Glenn Curtiss, born in 1878 in Hammondsport, NY, was already building bicycles when he reached his teens and became very fast a famous speed bicycle racer. Logically, he got interested by more speed and in 1902 started his own motorcycle manufacturing company, originally under the brand name of “Hercules”. His machines were the only ones really able to challenge Indian and were the first ones to use a handlebar throttle for acceleration. In January 1907 in Ormond Beach, Florida, (top picture) Glenn Curtiss became the fastest man on earth with a land speed record of 136.3 mph (216 km/h), a record never homologated because he was unable to do a return due to damage to his frame.
In 1904 a two-cylinder, V-type engine-believed to be the first Curtiss aircraft engine-was modified to power Capt. Thomas S. Baldwin’s California Arrow. In 1905 the twin-cylinder motorcycle engine was developed into a more powerful airship engine, designated A-2, which powered many early American dirigibles.
In 1912, under an agreement with the Marvel company, the Curtiss Marvel was offered with an overhead valve 500cc engine used as a stress member of the frame. The same year, Glenn Curtiss left the motorcycle business to devote all his time and talent to aeronautics where he became even more famous by making the first officially witnessed flight in North America, winning a race at the world’s first international air meet in France, and making the first long-distance flight in the U.S.