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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • ABOUT PARIS, 1895

Motorcycle Cop: 1924

Motorcycle Cop: 1924

Washington, D.C., 1924. "Roache #5." At the Library of Congress. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

Those Gloves

Also handy should one wish to take up falconry.

Emergency stops?

The only brake is a tiny rear brake and the pedal is at least 6" above the floorboards. This machine was more concerned with going rather than stopping.

Indian

I think this is a 1918 Indian Powerplus. It isn't all polished, but it looks well-loved.

Gloves

The gauntlet style gloves are most practical when riding a motorcycle. They prevent bees, wasps etc from flying up your sleeve. I learned this the hard way last summer (seven stings/bites one fine July day).

Oh my

As an old bike rider with far too many miles under my belt, I look at this photo and can only imagine a bone shaking ride followed by a bathroom visit.

Not the Capitol

It's the Library of Congress.

This bike is a gas!

I'm marveling at the Presto-Lite tank spanning the handlebars to power the gas headlamp AND tail lamp.

Mechanical Simplicity

Take a close look at the speedometer and its connection. It is driven of the big gear on the rear wheel opposite the chain drive. Also note that there are no front brakes and the rear drum brake is mechanically actuated by the right foot lever. Nice bike!

Before Chrome?

In this amazing photo, the motorcycle policeman is dreaming of the day when DC police motorcycles will be gleaming with chrome and glistening lacquer paint.

He hopes that day arrives before his retirement. He's already got the spiffy uniform!

The Gloves Say it ALL

Officer Mad Max must be quite coordinated to work all three levers on the right side (shift check clutch?—maybe and what?—spark advance??) while using his elbow to press on the siren and other had to steer.

MANY too many great details in this picture to list. Beautiful shot!

How about a bit of degreaser?

What a filthy bike. Must not have been a requirement to keep it looking presentable. His uniform has got to be ruined after each shift just by sitting on this thing and tooling about for 6-8 hours.

[This was taken in February, so most of that is probably slush-related. - Dave]

Full of awesome

The tall hat, the robust jacket, those huge, almost superhero gloves, officer barreling hunched over through twinkling city streets as his siren blares and his headlight shines on the getaway car around every curve. I want to see the movie.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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