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