Many big city postmasters were already using motorcycles for their special messenger service, and as the number of rural delivery routes grew, manufacturers looked to these new rural carriers as an exciting new marketing opportunity. Although motorcycles were not useful for rural carriers who carried large amounts of mail, they seemed to be a good alternative for carriers who were looking to trade in their horses for the next best thing.
The short-lived American F.N. Company of Boston offered up their “four cylinder shaft drive” motorcycle to the rural carrier market. The company’s “perfect motorcycle” started at $250.
The Arrow Motor Cycle Company of Chicago marketed this motorcycle model to the rural carrier audience for a few years in the early 20th century.
Jesse Edwards was the president of Chicago’s Edwards-Crist Manufacturing Company. The company offered up its motorcycle to rural carriers by focusing on fears of keeping ones job in a competative age.
The Excelsior Motor Manufacturing & Supply Company built and sold motorcycles in the first decades of the 20th century. The Excelsior models did well in the national market, but no numbers show its share of the rural carrier market.
The Flanders Manufacturing Company of Pontiac, Michigan offered their model “4” motorcycle for sale to the nation’s RFD carriers. In this advertisement, Flanders suggests that their “4” motorcycle model was “designed and built” for the needs of the RFD carrier, that they “must go every day regardless of road conditions, weather or anything else.” Their motorcycle is not for kids or “speed bugs” but for “all-round serious service” that carriers encountered on their daily rounds.
Harley Davidson was founded to manufacture and sell motorcycles in the early 20th century by William Harley and Arthur Davidson of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The pair began marketing their motorcycles to the general public in 1905. The company grew strong, and by the next decade were selling motorcycles to both the Post Office Department (as a transportation option for city postmasters) and to rural carriers.
The Hendee Manufacturing Company of Springfield, Massachusetts manufactured and sold Indian motorcycles between 1901 and 1953. Their motorcycles proved to be so popular that by 1928 the company renamed itself after its product, becoming the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company. Hendee’s Indian motorcycles were popular with the Post Office Department, which purchased its bikes for city use, and with the rural carriers who used it on their routes.
Fred Joerns and Edward Thiem operated the motor company established in St. Paul, Minnesota, under their names. The friends were the first in the city to manufacture motorcycle engines, which they had begun in 1900 as attachments for bicycles. In their advertisement to rural carriers, the company depicted a happy Uncle Sam cheerfully making mail deliveries while riding the product.
George N. Pierce’s company began manufacturing bicycles in the 1890s. The company did well for itself and began moving into the automotive field with the new century. He established the Pierce Cycle Company in 1907 and produced the company’s first motorcycle two years later. The bikes were expensive in comparison to the market and sales were poor. The company was bankrupt by 1914.
Albert A. Pope created the Pope Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut in 1877. The company produced its “Columbia High Wheeler” bike the next year. Pope began a buying spree of bicycle patents, gaining an extraordinary influence over, and domination of, the burgeoning bicycle market of the late 19th century. With the new century Pope moved into motorcycle and automobile manufacturing but never again found the market share or strength he had gained in the early years of the bicycle movement.
George Wagner began the Wagner Motorcycle Company in St. Paul, Minnesota. Wagner aggressively marketed their motorcycle to rural carriers. In addition to a variety of advertisements in rural employee publications the company produced advertising postcards that were mailed to rural carriers across the country.