Indian Motorcycle Celebrates Its 115th anniversary

indian4indian1This year marks 115 years since George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom started working together to make Indian motorcycles. In 1897 George Hendee was already manufacturing push bikes with the name ‘American Indian’, but this was shortened to ‘Indian’. Three years later in 1900, Oscar Hedstrom joined the firm. Both Hendee and Hedstrom were former bicycle racers and they decided to build a motorized bicycle to use as a pace bike in cycling races.

indian2A prototype and two production units were built in 1901 and the first Indian motorcycles were sold to the public in 1902. In 1903, Oscar Hedstrom set a world motorcycle speed record of 56 mph and in 1904 the company introduced the deep red paint scheme that would become Indian’s trademark colour. In 1905 Indian built its first V-twin factory racer, putting a road-going version of the motorcycle on sale in 1907.

In 1923 the Indian motorcycles were selling so well that The Hendee Manufacturing Company changed its name to The Indian Motocycle Company – no “r” was used in motocycle when used along with the name Indian – but the “r” has since returned into the modern day name.

indian5It was a rapid pace of development that Polaris, the modern day custodian of the brand, continues after acquiring Indian in 2011. In the five years that Polaris has overseen Indian Motorcycle, the number of models in the line-up has grown rapidly to nine, with the most recent additions this year being Scout Sixty, Springfield and the Chieftain Dark Horse.

In the USA, the next big event is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally taking place from Monday 8th August to Sunday 14th August 2016. The next big event in Europe for Indian Motorcycle is the Wheels & Waves festival in Biarritz, France from Wednesday 8th June to Sunday 12th June. See a timeline of Indian Motorcycle’s past 115 years at Indian Motorcycle History.

43 Responses to “Indian Motorcycle Celebrates Its 115th anniversary”

  1. 1 Joshua Jun 10th, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Happy anniversary Indian. Any festivities in Sturgis?

  2. 2 P. Hamilton Jun 10th, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Go Indian!

  3. 3 Sharkey Jun 10th, 2016 at 9:01 am

    And my Dad would be 96; we both have the same name too…

  4. 4 bob Jun 10th, 2016 at 10:05 am

    how can a company celebrate 115 years when they have not been in buissness for a continuess 115 years . sounds just like harley at there 100th they told me that my 1953 panhead was not 50 anniversary cause they didnt start production until 1904 well then your 2003 isnt the 100th just a bunch of blah blah blah

  5. 5 Nitschke Jun 10th, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Polaris industries was founded in 1954. Indian motorcycles latest iteration was started in 2006 and purchased by Polaris in 2011. Production this version started in 2013.

    The Indian Motorcycle that started in 1901 shuttered it doors in 1953.

  6. 6 Skeeter Jun 10th, 2016 at 10:33 am

    115th Anniversary? Don’t you have to be in business consecutive years?

  7. 7 Gerry Jun 10th, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Hey, all the smart guys above. The Indian brand was created 115 years ago. Reason to celebrate. Period.

  8. 8 Greeko Jun 10th, 2016 at 11:37 am

    I don’t care if Indian was interrupted. Let’s celebrate.

  9. 9 Marty Sorel Jun 10th, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Cyril wrote “This year marks 115 years since George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom started working together to make Indian motorcycles.” I call this an anniversary whatever some are saying.

  10. 10 Johnny Speed Jun 10th, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Great anniversary. It just has nothing to do with Polaris or the current bikes featuring the name Indian.

  11. 11 1550tc Jun 10th, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    who cares what made up anniversary their celebrating

    all the best to them and continued success !!!!!!!!!!!!

    its sales / marketing 101

    sell the sizzzzzzle NOT the cheap ass steak

  12. 12 Woody's Jun 10th, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Dear God, please make it stop!

  13. 13 Sheridan Jun 11th, 2016 at 12:47 am

    How about celebrating by releasing a new model about the side of a Dyna

  14. 14 Jim Tom Jun 11th, 2016 at 6:07 am

    Happy Birthday Indian. God bless America!

  15. 15 Willyd Jun 11th, 2016 at 7:57 am

    What is a push bike?? Or was it a typo meaning pedal bike?????

  16. 16 calif phil Jun 11th, 2016 at 8:04 am

    What Jim Tom said.

