Motorcycles in a Museum

Beginning this month on June 8th and running until September 7th at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa is an exhibit just about motorcycles called RARE RIDES. They are KICK STARTING the exhibit on June 8th with a 100% FREE RIDE starting at the Le Claire welcome center just off the I-80. Pearl Smith, Bill Tuman and Erwin “Smitty” Smith will be leading the ride. With coffee & donuts at the start, entry that day to the exhibit and food and beverage this is a RIDE not to miss. Here are some facts and figures about the exhibit. It will be the largest exhibit they have done to date, on any subject, comprising about 7000 square feet of motorcycles; photographs documenting the history of motorcycling, accessories & paint work. The exhibit will feature about 40 RIDES including a 1912 Yale and a 1912 Harley-Davidson, both with original paint. Also a 1917 Indian Power Plus, which was used in the movie “The Babe”, about Babe Ruth and even Bill Tuman’s 1950 most popular rider trophy. Topics covered in the main part of the exhibit are; Early rides, Early shops and dealerships, Motorcycles in the war effort, The soldiers return, Hollywood re-visions the motorcycle, The metric invasion, Peacekeepers on cycles, Competition, Personalizing your ride and The next generation (the riders and enthusiasts of tomorrow). Harley-Davidson: An American Icon & Taking Over the Driver’s Seat: Women Motorcyclists are two other special exhibit sections.

Pearl Smith, what your not sure who she is? Well get yourself on over to the Putnam and find out. She was interviewed for the exhibit. She told a story about her first motorcycle ride in the 1940s. She kept her feet down on the ground while riding so much, that she discovered her soles were worn through by the time she got home. She also remembered she had a motorcycle with a sidecar for taking her child with her when she traveled. She took a bedpan for when he needed to go to the bathroom. Then they would just pull over to the side of the road so it could be emptied.

If you didn’t make the KICK START RIDE be not to miss this awesome exhibit of motorcycling history. For more information please visit

Gery Schemel

The image credits are: loaned by Bill Tuman for the photo of Bill with a trophy. The credit for the other two images and loaned by Don Curtis. These images are of two unknown women on bikes in the 1920s and a photo of Don’s Father-in-law as a child behind his father on his motorcycle, c. 1920s.