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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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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.

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Postal ride deluxe

Was fascinated by this photograph simply because the motorcycle did not appear to be a blacksmith special with help from a rusty hacksaw and no clue about machining or dynamics, which was typical of the period.

So I investigated further and found The Flying Merkel website. Well, the machine is even more advanced than I thought. Proper springing front and rear hidden inside the forks and tubing, for a start. Not a bicycle then. I could go on about the controls and their clever use inside close-fitting tubing so that they worked push and pull. The pushrods have roller followers, ball-bearings were used throughout, and it actually had decent brakes.

Not your average motorcycle of the time. The price reflected it, too, at almost $300, and WW1 put paid to the company.

That's why I say the mailman had a deluxe ride. The date is not likely 1915 at all, but 1912 since it is a 1912 model and looks brand new. Also says it's 1912 on their copy of the photo. Good enough for me.

By the way, the belt driving the rear wheel isn't rubber, but leather. You could have Renold chain instead, no cost.

Thanks again Shorpy for the really detailed photo. Good one. Learned something today!

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!"

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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