Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Has Wyman's 1902 California Been Resurrected?

1902 California
(Click here for more pictures)

The George A. Wyman Memorial Project has been contacted by a private collector who believes to be in possession of 'The' Wyman 1902 California motor-cycle.  This beautifully restored 1902 California was acquired by Dave Scoffone in 2006.  More about that later...but first some background.

Sometime in 1902, George Wyman took possession of a Regular Model California motor-cycle, designed by Roy C. Marks.  This motorized bicycle was manufactured by the California Motor Company located at 305 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA. (Other reports suggest the CMC facilities were at 2212 Folsom Street)

Aux Tank & Cargo Rack
Farkle behind gas tank
Wyman modified the stock Regular Model California in preparations for its transcontinental journey.  He installed a carrying rack behind the battery box for an auxiliary fuel tank and cargo.  He also fabricated a small triangular storage compartment under the seat post in the area formed by the center frame and rear suspension down strut. (This particular Farkle had not been seen on any other Regular Model California)

It was the first motorized vehicle to make a transcontinental journey across America. Beginning May 16 in San Francisco, this 1.25 horsepower motorized bicycle would climb mountain ranges, cross deserts, motoring over vast prairies and through the industrial heartland of America to finish 50 days later in New York City on July 6, 1903.

After reaching New York City, the motor-cycle was put on display for a few weeks then shipped back to Wyman's home in San Francisco.  There, it was put on display in the Museum at Golden Gate Park for a couple of years.  It whereabouts after that begin to fade from public knowledge.  Wyman reported in a 1958 interview by the Oakland Tribune, to have lost track of it after 1905.  It was rumored to have changed hands several times.  Urban legend has it was purchased by a bar in San Francisco and hung from the ceiling for a time.  Or, it was lost in the great earthquake of 1906.  It disappeared from public view for over 60 years.

Fast forward to the 1970s.  Otis Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Time, was a well known collector of motor vehicles.  His motorcycle collection was regarded as one of the finest in existence.  His passion was obtaining rare, often unique specimens and restoring them to near perfect condition.  Otis and his team of scouts would search garages, basements, barns and warehouses for opportunities to add to his marvelous collection.

It was one of these finds that brought Mr. Chandler to a garage in San Francisco. There he found a badly deteriorated 1902 California, rusted out, tires rotted away, parts broken and missing.   He acquired this wreck of a motor-bicycle and was convinced by the seller that it was the 1902 California used by George A. Wyman to ride across America in 1903.  Otis must have had good reason to believe it was Wyman's motor-cycle.  Unfortunately, no account or documentation of that transaction, along with any photographs of the condition of the bike as it was found have surfaced.  Over the next several years, he set about the task of restoring the bike to original condition.

The restored 1902 California was put on display at the Chandler Vintage Museum of Transportation and Wildlife, in Oxnard, CA.  From time to time it was loaned out to other museums and collection venues.  Here is a couple of press clippings about the 1902 "California."
In 1994, Dave met with Otis Chandler. As fellow vintage collectors, they share a deep passion for the history of American motorcycles and the significant impact the industry had on the industrial revolution of America. Dave and Otis exchanged many stories about different bikes and their unique history(s) and between the two of them had more than ample historic bikes to share their stories.

Over the years the stories and discussions continued, but there was never a bike trade made between them. Dave only wanted certain bikes that Otis had and visa versa.  It was a friendly sharing of the passion as neither were willing to part with their treasures.

In 2005, Otis was quite ill and it seemed time to part with his collection. Dave and Otis discussed the specific bikes that were going to be purchased by Dave but Otis became so ill that the bike negotiations took a back seat. In February of 2006, Otis Chandler died at age 78.

The Otis Chandler Collection was auctioned off by Gooding & Co in October, 2006 and Dave was there.  Although there were seven bikes that Otis and Dave had earlier agreed on, Dave felt very fortunate to acquire three of Otis's prize motorcycle possessions from the auction. Yes, the 1902 California was one of the three and the main prize.

Today, Dave has several rare and vintage motorcycles.  He shows selected pieces
at exclusive events and venues throughout  western United States.  He was delighted to find out about the George A. Wyman Memorial Project and immediately joined as a Wyman Memorial Plaque Sponsor.  We have commissioned a special Wyman Memorial Journey Plaque to accompany the 1902 California while on display.

The George A. Wyman Memorial Project, Inc., would be thrilled if Dave's 1902 California can be authenticated as the Wyman motor-cycle.  And, we are excited to work together with him to help obtain the documentary and photographic evidence necessary. Regardless, it is the finest example of the Regular Model 1902 California yet to be found.  It is priceless in its current state. If proven to be the one ridden by George A. Wyman across America, it will be the antique motorcycle find of the century and truly, a "National Treasure of the First Order!"

"Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future"

Press Coverage...

