Monday, September 26, 2011

Motorcycles and Airplanes - The Glenn Curtiss Museum #1

In addition to the ‘standard’ big time museums and attractions, when Laurie and I are driving the back roads, we are always looking for something a little different or for a relatively unknown destination. 

This little 3,088 mile jaunt was no exception… Our first museum/attraction that most people have never heard of was in Hammondsport New York.

This is the front of the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport…  While this facility is dedicated to the memory of pioneer aviator, Glenn Curtiss, the museum also contains an interesting collection relating to early aviation and local history.  This includes such items as antique boats, tools, toys, fire-fighting equipment, wine-making equipment, clothing and home furnishings.

This is a photo of Laurie taking a picture of a photograph of Glenn Curtiss.  Curtiss was born in Hammondsport back in 1878.  Glenn didn't start out in aviation.  When he was a teenager, he was a champion bicycle racer, building many of his own bikes.  Later his passion evolved and he began building gasoline powered motorcycles that he raced.  By 1907, he’d become known as the “Fastest Man on Earth” when he set a motorcycle speed record if 136.3 miles per hour!

These are some of the early bicycles that are on display in the museum.  It was interesting to learn that in the 1880's and 90's, cycling became the most popular sport in America! Over 10 million people learned to ride in this early wave of “bicyclemania". Note the early ‘motorized bicycle’ 

I included this bicycle in this blog just because I thought that it was a grand example of bicycles from my time as a kid living in southern Michigan.  I would have given just about anything for a bike like this one!  Instead, my first bicycle was baby blue and white…and it was a girls bike passed on to me by my mother!  Still, I don’t remember complaining…

Here’s another display of early motorcycles or motorized bicycles.  Anyone who’s into motorcycles, especially early collectable models by a variety of builders, would love to view this collection.  By 1902, Glenn Curtiss had 3 employees and he was building his own motorcycles under the trade name “Hercules”.

By 1903, Glenn Curtiss was America’s first motorcycle champion.  He set a ten-mile speed record in 1904 and, in that same year he invented the handle bar throttle control.  

This is a 1909 Curtiss V-Twin…battery ignition, with the motor producing 8 to 9 horsepower.  We’d watched Mike and Frank in one of the "American Pickers" shows on the History Channel, when the guys came across an old V-Twin Motor like this one…just the motor!  They got very excited… These motorcycles and the engines that powered them are extremely rare and very collectable.

Laurie and I thought that this was an interesting unit.  It’s a 1910 Curtiss Motorcycle equipped with magneto ignition and a single cylinder engine developing 4 – 5 horsepower.  Of course, what we thought was especially cool was the wicker side car! 

Here’s a second 1909 Curtiss V-Twin.  It has a completely different look than the gray V-Twin 2 photos previously.  It’s interesting that even back in 1909 different looking models were being made in the same year using the same motor.  Curtiss won many races on a motorcycle like this one…

Now, this is a motorcycle!  This Curtiss V-8, (Yes, a V-8!), is a reproduction of the original motorcycle that Glenn Curtiss rode when he set the speed record in 1907.  His motorcycle speed record would stand until 1930, the year that he died.  Can you imagine blowing along at 136+ mph while literally sitting on top of a V-8 engine and wearing no protective gear of any significance…!

Here is another display of some very desirable and collectible ‘early’ motorcycles.  The closest one in the photo is a 1973 Triumph X-75 Hurricane. (750 cc)

Around 1907, Curtiss began focusing more on aviation than on motorcycles.  His innovations and inventions in aviation overshadowed the Wright Brothers for a time.  Interestingly, the Curtiss Wright Corporation, an almost $2 Billion company, still exists today.
In the near future, I’ll write more about Curtiss and this museum.  Just as a movie preview would do, I’ll set the scene by stating that Glenn Curtiss is known both as the father of Naval Aviation and the founder of the American Aircraft Industry! 
The Glenn H. Curtiss Museum of Early Aviation and Local History is located at 8419 New York State Route 54 in Hammondsport.  Phone: 607-569-2160.  For more on this museum, just go to 
Just click on any photo to enlarge it...
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

No comments:

Post a Comment