Excelsior-Henderson's story began in 1876, when it was originally founded as Excelsior Supply Company, when they made both bicycles and bicycle parts.
During the 1910's, motorcycles were built by either bicycle manufacturers or automobile manufacturers. These bicycle and automotive manufacturers were as new to motorcycles as motorcycles were to the world's population. By 1905 when Excelsior built their first motorcycle, the Excelsior had already had 30 years of experience in the bicycle frames and parts industries. This experience gave Excelsior the upper hand against the other motorcycle manufacturers who at the time had a big difficulty keeping their motorcycles in one piece long enough on the badly made and maintained roads of the day.
The Excelsior Supply Company quickly gained popularity during its first few years, as motorcycling enthusiasts and fans of Excelsior formed clubs and held motorcycle competitions. By the time Excelsior began to compete, motorcycle racing was already a popular sport and in 1911, Excelsior set an unofficial two mile record under the rider Joe Wolters when he made six laps in 1:22:24 minutes at an average speed of 87.3 MPH
In 1911, the famous producers of the Schwinn Bicycle planned to enter the motorcycle industry in which they had drafted plans to build a motorcycle, but due to the impressive durability and quality of the Excelsior they decided to form a merger with Excelsior in which Excelsior-Henderson bought the Schwinn Company for $500,000 a year later in 1912.
By the time of the First World War, the Henderson Company announced that it would accept a contract for the supply of a neutral country during the war. The American War Department had also purchased a small quantity of Excelsior motorcycles thanks to the American Law Enforcement agencies decisions to utilise their motorcycles in 1916.
In 1917, due to some serious financial difficulties not withstanding their strong sales, the Henderson Company offered themselves up for sale to the Excelsior Motor Manufacturing and Supply Company in which case the Excelsior Motor Manufacturing and Supply Company now became known as Excelsior-Henderson.
Although by the 1930's the United States as well as the world had fallen into the Great Depression, Excelsior-Henderson maintained high sales and continued to prosper throughout this period of misery for a lot of motorcycle companies around the world.
By 1931, as the depression continued to worsen, Ignaz Schwinn went to Washington D.C. and returned to Excelsior-Henderson with the realisation that they would not be able to stay afloat throughout the whole depression and quickly assembled the management team of Excelsior-Henderson announce that the company would shut down immediately rather than risk the chance of losing profits.
Immediately the Excelsior-Henderson shut its doors and began to dismantle all of their motorcycles and operations equipment. Refusing to fulfil any back orders to both the civilian and police sectors, they had received several threats of lawsuits but to everyone's amazement, the Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle Company simply just disappeared. Where they went no one can actually say but as much as their disappearing trick amazed the country, their reappearance trick 62 years later shocked the world.
In 1993 the Hanlons felt that there was something missing at Sturgis that year. This missing element was one of individuality since almost everyone had the same brand of American-made cruiser, The Harley-Davidson, or a copy so they incorporated the Hanlon Manufacturing Company. The Schwinn Company, who was the owner of the Excelsior-Henderson Motor Manufacturing and Supply Company before it disappeared during the depression, had simply let the trademarks lapse, and so began the reappearance of the Excelsior-Henderson motorcycles with a little help of the Hanlon Manufacturing Company. Due to bankruptcy, the new Excelsior-Henderson Company was forced to cease production only 6 short years after their re-emergence into the chronicles of American Motorcycling History. They attempted on two separate occasions to bring the Excelsior-Henderson motorcycle back to life again but they still ended up in bankruptcy, until Swift Motorcycles bought them out and refused to reproduce any more Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles. 2002 marked the official death of the Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles.
Original Authors: Nicholas
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 04/06/2008