Dateline April 21, 2016:  Atlas Obscura covers the G.A.Wyman Memorial Project announcement of the 1902 California resurrection.
George A. Wyman's bike has been missing for decades.  By Sarah Laskow April 21, 2016

Dateline April 30, 2016:  Road and Track covers the G.A.Wyman Memorial Project announcement of the 1902 California resurrection.
First Motor Vehicle To Cross America May Have Been Found
In 1902, ​George A. Wyman went through hell crossing the continent on a California motorcycle.  By Blake Z. Rong, April 30, 2016

Dateline May 2, 2016:  Popular Mechanics covers the G.A.Wyman Memorial Project announcement of the 1902 California resurrection.
Rediscovering the First Motor Vehicle To Cross America
In 1902, ​George A. Wyman went through hell crossing the continent on a California motorcycle.  By Blake Z. Rong, May 2, 2016

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Colfax Station

Wyman got a late start leaving Sacramento on Monday, May 18, 1903.  The Sierra Nevada Mountains lay before him and shortly after noon he crossed the American River over the Central Pacific RR bridge.  Wyman had been this way before.

     "I was traveling familiar ground. During the previous summer I had made the journey on a California motor bicycle to Reno, Nevada, and knew that crossing the Sierras, even when helped by a motor, was not exactly a path of roses. But it was that tour, nevertheless, that fired me with desire to attempt this longer journey - to become the first motorcyclist to ride from ocean to ocean."
 G.A.Wyman, "Over the Sierra's and Through the Snow Sheds", The Motorcycle Magazine, June, 1903

Wyman traveled the roads east of Sacramento that followed the Central Pacific "Transcontinental" Railroad.  The gradual sloping countryside would increase in elevation as he passed through the town of Rocklin.  By the time he got to Auburn his motorcycle was "chugging" along, laboring under him as he rode up ever increasing grades.  By riding over the roads that followed the railroad tracks, he would always know where he was and what was up ahead.  The Railway was the dominate transportation artery across America in 1903.  Wyman was using the "Official Guide" listing all the stations, section houses and other official CPRR points from San Francisco to Omaha, NE.  It listed the railroad miles from San Francisco and the elevation.  Wyman would refer to it many times along his journey.

1902 USGS Topo Map
It was early evening when Wyman arrived in Colfax.  Entering town along Green Valley Street, he rode to the CPRR Depot, pausing for a few minutes to check on his motorcycle and gear.  Tired from his 60 mile ride from Sacramento, Wyman sought out a good meal and comfortable lodging in town.  The Depot was right next to the newly open Gillen Hotel, which at the time catered to both train passengers and over the road travelers alike.  Wyman's trip was being under-written by the Goodman Company as a promotion for the soon to be published "Motorcycle Magazine."   It is likely he stayed at the Gillen Hotel;  it was close, inviting and he was on a expense account of sorts.

Wyman at Colfax Depot
Pictured here is a photo believed to be George Wyman at the Colfax Station on May 18, 1903.  The photo was reportedly published for the first time in "Motorcycle Magazine" and republished by the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.  Though the photo is old and grainy, the definite profile of the 1902 "California", complete with rear carrier can be made out.  Also, one can detect the small triangular box/tank under the seat post behind the gas tank.  This "farkle" has only been seen in photos of Wyman's 1902 "California"  motorcycle.  It was not an original equipment item on the "California" motorcycle designed by Roy C. Marks.  We speculate it was by fabricated by Wyman for the trip and served as a tool box or storage compartment.  (click here to view on Google Drive)

We are pleased to announce!

The City of Colfax, California, had joined The George A. Wyman Memorial Project as the hosting authority for the 518.4 Colfax RON Wyman Waypoint location.  The City Council approved mounting of the Wyman Memorial Journey plaque and Wyman Waypoint sign at the City owned park between the Colfax Depot and the old Gillen Hotel building.   The Colfax Area Historical Society will display the Wyman Colfax site narrative, Wyman Waypoint Poster and photographs inside the Colfax Passenger Depot museum.

The dedication ceremony has tentatively been set for May 18, 2016; the anniversary of Wyman's over night stay in Colfax.  Tom and Helen Austin are the Wyman Memorial Plaque Sponsors for the 518.4 Colfax RON location and have graciously agreed to represent the Project at the dedication.

The George A. Wyman Memorial Project is grateful to the City of Colfax for joining the Project and enthusiastically embracing the Wyman story.  Working together, we are....

"Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future"   

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rif Addams: Motor-Assisted Bicyclist

We are pleased to announce Rif Addams has joined the research team of the George A. Wyman Memorial Project.   He will be working with Marti Wyman Schein, Director of Research, on a number of important items to extend the body of historical knowledge of the Wyman story.

1903 Wyman  --  Rif Addams 2003
Rif is well known for his 2003 Centenial Recreation of  Wyman's 1903 journey across America.  His extensive research, preparations for and 2003 re-enactment, along with his demonstrated passion for the Wyman saga makes Rif a welcomed addition to the Wyman Memorial Project team.  Rif has agreed to write an article for our "What's New" page to be published next month.  Stay tuned!

