A look at the vintage motorcycles on display at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.
1912 Pierce Four
2.25in bore x 2.25in stroke
Enclosed drive shaft
Pedal crank starting and coaster brake
Original price: $325 to $450
An innovative and luxurious motorcycle from the founder of one of America's early premier car builders. George Pierce began manufacturing during the Civil War - bathtubs, birdcages and ice boxes - forming George N. Pierce Company in 1878. High-quality bicycles came next from the Buffalo, N.Y. factory, soon followed by first a steam, then gasoline powered automobile in 1901.
The car business took off with the Pierce Great Arrow of 1903. Four years later the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company was launched. The brand lasted until 1938 as one of America's finest and most prestigious, a favorite of the White House and royalty from Europe to Hollywood.
Percy Pierce stayed behind at the Hanover Street factory and built single and 4-cylinder motorcycles from 1909 until bankruptcy in 1914 having failed to find a large enough market for these expensive premier steeds.
The Pierce Four motorcycle comes top-quality, each component's design re-thought and then hand-crafted in the factory and not bought-in from a catalog as much of the competition was doing, becoming merely assemblers rather than manufacturers. Note the enclosed shaft drive to the rear wheel, the integrated fuel and oil tanks with two filler caps and 2-speed gearbox (uncommon in 1912).
Pierce created only a few thousand motorcycles in the five-plus years' production, and a century later few have survived.