The History of the Indian Motorcycle

The People behind the Indian


This page contains the profile of the key People behind and within the workings of the Indian Motorcycle Company.

This includes both Corporate members, engineers, and motorcycle racers.

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Carl Oscar Hedström
Oscar Hedstrom (March 12, 1871 - August 29, 1960) was a co-founder of the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company, makers of the Indian Motocycle.
Childhood and adolescence
Carl Oscar Hedstrom was born in the little parish of Lönneberga, Hultsfred Municipality, Kalmar County, Småland, Sweden. His family emigrated in 1880 to the United States, and
12 March 1871, Småland, Sweden
Spouse (s)
29 August 1960 (aged 89)
Portland, Connecticut
Motorcycle Designer
Julia Anderson (11 April 1898 - until his death)
Helen, born 10 May 1901
Anders Petter Hedström
Carolina Danielsdotter
Hedstrom's Tandem Pacer
Paul Derkum on an Indian designed by Hedström 1912
settled in Brooklyn, New York. As a young boy, he spent much time riding a bicycle around the city, and was fascinated by its mechanical design.
At age 16 he started working at a small engineering workshop in the Bronx, New York, where he learned to manufacture watch cases and components. He worked as an apprentice in several small workshops, until he was 21 when he obtained journeyman status.
On two wheels
In his spare time Hedstrom built high-quality bicycles that were lighter and more durable than standard bikes. He rented a workshop space in Middletown, Connecticut where he designed and cast engines from his own patterns. He also designed and build a concentric carburettor. While his reputation as a bicycle designer grew, he started to build tandem bicycles with gasoline engines. These were called pacers, and were used to split the wind for racing cyclists. The motorized pacers of that time functioned poorly, but Hedström's design quickly gained a reputation as being very reliable.
At this time he came into contact with the former cyclist George M Hendee from Springfield, Massachusetts, who now manufactured bicycles and sponsored contests. Hendee was dissatisfied with the pacers available, and asked Hedstrom to take one of his to Springfield. Hendee was so impressed that he asked Hedstrom to develop a prototype for a mass-manufactured motorized bicycle.
Indian Motocycle Company
The cooperation between Hedstrom and Hendee resulted in the Indian Motocycle Company. Hedstrom's design was innovative, and successful. Oscar Hedstrom resigned from the Indian Motocycle Company on March 24, 1913 after a disagreement with the board regarding dubious practices to inflate the company's stock values. George Hendee resigned in 1916. Hedstrom resided on his estate on the banks of the Connecticut River until he died in 1960.
George M Hendee
George M Hendee took up bicycle racing at age 16.
He won the United States National Amateur High Wheel Championship in 1886, setting a new world record over a dirt half-mile track of 2 minutes 27.4 seconds, and held it until 1892. He was America's first national cycling champion, winning 302 of the 309 races he entered, and dedicating himself to racing and travelling to bicycling events.
2 October 1866 Watertown, MA.
Spouse (s)
1943 Suffield, Connecticut
Motorcycle manufacturer
Edith M. Cordwell (1888 – 1895)
Edith Leona Hale (1915 until his death)
William Goodell Hendee
Emma Dwight Upton
Bicycle racing - George M. Hendee, furthest to the left
In 1892 Hendee retired from bicycle racing and began making Silver King bicycles at 41-43 Taylor Street in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1895. In 1896 the Hendee & Nelson Manufacturing Company at 478 Main Street in Springfield Massachusetts were building safety bicycles under the names of Silver King for men and Silver Queen for women. The company went bankrupt and Hendee purchased the entire inventory at auction and set up shop on Worthington Street in 1898. [The Hendee Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1898 with a capital stock of $5,000. The company's new line of bicycles was called Indian. Hendee sponsored a number of bicycle racers and events throughout New England. It was during an event in Madison Square Garden in January 1900 that Hendee became acquainted with Oscar Hedström and witnessed first-hand the excellent performance of the motorized pacing bicycle built by Oscar Hedstrom.