  17. 17 Seymour Jun 11th, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Just celebrate the old Indian then if it makes you feel better.

  18. 18 Nitschke Jun 11th, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Well then. Happy Birthday to Nash Motors on its centennial anniversary.

  19. 19 Kenny Hart Jun 11th, 2016 at 10:26 am

    It’s about celebrating Indian’s creation, not celebrating Polaris.

  20. 20 Blackmax Jun 11th, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Well Yes, they have not been in continuous production since 1897
    But it is OK !!
    We have them back & viable, now
    So let’s just enjoy it !!!

  21. 21 rebel Jun 11th, 2016 at 11:41 am

    maybe deceased birthday?

  22. 22 SIGFREED Jun 11th, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Indian Motorcycles will only ever be 52 years old.

    Polaris only acquired the TRADE NAME and not the company – ahem, it did not exist, no more…

    I do not doubt for a moment that Polaris makes good stuff under the ‘Indian’ trade name, but its simply MISLEADING ADVERTISING, to say (eg.) “Since 1901”.

    If the Polaris Indian is that good then why celebrate BULL S#1T?

    For one, it gives me the feeling, the entire thing is a FAKE. A bit like Japanese “cruisers” – they may be good, but all things considered, they are just a RIP-OFF…

    I will desist from buying a (Polaris) Indian just because of the B.S. “Since 1901” that every other owner will wear – basically making you part of a FAKE.

    I will then rather buy Harley (or even Moto Guzzi), it may not be as good (although that is up for debate), but at least it is authentic.

  23. 23 Pat Simmons Jun 11th, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Some people love to be divisive, and find fault wherever possible. I say enjoy life, and celebrate when you can. Indian Motocycles is simply a product many of us have enjoyed through the years. The present company has reinvigorated the competition between rival manufacturers, and aims to improve on the design, and operation of their own brand. Oh, and don’t forget marketing is the chief (Chief…?) way a company sells their product. Welcome to the Capitalist country we live in. Whatever your economic, historical, or political viewpoint, Indian is an iconic marque that is still with us, and whatever the anniversary, should be celebrated for giving pleasure to countless people all over the planet. “Old Indians never die!”

  24. 24 Brum Jun 11th, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    just finished an 1800 mile run on my Chieftain to Ayers Rock from Melbourne, Australia in company with 20 other Indian/ Victory owners. Brilliant ride on very, very good motorcycles.

  25. 25 BobS Jun 12th, 2016 at 11:31 am

    The irony of it is had Indian never gone through bankruptcy in ’53 the bikes they make today would probably look a lot more like Victory than present day Indian. There’s no such thing as a one hundred plus year old company that’s the same company as it was when it was started. The Ford Motor Company popping out Mustangs today is nothing like the company that made Mustangs in the 60’s which was nothing like the company that made Model T’s in the 20’s. Some people just need to get over it.

  26. 26 KSMYS Jun 12th, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Indian back from the grave ? Yes

    Indian as a viable company ? Not hardly .

    Indian celebrating 115 diluted and interrupted years ? Ludicrous

    But if they must . Hows about celebrating by finally making a bike that isn’t a blatant H-D pastiche in the vain attempt to compete with a company who’s one model outsells the grand total of everything Indian- Victory make ! Or how about at the very least providing quality customer service for the poor should that have been duped into buying an Indian

    Nah ! Thad’d take genuine effort , creativity and intelligence . Something Polaris Victory Indian is sadly lacking in

  27. 27 Freddy Manson Jun 12th, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    KSMYS. How Polaris, in 6 years, could sell as many bikes as Harley??? You don’t seem very bright.

  28. 28 Woody's Jun 12th, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    The Ford Motor Company popping out Mustangs today is EXACTLY the same company that made Mustangs in the 60’s, only the lines and cars have changed. Deflection and straw man arguments are precisely why it’s hard to “get over it”. So long as people will say anything rather than address the obvious, “it’s not since 1901” statements of many, it will simply be MORE annoying as time goes on. Maybe they should look into getting the Studebaker name for their Slingshot line, then next February we could be reading about celebrating 165 years. 😉

  29. 29 MDSPHOTO Jun 12th, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    How exactly are Japanese cruisers a “RIP-OFF??

