Originally posted by Buck Lovell on Sunday, 15 April 2012 in Buck Lovell's - American Biker Blog
THE FIRST MOTORCYCLE MADE IN AMERICA!
THE 1896 MARKS MOTOR BIKE AS RESTORED BY STAN DISHONG
I have been photographing and documenting Antique and Classic American motorcycles for many more years than I would care to admit. Believe it or not the first American motorcycle was NOT produced by the Indian Motocycle (Motocycle is the correct spelling, Indian did not use an R in it's name at that time) Company as is commonly thought by many. The first American made motorcycle was in fact, manufactured by a company called Marks in the city San Francisco sometime between 1896 and 1900. History should be corrected on this matter or at the very least investigated thoroughly to ascertain the facts. The Marks machine did not have carburetor. It utilized a very primitive "evaporative wick" intake whereby gasoline from the gas tank was "wicked into a can shaped chamber, the fumes were then drawn into the motor and ignited by the spark plug. That is if all went well. I have been told that sometimes the fumes would simply explode prematurely and sometimes the gas tank blew at the same time. This of course was with primitive gasoline that had no stabilizing chemicals added. Those additives would be invented in the future. There was no throttle cable. A series of pulleys with a leather cord were used to control the throttle.
I was at Stand Dishong's motorcycle shop in Vallejo, California when Stan began the restoration of the historical two wheeled vehicle pictured here. I photographed the frame at his shop after the existing peeling paint was stripped away. The date 1896 was stamped on the bottom of the pedal boss. Stan had two or three pieces of advertising literature from the Marks Motorbike Company which authenticated the fact that the company had produced and sold at least one motorized self propelled two wheeled machine around 1900. I followed Stan's restoration of the Marks Motorbike by traveling from San Jose to Vallejo, California every weekend to photograph the progress. The finished machine is pictured here. Stan never attempted to fire up this motorcycle due to the fact that he had no experience with the intake system and did not want to risk a fire. This machine was sold at auction after Stan passed away several years ago. It's current whereabouts are unknown by me. Being as the photos I made were taken in 1979…they are on film, and not in digital form. The single image seen here was scanned several years ago. I will be scanning the all the other 35 mm images of the Marks as soon as I find them. I will then present them on this blog. The images are among approximately 50,000 antique and Classic motorcycle images on slide film I own that must be edited, and scanned. A very interesting note follows; the Marks Motorbike Company was purchased by the California Motorbike Company of San Francisco in 1901 or 1902 two. An improved intake system was mounted. It was called a carburetor. George A. Wyman became the first person to cross the transcontinental U.S. on a self-propelled vehicle using a California Motorbike. California Motorbike eventually became the Yale motorcycle Company. The transcontinental crossing story as written by Wyman was published in the June 1903 issue of a bicycle/motorcycle magazine titled "The Motorcycle Magazine" which actually sponsored Wyman's trip. The story continued in four installments. Motorcycle Magazine ceased publishing in 1906. That original story was found by Road Rider Magazine Editor and Publisher Roger Hull. Herb Glass owned a very rare original text document of the Wyman story along with photos and allowed Hull to copy these for magazine use. Hull republished the story in it's entirety in Road Rider Magazine in the August 1979 issue, complete with photos. I'm still digging for my 1979 copy of the story. Until 1979 the credit for the first self-propelled transcontinental U.S. crossing was credited to a driver in a four wheeled car. History was corrected by that issue of Road Rider....