Hendee and Hedstrom signed a partnership agreement in January 1901 and Carl Oscar Hedstrom became the chief engineer and designer. The first Indian prototype was built by Hedstrom at the Worcester Bicycle Manufacturing Company in Middletown, CT and the first public demonstration was held on Cross St. in Springfield on May 10, 1901. Hedstrom travelled to Aurora, IL to refine his engine design and Hendee Mfg. Co. contracted and licensed the Aurora Automatic Machine Company to build the engine (the contract was terminated on March 5, 1907). Hedstrom supervised all aspects of manufacturing, including the designing of production molds and machines and expansion of both factories (the main factory on State Street and the forging factory "Hendeeville" in East Springfield) while Hendee, as president and general manager, travelled extensively to set up dealerships and arrange financing. By 1912, Hendee Manufacturing, was the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer. In 1913, the company's production peaked at 32,000 units. The company's name was changed to Indian Motocycle in November of 1923.
In 1915, Hendee resigned as general manager but remained as president. In 1916, at the age of 49, Hendee retired from Hendee Manufacturing after a disagreement with the board of directors over the direction of the organization. In his retirement, he bred Guernsey cattle and White leghorn chickens on his 500-acre Hilltop Farm in Suffield, Connecticut. He sold his estate in 1940 and moved to a smaller home in Suffield where he died in 1943 at the age of 76.
October 13, 1880(1880-10-13)
18 Whitworth Road, Drumcondra, Dublin, Ireland
Known For
October 19, 1932 (aged 52)
71 School Street, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA
Irish, American
Racing Indian motorcycles at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, designing the Indian Scout and Indian Chief motorcycles
An Engineer and a Racer
Charles Bayly Franklin (October 13, 1880 - October 19, 1932) was an engineer and a motorcycle racer. He is most notable for designing motorcycles for the Indian Motocycle Company, including the original Indian Scout of 1920, the original Indian Chief of 1922, and the Indian 101 Scout of 1928. Prior to this, he had been part of the Indian motorcycle team that won first, second, and third place in the 1911 Isle of Man TT, finishing in second place.
The Indian Scout was conceived by Charles Franklin, an Indian employee since 1914 and the first trained engineer to be employed by the company. Franklin's background well qualified him for the position.
Born in Ireland in 1886 he graduated from the Dublin College of Science in 1908, securing a position in the engineering department of Dublin's municipal government. He became interested in motorcycling, owning several makes of machine and becoming interested in Indian in 1910.
He entered local competitions where his ability and success brought him to the notice of the sole British importer of Indians, Billy Wells. He was a member of the Indian team in the 1911 Isle of Man TT, gaining second place behind Oliver Godfrey, and in front of Arthur Moorhouse, both also Indian mounted, in the historic first 1-2-3 by the same make.