  30. 30 BobS Jun 12th, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Ford ownership has changed, Ford management has changed, employees, facilities, technology, etc. all has changed. Maybe if in ’53 Hindee and Henderson found some random company to sell to, who proceeded to run Indian into the ground, who then sold to a group of investors led by a Henderson relative, who then got a couple government bailouts, who then sold to a new group of investors….then Indian could claim a 115th anniversary. A company was born in 1901. 115 years later the current owners of that company are making some pretty nice bikes. Deal with it.

  31. 31 morpion Jun 12th, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    they should change 115 for 52, it would be more serious,,,,,and less bullsh,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  32. 32 Woody's Jun 12th, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    I am dealing with it, and you’re still avoiding the issue with a bunch of deflection 🙂 Indian closed, everybody wandered off, the plant was shuttered And there was no other plant keeping production going. Has nothing to do with the latest incarnation of Indian making good bikes, it has to do with being sick and tired of the BS about “since 1901”.

  33. 33 Freddy Manson Jun 12th, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Again, as others already said. It’s the 115th anniversary of Indian’s creation. What’s wrong with that?

  34. 34 birddoggie Jun 12th, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    I ride Indian. I ride Victory. I ride HD. Old Indians never die…

  35. 35 BobS Jun 13th, 2016 at 6:16 am

    Woody’s it’s a company, not a person. A company only exists as an entity on a piece of paper filed in some government office somewhere. They get sold, bought, closed, reopened, reopened under new ownership and such all the time. The company that makes Indian motorcycles was created in 1901 and the owner of that little paper filing is now Polaris. Doesn’t matter if a company stops production for 12 hours, twelve days, or twelve years it’s still just an asset to be bought or sold.

  36. 36 MotorcycleMarc Jun 13th, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Let’s ride…Enjoy the wind…Celebrate that we have great motorcycle choices out there…MJB.

  37. 37 2Wheels Jun 13th, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    FYI: Harley-Davidson has existed in its current form since the 1981 buy back from AMF. Ownership changes, the brand lives on…

  38. 38 KD Jun 14th, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    @2Wheels is right and Woody hasn’t a clue (nor do many others). You only have to do a little research to know that, as 2Wheels said, the corporation existed at all times and manufacturing and/or selling of Indians (even if as rebadged Royal Enfields or other) has occurred in almost every year since they started.

    Haters gonna hate no matter how many times you prove them wrong.

  39. 39 Woody's Jun 14th, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    It would help to actually prove people wrong though before calling them haters. That’s quite a stretch to say owning the rights to a name is all it takes, but you can’t argue religion. ☺ I’ve kept my same name after divorcing my wife 20 years ago after 10 years of marriage. According to some here, If I get married again I can celebrate my 31st anniversary a year later.

  40. 40 KD Jun 15th, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    I didn’t say owning the rights is all it takes though technically that IS all it takes for a corporation to exist. I also said (and you can try to prove ME wrong if you can) that Indian motorcycles were manufactured and/or sold in almost all years since 1953. YOU were the one who said “there was no other plant keeping production going”. Even if they were being sold as re-badged Royal Enfields they were being produced and sold right?

    Were there some gaps, sure, just like when after Gilroy went bust and they re-engineered for 5 years before production began again in Kings Mountain. You can find Indian badged mc’s from the 60’s on through today.

  41. 41 KD Jun 15th, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    The bad thing about Polaris is that they want both sides: they refuse to acknowledge anybody actually tried to keep the marquee alive between 1953 and 2014 yet they want to claim the “since 1901” moniker.

    Polaris is producing great bikes at a reasonable cost and have a great future ahead so why not claim the ENTIRE history of Indian?

  42. 42 Woody's Jun 15th, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    It’s all good, we just aren’t going to agree. I realize their buying a heritage is probably a good strategy for sales even though it’s cost them my business. I just don’t like the hype, And it’s fun to discuss it back and forth.

  43. 43 Guy Jun 18th, 2016 at 5:33 am

    What 3 letters do the Harley fanboys never want to hear? AMF. LOL. There were no big corporations with a bunch of extra cash interested in buying a bankrupt motorcycle company in 1953 like there was for Harley. Fact – HD’s ownership is not continuous either. It’s better to have shut the doors in 1953 than to have been owned by a bowling pin company lol.

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Cyril Huze