Indian “Motocycle” legacy attracts hundreds to Springfield

Indian Motorcycles were on full display in Springfield, the birthplace of the company.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Indian motorcycles were on full display in Springfield, the birthplace of the company.

“To have a bunch of Indians together is just nice. Just the harmonics the motors running together. It’s just so cool,” said Dan Golden of West Hartford, Connecticut. He rode his Indian Motorcycle to Springfield for Indian Motocycle Day.

The first Indian “motocycle” was manufactured in Springfield in 1901 at the factory on State Street. The bikes were manufactured in Springfield until 1953. For decades, from 1970 to 2005, Indian Motocycle Day was hosted at the Indian Motocycle Museum on Hendee Street in Springfield. After a five year hiatus, the Springfield Museums have hosted the event for the past six years. Each year, hundreds of people from all over the country and world, ride their bikes to Springfield for Indian Motocycle Day.

“Great bunch of guys and ladies, there’s more women riders too, which is great. I’d like to see more of that,” Golden said. It’s a day to celebrate the company’s legacy, and to share and buy Indian memorabilia.

“When I was a kid I used to sit on one, and that’s why it was always my dream to own an Indian…It’s very interesting. It’s so much of a rich history that happened here in Springfield, it’s always an enjoyable day to come out here,” said Bob Maynard of Jewett City, Connecticut.

Notice the unique spelling of the company’s original name: Indian “Motocycle” Company. “In the early years when motorcycles were first being developed, there wasn’t a uniform name yet, and some people were using it with an r, some people weren’t. Indian went without,” explained Guy McLain, Director of the Wood Museum of Springfield History.

Indian Motorcycle didn’t just create bikes for joy rides, they were also the exclusive bike makers for the U.S. military. These bikes served an important role in both World War One and World War Two. One of those war bikes was on display, and like many other antiques, was still in riding condition. Close to 60 antique bikes were judged on how close they were to being in mint-condition or how unique they were.

Just as a parent and child enjoyed a motorcycle and sidecar back in 1948, so too did Gehrit Merkel and his dad, in a newer model. “It’s like driving…It’s like being in a plane. Driving in a plane motorcycle,” he said. And to think it all started right here in Springfield.

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