Franklin conceived the design for the Scout as early as 1912, through his studies of advanced motorcycle design and built a prototype, under Indian auspices, in early 1919. Tests were satisfactory and production started in September of that year on the,1920 models, commencing with engine number 5OR001
Charles Bayly Franklin
Herbert James 'Burt' Munro
Herbert James 'Burt' Munro, (Bert in his youth) (25 March 1899 – 6 January 1978) was a New Zealand motorcycle racer, famous for setting an under-1000cc world record, at Bonneville, 26 August 1967. This record still stands today. Munro was 68 and was riding a 47-year old machine when he set his last record.
Working from his home in Invercargill, he worked for 20 years to highly modify the 1920 Indian motorcycle which he had bought in 1920. Munro set his first New Zealand speed record in 1938 and later set seven more. He travelled to compete at the Bonneville Salt Flats, attempting to set world speed records. During his ten visits to the salt flats, he set three speed records, one of which still stands today. His efforts, and success, are the basis of the motion picture
Herbert James Munro ('Burt')
25 March 1899(1899-03-25)
Edendale, New Zealand
Resting place
6 January 1978 (aged 78)
Invercargill, New Zealand
Invercargill, New Zealand
New Zealand
Farmer, New Zealand Army, Speedway rider, Motorcycle salesman
Mechanic, Land Speed record holder
The World's Fastest Indian (2005), starring Anthony Hopkins, and an earlier 1971 short documentary film Burt Munro: Offerings to the God of Speed – both directed by Roger Donaldson.
Early life
Munro was born in 1899 in Invercargill. His twin sister died at birth and Burt grew up on a farm in Edendale, east of Invercargill.
Munro's interest in speed began at a young age, riding the family's fastest horse across the farm, despite the complaints of his father. Trips via train to the port at Invercargill were a rare source of excitement, and the arrival of cars, motorcycles and aircraft added to Burt's eagerness to join the world outside of his farm. As Munro's family discouraged his endeavours outside of farm life, he became constantly bored with daily routine, and at the outbreak of World War I, he intended to go to war as soon as he was old enough, for a chance to see the world
Munro remained on the family farm until the end of WW1, when his father sold the farm while Munro worked on the Otira Tunnel construction until recalled to work with his father on a newly-purchased farm[. After this he became a professional speedway rider, but returned home to the family farm at the start of the Great Depression. Finding work as a motorcycles salesman and mechanic, he still raced motorcycles, and he rose to the top of the New Zealand motorcycle scene, racing on Oreti Beach and later in Melbourne, Australia.
Post World War II, Munro divorced his wife, and then gave up work to reside in a lock-up garage.
Known for
Land Speed record holder
Florence Beryl Martyn (1927 - mid-1940's)
The 1920 Indian (with half the exterior removed to show detail) that Burt Munro used to set his record in 1967
Munro’s Indian Scout was very early off the production line, being only the 627th Scout to leave the American factory. The bike had an original top speed of 55 mph (89 km/h). But this did not satisfy Munro so in 1926 he decided to start modifying his beloved Indian.
The biggest two challenges for Munro to overcome while modifying his bike were his lack of money and the fact that he worked full time as a motorcycle salesman. He would often work overnight on his bikes (he had a 1936 Velocette MSS as well), then in the morning, he would go to work, having had no sleep the night before.
Because Munro was a man of modest means, he would often make parts and tools himself instead of having them professionally built. For example, he would cast parts in old tins, make his own barrels, pistons, flywheels, etc. His micrometer (a precision measuring instrument) was an old spoke.
In its final stages, the Indian's displacement was 950cc (as built it was 600cc) and was driven by a triple chain drive system.
The "Munro Special," as Munro called his bike, is now owned by a motorcycle enthusiast on New Zealand's South Island, and is on display at E Hayes & Sons, Invercargill.
Bonneville Salt Flats and Speed Week
The Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah, are known worldwide for their many miles of flat, compacted salt, perfect for testing speed machines. During Speed Week, usually in mid-late August, vehicle enthusiasts from around the world gather at Bonneville.
Munro travelled to Bonneville 10 times, the first time for "sightseeing" purposes. In the nine times he raced at Bonneville. Munro set three world records, in 1962, 1966 and 1967. He also once qualified at over 200 mph (320 km/h), but that was an unofficial run, and was not counted.
Following the mis-spelling of his name in an American motorcycling magazine in 1957, Bert Munro changed his name to Burt

Personal life
Munro had four children — John, June, Margaret and Gwen — with his wife Florence Beryl Martyn, whom he married in 1927 and divorced in the mid 1940s.
Having suffered from angina since the late 1950s, Munro suffered a partial stroke in 1977. After getting out of hospital, Munro found he had a lack of co-ordination. Frustrated, but wanting his motorcycles to remain in Southland, he sold both machines to a local dealer.
Munro died on 6 January 1978, age 78, of natural causes.

