First Indian Motorcycle Prototypes Built on Wesleyan’s Campus

Did you know that the birthplace of the Indian Motorcycle prototype is on Wesleyan’s property? In 1901, at the site of the former Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company, (now a grassy area abutting Wesleyan’s High Rise and Low Rise Apartments, and Traverse Square Apartments) journeyman Carl Oscar Hedstrom designed and built a prototype for a gas-engine-powered motorized bicycle that would be used to pace bicycle races.

In 1901, at the site of the former Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company (a bicycle factory and now a grassy courtyard area abutting Wesleyan’s High Rise and Low Rise Apartments), journeyman Carl Oscar Hedström designed and built a gasoline engine powered motorized bicycle. This area would later be known as the historic birthplace of the Indian Motocycle (now Indian Motorcycle) prototype.

In this historic photo, Hedstrom holds his first motor bike prototype outside Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company in Middletown. The building was demolished in the 1920s and was located on an extended section of Hamlin Street, which nolonger exists.

In this historic 1901 photo, Hedström holds his first motorized bicycle prototype outside the former Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company in Middletown, Conn. The building was demolished in the 1920s and was located on an extended section of Hamlin Street, which no longer exists. Indian Moto(r)cycle was one of the premiere American motorcycle brands until the mid-twentieth century. (Photo courtesy of the Indian Motorcycle Museum Collection, a gift of Helen Hedström Carlson from the personal files of C. Oscar Hedström.)

After building three prototypes in Middletown, Hedström moved to Springfield, Mass., for a time where he became co-founder and chief engineer of Indian Motocycle. The first production motocycle was sold in 1902. In 1903, Hedström himself won an endurance race from New York City to Springfield and back. Also in 1903 he rode one of his motocycles and set a new world speed record of 56 mph. During the city of Middetown’s 12th Annual Motorcycle Mania on Aug. 9 of this year, several bikers visited the commemorative granite memorial on campus.