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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 • THE NEW ZEALAND FOREST, c. 1950

The Flying Merkel: 1915

The Flying Merkel: 1915

Circa 1915, location unknown. "Mailman & motorcycle." And not just any motorbike but a "Flying Merkel," with what looks like an acetylene-gas headlamp. Oh, and Spitting Prohibited by Law, "Except Into Cuspidors." View full size.

 

Oh, to have that bike today!

In a 2012 Las Vegas motorcycle auction, the top seller of the weekend was a beautifully restored 1910 Flying Merkel, resplendent in the company's bright orange coloring, that garnered $86,800
I'm sure the postman would hand-cancel his forehead in shock & amazement!

It was cheaper than a car

The 1915 Flying Merkel model 750 with belt drive was priced at $240. The luggage carrier was $5 more. Still, that was more than half the price of a $440 Ford model T Runabout.

The Heyday of the Cuspidor

The "Spitting Prohibited By Law" sign marks this picture as having been taken during the great anti-spitting crusade of the early 20th century. This campaign, undertaken in the cause of slowing the spread of then-endemic tuberculosis infections, caused anti-spitting legislation to be enacted by cities and states across the country. Curbing the once-common habit of regular spitting, both outdoors and indoors, and bringing cuspidors into taverns, theaters, stores, and even homes, everywhere.

Not boots

Actually he is not wearing boots. He is wearing shoes with leather leggings.

Shiny Hubs

When I was a kid, my bothers and I all had "hub polishers", just like the Flying Merkel's. Without them, cleaning the hub was a tough and tedious job.

Belt drive

I didn't know that belt final drives were used at this time - thought they were a modern development when they first appeared on Japanese bikes in the late 1970s

The Merkel Flew

Always known for speed, this example seems to at least have a clutch, but no gearbox. Not exactly set up for local deliveries but it would sure work for express!

Acetylene headlight

You can see the small 'mc' acetylene cylinder hooked up to the headlight. That size of acetylene cylinder is to this day known as an 'mc'. MC for motorcycle. I have one exactly like it sitting right behind me as I type this. I spent 35 years filling them. Yikes! I hate saying that I did anything for 35 years. Yikes! I love this site and have been following it
for a long time now. Thanks for all!

Postal Cowboy

Who wouldn't have wanted to be a mailman in 1915? Especially if you got to wear those cool boots and gloves!

The proper dismount

In the late teens of the last century, my father was riding as passenger on an older friend's Flying Merkel when they encountered a patch of loose gravel, skidded in spectacular fashion off the country road, and ended up sore but relatively unhurt in the ditch. A farmer who'd been plowing nearby halted his team and came ambling over. "You boys hurt?" he enquired.

"Hell, no, old timer," the friend replied. "This is a Flying Merkel; we always get off that way!"

 
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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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