In 1962 he set a world record of 288 km/h (178.97 mph) with his engine bored out to 850 cc (51 in³).
In 1966 he set a world record of 270.476 km/h (168.066 mph).
In 1967 his engine was bored out to 950 cc (58 in³) and he set a class record of 295.44 km/h (183.59 mph). To qualify he made a one-way run of 305.89 km/h (190.07 mph), the fastest-ever officially-recorded speed on an Indian. The unofficial speed record (officially timed) is 331 km/h (205.67 mph) for a flying mile.
In 2006 he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

The 2005 cinematography awarded film The World's Fastest Indian. UK heavy metal band Blaze Bayley wrote a song about Burt Munro on their second studio album Promise and Terror, entitled God of Speed, as did American Roots Rock singer-songwriter C.J. Benoit.
John, June, Margaret, Gwen
Eddie Hasha
Eddie Hasha (died September 8, 1912) was an American motorcycle racer on board tracks early in the twentieth century. His death contributed to the demise of the board tracks. He was nicknamed the "Texas Cyclone" since he was from Waco, Texas, USA.
Racing career
Hasha began racing on board tracks in 1911 at Denver.
Spouse (s)
September 8, 1912
Motorcycle Racer
He rode an 8-valve Indian motorcycle.
In May 1911, Hasha attained a speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometres per hour) at the Playa del Rey, California motordrome, setting a record for the mile.
In 1912, Hasha beat all of the established stars at the Los Angeles Coliseum Motordome, and set professional records in the process. He then headed from the western United States to the east.

Hasha competed at the New Jersey Motordrome in Newark, New Jersey on September 8, 1912 in front of 5000 spectators. After the feature event was completed, he competed in a five-mile handicap race against five other riders. Among them was Ray Seymour, who held the world record.
Hasha and Seymour were the only two riders to race without a handicap; the other four were given a one-lap handicap.
Hasha held a slight lead at the end of the first lap. While leading on the third lap, Hasha's motorcycle began to misfire.
He reached his hand down to make an adjustment, and was overtaken by Seymour.
Hasha accelerated, picking up enough speed to close on Seymour.
Travelling at 92 miles per hour (148 km/h), Hasha's motorcycle suddenly turned sharply into the rail surrounding the track.
The bike rode the rail for around 100 feet (30 m) , killing a boy who had put his head over the rail to watch the race.
The machine then struck a large post. Hasha flew out of the racing area into the grandstands, and was killed instantly. Three other boys and a young man were also killed.
The now-riderless machine dropped back onto the racing surface into the path of last-place rider Johnny Albright. The motorcycle hit the Denver rider in the shoulder and he slid down the track between the two machines. Albright died four hours later without regaining consciousness.
Spectators panicked at the sight of a spinning motorcycle heading their way. Several people had broken bones and flesh wounds as they fought and trampled each other in the rush to get out of the way.
It took over an hour to clear the grandstands. Medics came from all parts of the city to attend to the injured and those who had fainted.
Impact on board tracks
Hasha's death made the front page of the New York Times. Having opened earlier that year on July 4, the board track was shut down and never reopened.
The deaths brought comparisons between board track racing and Roman gladiatorial contests. Short ¼ – ⅓ mile board tracks began to close after they were labelled "murderdromes" by the media.
Eddie Hasha at Newark, 1912
Erwin Baker
Erwin George "Cannon Ball" Baker (March 12, 1882 – May 10, 1960) was a motorcycle and automobile racing driver and organizer in the first half of the 20th century. Baker began his public career as a vaudeville performer, but turned to driving and racing after winning a dirt-track motorcycle race in Crawfordsville, Indiana in about 1904.
E.G. Baker was an early motorcycling pioneer who set dozens of cross-country records riding a variety of motorcycles and sidecars.
March 12, 1882
Spouse (s)
May 10, 1960
Motorcycle Racer
Emma. Baker
He also was known for record-setting runs in automobiles. By the time he retired from his pursuit of records, it was estimated that Baker had ridden or driven more than five million miles. During his exhausting career, Baker made more than 143 attempts at a variety of timed, long-distance records, including his most famous transcontinental and three flags (Canada to Mexico) attempts
An athlete
Born Erwin George Baker in 1882 in a four-room log house in Dearborn County, Indiana, Baker moved to Indianapolis when he was 12 years old. Baker learned the machinist trade and worked in a foundry. A tall and lanky youngster, Baker became interested in athletics and participated in boxing, wrestling and tumbling. He worked out in a gymnasium faithfully and gained a reputation as quite an athlete. His athleticism earned him a job with a acrobatic drill team that travelled the vaudeville circuit at the turn of the century. Erwin was also part of the popular bicycle racing craze at the time, which led to him riding some of the first motorized bicycles.

