Indian Motorcycle legacy lives on through annual rally

By Lori O' Brien


SPRINGFIELD The legacy of the Indian Motocycle rides on in the city in part due to an annual rally with enthusiasts from around the country expected to attend.

The 34th annual Indian Motocycle Day is slated July 17 on the grounds of the Indian Motocycle Museum, 33 Hendee St. The site is significant since the museum is located in the last building that was owned by the company before it closed in 1953. Indian was the first commercially marketed gasoline-powered motocycle manufacturing company in the United States.

In 1901, George M. Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedstrom started the Hendee Manufacturing Company at 837 State St. that later changed its name to the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Co. Today, that legacy lives on thanks in part to Esta Manthos, the owner of the Indian Motocycle Museum. During a visit to the museum last Saturday, Manthos was a gracious tour guide and wowed me with her knack of knowledge on the subject of the company and its claim to fame motocycles.

Her late husband, Charles Manthos, was known for his love of metals and motors, and for also owning and riding Indian motocycles. He started the museum in 1973 so that the memory of the first motocycles manufactured in the nation in Springfield would be preserved. Esta Manthos continues to operate the museum daily with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

This year's rally is planned from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Manthos expects several hundred Indian Motocycle riders to attend, as well as vendors selling memorabilia, spare parts and everything in between. An average of 1,500 to 2,500 spectators also attend the annual event. A swap meet is also part of the day's festivities.

John Sampson and Cornelius Crowley are two of the volunteers who assist Manthos for the Indian Motocycle Day Rally. Both agreed that one of the highlights of the day is the presentation of trophies. Trophy presentations will range from "Best Chief," "Best Scout," and "Best Indian '4,'" to a "Razzle Dazzle Award," a "Women's Trophy," and "Best of Show."

"There are thousands of restored Indian Motocycles nationwide," said Sampson, adding that many of the owners make it a point to attend the rally each year.

As part of the $5 admission fee for the rally, attendees will also have the opportunity to tour the museum. The museum features an extensive collection of Indian Motocycles and other Indian products, as well as toy collectibles, an extensive photo gallery, and glass cases jam packed with memorabilia. Other American made motorcycles and bicycles are also on display. Also, since the company manufactured airplane engines, bicycles, outboard motors, snowmobiles, sidecar street sweepers, cars and sidecar fire engines a sampling of these items are also on view at the museum.

The Indian Motocycle Museum is open now through November from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and December through February, 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per person.

For more information on the rally or the museum, call (413) 737-2624.