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Page 621. 1914 Excelsior V-Twin 1000cc 2-Speed

1914 Excelsior V-Twin 1000cc 2-Speed








Randolph St, Chicago

Excelsior started out, in 1876, as the Excelsior Supply Co, making bicycle components, to be followed by the manufacture of complete bicycles. When the company built its first motorcycle in 1905 (below), they had a head-start over their competitors both because of their experience and because they could depend their own parts.

The company soon became one of the leading motorcycle manufacturers, and was approached by Schwinn, who realized that even if he started his own motorcycle business, he’d be hard put to compete with companies like Excelsior in this growing market. He eventually bought Excelsior on 1st February 1912 for half a million dollars, and Excelsior moved to a new factory at Union Ave, Chicago.

The acquisition of the Excelsior Motor and Manufacturing Company was a perfect way for Schwinn to expand and diversify his business. And the increased investment allowed Excelsior to expand still further, in 1914 moving into the world’s largest motorcycle factory at 3703 Cortland St, Chicago, a state-of-the-art facility that even had a test track on its roof.

Henderson started making motorycles in 1912, and soon became Excelsior’s main competitor. The Henderson Four was in Schwinn’s sights as a  stable mate for the Excelsior Super-X and, by  the end of 1917, Henderson was acquired by Excelsior and had also moved to the Cortland Street factory. Below you can see a 1917 Henderson Inline Four Model G that I sold last year (the final model made before the takeover).



To avoid confusion with the British company of the same name, American Excelsior used the name ‘Excelsior-X.’ You can see the ‘X’ logo below on the motorcycle’s tank. After 1917, Hendersons were badged in a similar fashion. The Excelsior was used during WW1.





The Wall Street Crash badly affected motorcycle sales. In the summer of 1931, Schwinn called his department heads together for a meeting at Excelsior. He bluntly told them, with no prior indication, ‘Gentlemen, today we stop.’ Schwinn felt that the Depression could easily continue for eight years, and even worsen. Despite of the full order book, he had chosen to pare back his business commitments to its core business, bicycle manufacture. By September 1931 it was all over for Excelsior.

But the name continued after 1931, as Schwinn used many famous names for its various bicycle models over the years. The Schwinn Excelsior and the Schwinn Autocycle both became well-known bicycles.





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