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Excelsior Motor Manufacturing & Supply Company

1912 Excelsior motorcycle on display at the California Automobile Museum
1914 Excelsior
1918 Henderson built by Excelsior

Excelsior Motor Manufacturing & Supply Company was an American motorcycle manufacturer operating in Chicago from 1907 to 1931.[1] It was purchased by Ignaz Schwinn, proprietor of bicycle manufacturer Arnold, Schwinn & Co. in 1912.[2] In 1912, an Excelsior was the first motorcycle to be officially timed at a speed of 100 mph.[3] The Henderson Motorcycle Company became a division of Excelsior when Schwinn purchased Henderson in 1917.[1][4] By 1928, Excelsior was in third place in the U.S. motorcycle market behind Indian and Harley-Davidson. The Great Depression convinced Schwinn to order Excelsior's operations to cease in September 1931.

Excelsior BigXEdit

The mainstay of Excelsior production through the 1910s and into the 1920s was the 61 cu in (1,000 cc) Model BigX. This had an inlet-over-exhaust v-twin engine, firstly with belt drive then with 2 speed and then 3 speed gearbox. Colors were grey with red panels in the early teens, the 'Military Model' of the late teens was in khaki (a green-brown shade) and 1920s models were in a very dark blue with fine gold pinstriping. Many were exported, Europe and Australia receiving a number of shipments. A very small number of BigX motorcycles were manufactured with 74 cu in (1,210 cc) engines in the 1920s. Production of the BigX continued until 1924, when it was replaced by the Super X.

Excelsior Super XEdit

Excelsior released its Super X model in 1925. The Super X was America's first motorcycle with a 45 cu in (737 cc) V-twin engine.[1] It was conceived as a competitor to the smaller Indian Scout.[5] In response to the Super X's popularity, Indian first raised the Scout's capacity to 45 cubic inches (737 cc) and then introduced the new Indian 101 Scout,[6] while Harley-Davidson introduced their 45 cu in (737 cc) motorcycle, the Model D.

End of productionEdit

In 1929, the stock market crash and the resulting Great Depression caused motorcycle sales to plummet. The summer of 1931 saw Schwinn call 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 a full order book, he had chosen to pare back his business commitments to the core business of bicycle manufacture. All motorcycle operations at Excelsior ended by September 1931.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Wilson, Hugo (1993). "Other Classics". The Ultimate Motorcycle Book. London, UK: Dorling Kindersley. p. 41. ISBN 0-7513-0043-8.
  2. ^ Wilson, Hugo (1995). "The A-Z of Motorcycles". The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle. London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 58. ISBN 0-7513-0206-6. The company was taken over by bicycle maker Ignatz Schwinn in 1912 and he remained in control until Excelsior production ended in 1931.
  3. ^ Hatfield, Jerry (2006). "Excelsior". Standard Catalog of American Motorcycles 1898-1981: The Only Book to Fully Chronicle Every Bike Ever Built. Iola, WI USA: Krause Publications. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-89689-949-0. LCCN 2005922934. Retrieved 2013-01-13. The highlight of Excelsior sporting achievements happened at the end of 1912, when rider Lee Hummiston became the first motorcyclist in the world to be officially timed at 100 mph.
  4. ^ Hatfield, pp.76-77
  5. ^ Pioneers of American Motorcycle Racing by Daniel K. Statnekov, Chapter 22
  6. ^ Wilson, Hugo (1995). "The A-Z of Motorcycles". The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle. London: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 104–105. ISBN 0-7513-0206-6. When Excelsior created the 45cu. in. class with the introduction of its Super X model in 1925 (see p.59), Indian responded with a bored and stroked 45cu. in. version of the Scout, introduced alongside the original model in 1927.
  7. ^ Henderson History (retrieved 12 April 2010)

See alsoEdit