References and Endnotes

The World's First Motorcycle


Herbert Wagner

(1) Tyrone Herald (Pennsylvania), October 8, 1869. Ironically, Roper would die of a heart attack in 1896 on a Boston track while demonstrating an improved steam velocipide for a major bicycle manufacturer.

(2) Smith Hempstone Oliver, Automobiles and Motorcycles in the U.S. National Museum, Bulletin 213 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1957), pages 13-18.

(3) The word "motor" itself goes way back. It was in use as early as the mid-15th century, meaning "to move." By the 1660s it was being used to describe any producer of mechanical motion <>

(4) Times-Herald (Chicago), July 25, 1895; Rudolf Anderson, The Story of the American Automobile (Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1950), pages 58, 90-91.

(5) Cleveland Moffett, "The Edge of the Future," McClure's Magazine, June 1896, page 154.

(6) M.C. Krarup, "The Field for Motorcycles," The Outing, November 1900, page 207.

(7) Krarup, 207.

(8) My published (paper) writings concerning Edward Joel Pennington and The Motor Cycle are found in the following articles and books: Herbert Wagner, "The World's First Motorcycle, On Steam Velocipedes, Motocycles, and The Motor Cycle," The Antique Motorcycle, Summer, 2011, pages 26-38; Herbert Wagner, "The Big Man, Edward J. Pennington and The Motor Cycle," The Antique Motorcycle, Part 1, Winter 2008, pages 30-38; Part 2, Spring 2009, pages 34-43; Part 3, Summer 2009, pages 38-48. Herbert Wagner, At the Creation, Myth, Reality, and the Origin of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, 1901-1909 (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2003) pages 12-28; Herbert Wagner, author, and Mark Mitchell, photographer, Classic Harley-Davidson, 1903-1941 (Osceola: MBI Publishing Co., 1999), pages 9-13. The Wagner & Mitchell title was later re-issued as part of a collection: Herbert Wagner, Mark Mitchell, Tim Remus, Allan Girdler, and Jeff Hackett, Harley-Davidson (St. Paul: Crestline, 2004), pages 13-17. My original series on Pennington appeared as: Herbert Wagner, "'Airship' Pennington and the Motor Cycle," Motorcycle Collector, Part 1, August/September 1994, pages 54-59; Part 2, October/November 1994, pages 54-59. Unfortunately, this periodical went belly-up before the series concluded, but its title was acquired and incorporated as an antique bike section in Rider magazine. The Pennington series concluded in that publication as follows: "Pennington Story to Resume" (summary of parts 1 & 2), Rider, September 1995, page 46; Herbert Wagner, "'Airship' Pennington and the Motor Cycle," Rider, Part 3, November 1995, pages 44-47; Part 4, January 1996, pages 45-47.

(9) Herbert Wagner, "The Big Man, Edward J. Pennington and The Motor Cycle," The Antique Motorcycle, Part 1, Winter 2008, page 38. A search of newspaper databases for the term "motorcycle" and "motor cycle" between the years 1700 and 1893 has produced no results to date. In 1894, however, those same search terms produce at least a dozen articles, all of which describe The Motor Cycle as built and promoted that year by E.J. Pennington. These articles also mention advertisements and sales literature for The Motor Cycle being distributed at that time. In 1895 and thereafter the term "motor-cycle" (as one or two words) enters general useage for any powered two-wheeler with some overlap in meaning with the earlier term "motocycle" (without the "r" and meaning any powered vehicle). As online databases become more complete and search functions more accurate, additional documentation can be expected. Pennington himself was using the term "Motor Cycle" at least one year earlier than its current first known public appearance in 1894. This earlier use is found on his patent applications for two different gasoline-powered, two-wheeler motorcycle designs. These were filed on March 21, 1893 (U.S. patents #570,440 and 574,818), and were assigned to The Motor Cycle Company of Chicago Heights, Illinois. To date I have found no public announcement or publicity surounding Pennington's two-wheeled motor inventions in 1893, although it's likely that some activity did take place at that time. Some early (1911 and earlier) sources claim that Pennington conceived and built a motor-vehicle as early as 1890. Some say this was a two-wheeler. So far, however, I have found no original evidence of this earlier development, although knowing Pennington's mania for publicity it cannot be ruled out. If anyone finds additional period evidence of the Motor Cycle in articles or advertisements, or the word "motorcycle" being used for a powered two-wheeler in 1893 or earlier, please let me know at <> Thanks!

(10) Herbert Wagner, At the Creation, Myth, Reality, and the Origin of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, 1901-1909 (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2003), pages 12-15.

(11) "The Motor Cycle," The Gleaner (Jamaica, British Empire), May 28, 1894.

(12) Gaining Pennington the recognition he deserves continues to be an uphill battle. More than a century of entrenched historical myth and hide-bound thinking must be undone. For example, in a recent article by Kevin Cameron in Cycle World magazine (February 2012, pages 46-48), that purported to pick the six "most influential motorcycles of all time," Pennington and The Motor Cycle were not mentioned even in passing. Instead, his "easy first pick" (his words) was the "circa" 1900 "New Werner" (what year was it?) that accomplished nothing new that hadn't already been done in France in 1897 (Horseless Age, August 1897, page 6) or earlier, namely the placing of a de Dion-Bouton style engine in a diamond bicycle chassis. More to the point, however, the concept of a lightweight, gasoline-spark engine in a bicycle originated in Pennington's U.S. patents #570,440 and #574,818, filed in 1893, and in the heavy promotion of The Motor Cycle itself in the years 1894-'96. That's where the show really got off the ground and in a big way too. Ironically, the original (old?) Werner motorcycle, constructed with its engine mounted high on the front fork, may have been another licensed Pennington design (U.S. Patent #626,295), filed in England Dec. 30, 1897, and granted on June 6, 1899. Also, another knowledgeable guy (esp. about early Indian), who first believed Butler's trike was the world's first motorcycle but later switched to the steam velocipede, could not admit that The Motor Cycle "added much to motorcycle development" (his words), although he did agree that the safety bicycle "did allow for rapid motorcycle development" and that Pennington's "radical promotion" of The Motor Cycle might have had some effect (The Antique Motorcycle, Fall 2011, page 14). That's a step in the right direction to be sure, but still ignores the fact that previous to Pennington and The Motor Cycle there was nothing in the world to promote in a radical fashion because the concept of a crazy fast gasoline-driven bicycle did not exist until Pennington conceived it, prototyped it, and then took it out for a fast spin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and other places! How could Pennington have failed to add to motorcycle development when he himself invented the modern concept nearly perfectly, built prototype machines (not perfectly!), then demonstrated them before countless thousands on two continents, and also coined a catchy name to describe this new device? Ironically, even those writers and authorities who ignore or dismiss Pennington's influence are forced to submit by the immortal goddess Justice to use his term for the modern device that he was inventor of -- "the motorcycle."