Baker was also famous for his record-setting point-to-point drives, in which he was paid to promote the products of various motorcycle and automobile manufacturers. In all, he made 143 cross-country motorcycle speed runs totaling about 5,500,000 miles (8,850,000 km).
In 1908, Baker purchased an Indian motorcycle and began entering and winning local races. His most famous victory came in 1909 at the first race ever held at the newly built Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Baker's big break came in 1912 when Indian's George Hendee commissioned Baker to take a two-speed, seven-horsepower model on a demonstration tour of Cuba and Central America. Baker would be closely associated with Indian for the rest of his motorcycle endurance career, although he was independent and also undertook record rides for other motorcycle makers. In 1913, Baker rode an Indian on a record transcontinental run which ended in Savannah, Georgia. Once there, he entered the 300-mile national championship on the same machine he had just ridden across the country.

After a record-setting transcontinental run in by Baker in 1914, a New York newspaper writer compared him to the Cannonball Express train and he picked up the famous moniker that would stick with him the rest of his life.

A Bull and a Cow
Baker accumulated his share of scars as well as trophies during his years of setting records. He also had a slew of interesting stories of things that happened to him during his record runs. In one three-flags record attempt in 1916, Baker had to change routes several times to avoid vast forest fires. In another run he came around a curve at a high rate of speed and came upon a herd of cattle in the road. In trying to miss the herd, Baker turned sharply, hit a hole in the road and was thrown off his motorcycle into a fence which in turn bounced him right onto the back of one of the cows. The surprised cow bucked him off and he ultimately landed in a ditch off the side of the road.

Baker took his skills overseas and set numerous records in foreign countries, most notably Australia and New Zealand.

