of 1916 and the center photo is captioned as showing the assembly of the first car in March of 1916. The right-hand photo with Smith in the car is captioned: First car runs! -Tokyo- April 1916.
The photo above gives us the most-detailed view of the type of construction used to build the cars yet. The frames were constructed of wood with steel fittings, and the front frame horns appear to be steel forgings. The cars were powered by Harley-Davidson V-twin engines, but it is not known what was used for a clutch and transmission. This may have been an earlier car, as some of them used larger-sized wheels and tires.
The photos are courtesy of the San Diego Air & Space museum where you can see more photos of the trip to Japan. There are also more photos and Smiths life’s story at: Art Smith - The Life and Times of The Comet. The short film clip below courtesy of British Pathe apparently shows the cars at a later date after returning to the U.S.
- Large-sized figural product symbols such as seen here were much more common in earlier days. The circa 1930 Macon Pure Milk Company bottle is mounted on a Winter-Weiss Company platform sidecar attached to an Indian Scout and was likely meant as a promotional piece for use in a parade or other event. Winter-Weiss was located in Denver, Colorado, and the image originates from the Denver Public library. Hundreds more old Motorcycle photos can be found here.
A little over a week ago we featured a Wall of Death thrill show film. Geoff, a reader from Australia commented on it and told us of the Durkin Brothers Globe of Death show that traveled the Down Under entertainment circuit for over 20 years. In many of these acts as seen above, riders loop vertically as well as horizontally in a globe while traveling at speed on motorcycles.
We decided to investigate a little further and found that in March of 1904, Arthur Rosenthal, a bicycle stuntman of Grand Rapids, Michigan, filed a patent application for certain new and useful improvements in bicyclists globes. His patent for a Bicyclist’s Globe was granted quickly on May 3, 1904, and the patent drawing for it can be seen below.
From what we were able to piece together from period bicycle magazines and other sources, Rosenthal and his partner, Frank Lemon, performed routines of skill and nerve guaranteed to deliver laughs and roars at fairs, amusement parks, and in shows across the land. The pair soon turned to motorcycles and the act became known as the Globe of Death.
We found references to many other performers with similar globes and acts starting in the early teens including Guido Consi, an Italian daredevil, who introduced his Sphere of Fear in 1913 during a circus performance in Rome. An German engineer, also built and operated a globe act prior to World War I.
- Two early Globe of Death acts can be seen on the left and center above. The Durkin Brothers act of Australia can be seen above right in the mid-1940s
Cedero and his Golden Globe arrived in New York City in 1915, the first of several Brazilian globes and globe riders to travel to the United States. His act was performed at carnivals and circuses here in the U.S. until leaving for a tour of Central and South America in 1940. Between the two World Wars, the popular Globe of Death shows enjoyed the greatest popularity in Brazil.
Below is a more recent 1950s video of a news film clip of a Globe of Death act, filmed at Palisades Park in New Jersey, courtesy of Buyout Footage. This short presentation will show you just how exciting one of these acts can be. The photos above are courtesy of The Globe of Death Chronicles, and The McWhirters Project.