Oscar Hedstrom before Indian Motorcyles

photo credit: Horseless Age, June 13, 1900

photo credit: Horseless Age, June 13, 1900

While researching another story, I came across this interesting bit of information about Oscar Hedstrom (the co-founder of the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company - originally named the Hendee Manufacturing Company for George Hendee, co-founder with Hedstrom).

This story starts with the De Dion & Bouton Company of France and their very successful motor. By 1898, Kenneth A. Skinner (whom I've written about before) had starting importing the De Dion tricycles into America. In fact, Kenneth Skinner was the first importer of motorized vehicles in the United States. Based in Boston, he helped found the Boston Dealers Association, the oldest automobile dealers association in the country. In 1899, De Dion and Skinner secured the US patents to the French engine design and began manufacturing the engines (and vehicles) here in America (Brooklyn, NY). The De Dion engine powered many early gasoline vehicles. It's said that over 150 different motorcycle and automobile manufacturers bought licenses to build the De Dion engine. By 1900, De Dion was the world's largest manufacturer with annual production of 3,200 engines. As an example, the George N. Pierce Company would use the De Dion engine until developing an engine of their own design.

C.S. Henshaw and Oscar Hedstrom were both bicycle racers who gravitated to racing motorized vehicles at the turn of the last century. In fact, they competed against Kenneth Skinner who campaigned the De Dion tricycle quite successfully. The Horseless Age of March 28, 1900 reported that Kenneth Skinner had secured the services of Henshaw and Hedstrom as racing experts to represent him on the track.

Henshaw started racing bicycles in 1890 and worked for a tire manufacturer in 1896 - touring the country racing bicycles. In 1897, Henshaw met Skinner and worked for him when he first opened his dealership in 1897. Soon after, Henshaw would partner with the renowned French racer, Henry Fournier, doing public exhibitions of motorcycles. In 1898, Henshaw partnered with E.R. Thomas in promotion of their motorcycles. After what must have been a very short engagement with Skinner in 1900, both Henshaw and Hedstrom teamed up to build a "pacer" (a motorized bicycle). This "pacer" was powered by a De Dion engine and if you look at the early engine designs of Hedstrom, you can see the De Dion influence. This effort caught the attention of George Hendee, a bicycle dealer, who would famously team up with Hedstrom and start the glorious Indian brand of motorcycles in 1901.

Henshaw would go back to the Thomas company and open up a dealership in 1904 right next door to Skinner's De Dion garage. Skinner would continue to represent De Dion - a story I look to write about soon.

photo credit: Horseless Age, March, 1900

photo credit: Horseless Age, June 19, 1901

photo credit: Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal, May 1, 1904

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