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Where Are Indian Motorcycles Made, And Who Owns The Company Now?

Where Are Indian Motorcycles Made, And Who Owns The Company Now?
No, Harley-Davidson was not the first American motorcycle company. That honor goes to the Indian Motorcycle Company, which at the time was called the Hendee Manufacturing Company. Today, Indians are still made in the U.S. and owned by a company better known for its snowmobiles, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, its history has more twists and turns than San Francisco’s Lombard Street (“Crookedest Street in the World”) and more mystery and intrigue than a Harlan Coben novel.
Like many early motorcycle pioneers, George M. Hendee was a bicycle racer and manufacturer. He started the Hendee Manufacturing Company in 1897. As the century turned over, Hendee hired Oscar Hedstrom in 1901 as his chief engineer to fabricate gas-powered bikes that could keep pace with the speeds of the pedal-powered racers. That same year — and as motorcycles started to gain traction in the United States — the pair opened the company’s first factory in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. This was a full two years before William S. Harley and the Davidson brothers got together in Milwaukee.
And here’s an interesting albeit conflicting bit of history: The first “production” motorcycle in the U.S. wasn’t built by either Harley or Hendee but by the Waltham Manufacturing Company (founded in 1893) when Charles H. Metz unveiled the Orient-Aster in 1899. Unless you’re a hardcore motorcycle enthusiast, you’ve likely never heard of the Orient or Waltham Manufacturing Company. Apparently, history really is written by the victors.
[Featured image by Qflieger via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 3.0]



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