Rif Addams is a member of the Motor-Assisted Bicycling community and is dedicated to the preservation of safe and legal motor-assisted bicycling.  Rif will also represent the interests of MAB members, acting as liaison between them and the George A. Wyman Memorial Project.

The long-distance riding, motorcycle touring and motor-assisted bicycle communities share a common interest in Wyman's historic 1903 journey across America.  Each group views the Wyman legacy from a different perspective, but are united by the bond and inspiration of his historic accomplishment.   Rif Addams' publicly demonstrated passion for the Wyman saga is one of the best examples of that inspiration, and ...
"Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future"

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Pace of the Breakdowns

When Wyman began the last leg of his epic journey in Chicago on June 23, 1903, he had about 1,000 miles to go.  His original plan was to arrive at the New York Motor Cycle Club at 1904 Broadway, NYC, by July 2.  He wanted to get there in time to participate in the "The Great Endurance", motorcycle rally that started on July 3.  But, 'fate' was taking a toll on his pace across the industrial heartland of America.  Both he and his motorcycle were suffering from the constant pounding along the route.  His new target date to arrive in NYC was the evening of July 4th.

With almost 300 miles more to reach NYC, Wyman departed Canastota at 7 am on Thursday morning, July 3.  He was determined to reach Albany by the end of the day, which was 135 miles of hard riding from Canastota.  The previous two days wore him down.  The July heat made the frequent stops to fix the motorcycle all the more frustrating and exhausting.  Wyman had done several days of riding that distance before, over the course of his journey.  So, he knew if things went in his favor he could reach Albany by the end of the day.  He was following the Erie Canal.  The towpath had been open for cycles and was easy going with its level grade that followed the famed canal.  (Wyman did not know it at the time that NY required a special license to ride on the cycle path.)

It wasn't long before problems started to slow his pace.  The leather drive belt slipped off seven times.  It was so worn and fragile, it barely functioned as designed.  Each time it came off or broke, Wyman would have to stop to adjust and replace the belt around the driving cogs.  When he reached Little Falls, Wyman turned left up Anne Street to the center of town.  At the time, there were a couple of 'Tack and Harness' shops along  Anne Street.  Wyman would have sought out the first available shop where he could get the materials needed.  Repairing the belt required splicing a new length of leather that was cut to the width of the original belt.  With the belt repaired, Wyman pressed on along the Erie Canal towards Albany.

About 40 miles out, the constant pounding along the cycle path produced another
Handle Bar Stick
frustrating delay when the left side of his handle bars broke off.  Wyman had several experiences with this problem before on his journey.  He repaired the handle bars by lashing a 'stick' to the steering assembly.  (Seen here, in the photograph taken in upper NYC on the 6th of July.)    Handle bars fixed, he was motoring along when the engine began to squeak loudly.  Stopping to investigate the noise, he discovered it was the piston rings.  No amount of oil seemed to correct the problem, so he was resigned to ride it into Albany, squeaking all the way.

Then, six mile from Albany, the rear tire blew out.  Wyman was skilled at fixing flat tires, but this one was beyond repair.  The hole was large enough to insert a hand.  He was forced to walk the motorcycle the rest of the way into Albany.

Here, in his own words, is Wyman's account of the 135 mile ride from Canastota to Albany on July 3, 1903...

     "The fates seemed in a conspiracy to prevent my getting to New York before July 4. The motor was getting in such shape that I realized I would be lucky if I could finish with it at all. To add to my troubles these two days from Rochester, July 1 and 2, were terribly hot and I was nearly prostrated by the heat. I managed to make 65 miles and get to Canastota by 9:30 p.m. on the second, and as that was the day I had hoped to be in the metropolis, I did not go to bed in any cheerful humor.

     At 7 a.m. on July 3, I started from Canastota; determined to get to Albany, at least, that day. I had trouble from the start. I relaced the belt seven times during the forenoon, and then I spliced it with a new piece at Little Falls. I was still 40 miles from Albany when my handlebars broke off on one side. I had been there a couple of times before during the trip, and it did not take me long to lash a stick across the steering stem. Soon after, the piston began to squeak, and I discovered that the rings on it were worn out. Oil was of no avail, and I rode on with the squeak for company. Six miles from Albany, while I was on the towpath, the rear tire blew out. There was a hole in it that would admit a hand. I walked into Albany. Some of the remarks I made to myself as I walked were not fit for quoting to a Sunday school class. My distance that day was 135 miles. This was to be my last day of big mileage though.

     All the way through New York state I used the cycle path without a license. It was not until after my trip ended that I knew I had been violating the law."

G.A.Wyman, "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York", The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903

We are pleased to announce Little Falls, NY has joined the Project as a hosting location.  The Little Falls Historical Society and Museum, at the corner of Albany and South Anne Streets, will mount the Wyman Waypoint sign outside, with the Waypoint poster and site narrative inside the museum.