An historic motorcycle believed to be the first to cross America (in fact, the first motorised vehicle) may have been found after being lost for almost 111 years.
In 1903, George Wyman rode a 1902 California motorcycle from San Francisco to New York at a time when there were no paved roads and, in many places, no roads at all. It must have been excruciating with those thin tyres and no suspension except a couple of short springs under the bicycle-style seat.
Later that year, Horatio Nelson Jackson and Sewall K. Crocker became the first people to drive an automobile across the United States. While their car, a Winton, is now in the Smithsonian’s collection, Wyman’s motorcycle, a 1902 Californian-made bike, has been lost since about 1905.
Wyman had allowed his bike to be displayed in New York straight after the historic crossing for a few weeks, then it went to the Golden Gate Museum in San Francisco, but within two years, it had disappeared.
It was said to have been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake or that it was displayed in a bar, or that it had been bought in the ‘70s by Otis Chandler, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times and a motorcycle enthusiast.
After Chandler died in 2006, his friend and also a motorcycle collector, Dave Scoffone, bought the bike and has now contacted the Wyman Memorial Association.
There is still no strong evidence to prove it is the actual bike, however, it features similar modifications to those Wyman made for his historic crossing, including a carry rack for extra fuel and a triangular storage compartment under the top tube between the handlebar and seat.
Wyman Memorial Project spokesman Tim Masterson says they are now searching for photographic evidence or documentation to support the find.
If it can be proved to be the original, the Project believes it would be “a national treasure of the first order.”