By the 1930s, Baker began shifting his focus and most of his record attempts were in automobiles.  Baker raced at the 1922 Indianapolis 500, placing 11th in a Frontenac. He later became the first commissioner of NASCAR. Baker was inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.
Baker was born in Dearborn County, Indiana, in 1882. After a record-setting transcontinental drive in 1914, he received his nickname "Cannon Ball" from a New York newspaper writer who compared him to the Cannonball train of the Illinois Central made famous by Casey Jones. Baker died in 1960 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is buried there in Crown Hill Cemetery.
Baker set 143 driving records from the 1910s through the 1930s. His first was set in 1914, riding coast to coast on an Indian motorcycle in 11 days. He normally rode to sponsor manufacturers, guaranteeing them "no record, no money".
In 1915, Baker drove from Los Angeles to New York City in 11 days, 7 hours and fifteen minutes in a Stutz Bearcat, and the following year drove a Cadillac 8 roadster from Los Angeles to Times Square in seven days, eleven hours and fifty-two minutes while accompanied by an Indianapolis newspaper reporter.
In 1926 he drove a loaded two-ton truck from New York to San Francisco in a record five days, seventeen hours and thirty minutes, and in 1928, he beat the 20th Century Limited train from New York to Chicago. Also in 1928, he competed in the Mount Washington Hill climb Auto Race, and set a record time of 14:49.6 seconds, driving a Franklin.
His best-remembered drive was a 1933 New York City to Los Angeles trek in a Graham-Paige model 57 Blue Streak 8, setting a 53.5 hour record that stood for nearly 40 years. This drive inspired the later Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, better known as the "Cannonball Run", which itself inspired at least five movies and a television series. In 1941, he drove a new Crosley Covered Wagon across the nation in a trouble free 6,517-mile (10,488 km) run to prove the economy and reliability characteristics of Crosley automobiles. Other record and near-record transcontinental trips were made in Model T Fords, Chrysler Imperials, Marmons, Falcon-Knights and Columbia Tigers, among others.
Erwin G. "Cannon Ball" Baker died of a heart attack at Community Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 10, 1960 at age 78.
He was survived by his wife Emma. Baker goes down in history as one of the most famous motorcyclists of the early 20th century. His name was perhaps the most recognized of any motorcycle racer through the 1930s
Jake DeRosier
Early years
Jake DeRosier was born in Quebec, Canada in 1880 and came to the United States at the age of four. DeRosier started his career in bicycle racing as a teenager. French auto racing driver Henri Fournier introduced DeRosier to motorcycles in 1898 while visiting the United States. Motorcycles like Fournier's were used to pace bicycle racers, drafting them in order to attain higher
1880 Quebec, Canada
Spouse (s)
February 25, 1913
Motorcycle Racer
speeds. After acquiring skills with the motorbike, DeRosier was among the first to enter the new sport of motorcycle racing in 1901.
DeRosier earned a strong reputation as a daring rider not only by winning races, but bouncing back from numerous injuries. His diminutive physique, once described as, "a slight, slender fellow that a strong Christmas breath might blow over," was actually an advantage. His light weight helped the primitive, low power motors of the time achieve greater speed.
Injuries (Inset 3 columns)
Although a little blurred it is worth squinting your eyes to read what the press said at the time about the injuries that DeRosier sustained. It gives a graphic insight into the gladiatorial mentality of the racers of the day, and DeRosier's determination in particular
Factory rider for Indian
After winning top rider honours at the Federation of American Motorcyclists national championship in 1908 at Patterson, New Jersey, he attracted the attention of the Indian Motocycle Company. He was signed to a contract and began racing every week, amassing hundreds of victories over time. Like the bicycles, the motorcycles raced on wooden velodromes, quarter to half mile saucer shaped board track speedways. This was dangerous as riders would crashed into the boards, breaking bones and driving splinters deep under their skin.
DeRosier's reputation grew and by the time he entered the first motorized competition at the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway for their August 1909 Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) meet, newspapers called him "world champion." An injury on the Speedway's unpaved gravel surface nearly proved deadly. Severely injured in a match race with a top California rider named Ed
Lingenfelder, DeRosier haemorrhaged for a week. Against doctors's advice, DeRosier entered a Lowell, New Jersey race just a few weeks later on September 10, 1909.
In 1910 he set the FAM speed record at 79.6 mph. On February 7, 1911 he ran 90 consecutive miles to claim every FAM speed record from 1 to 100 miles.
In June 1911 DeRosier tackled the 1911 Isle of Man TT race. While he set fast time in practice, he crashed out of competition after leading early. Redeeming himself, he defeated English Champion Charles Collier at the famous Brooklands oval speedway in a match race just a few days later. On that occasion he set a new mile world record at 88.7 mph.
Move to Excelsior
After DeRosier returned from England in 1911, he had an argument with company founder George Hendee and was fired from Indian. He was immediately hired by Excelsior Motorcycles. He then set a kilometre speed record for Excelsior at 94 mph.
Injuries and death
While Jake DeRosier was widely respected for his skills at the wheel of a motorcycle, he spent much of his career injured in spectacular accidents. He broke his left leg three times, his left forearm once, had one rib removed, fractured his skull, severed an artery and suffered serious leg burns from flaming engines.
He suffered the most serious injuries of his career on March 12, 1912. Injuries to his left leg and thigh were extensive. He endured three corrective surgeries, losing his life to complications from the final operation on February 25, 1913.  Read opposite the cutting from a local news paper at the time.
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