1910 Marsh Metz Belt-Drive Single
June 2015 – A new addition to the collection!
In 1893 Charles H. Metz co-founded the Waltham Manufacturing Company in Massachusetts to produce the ‘Orient’ bicycle. As part of his sales promotion, Metz trained a bicycle racing team and constructed a motorised tandem pacer bicycle with the rear passenger operating a De Dion-Bouton single-cylinder engine fitted in the rear of the frame. The machine helped to train his bicycle team to achieve considerable success and he began experimenting with motorised pacer bicycle designs with a view to marketing them.
After trying tricycle and quadracycle configurations, in 1989 he mounted an Aster/De Dion-Bouton engine in a heavy-duty version of his production bicycle. Several prototypes later he launched a catalogue in 1899 advertising his ‘Orient Motor-cycle’ pace machines, possibly providing the first published use of the term ‘motorcycle’. The public launch of Metz’s 138cc (8.42ci), 2.0hp, single-cylinder product occurred on 31 July, 1900, affording the company the claim to being the first production motorcycle manufacturer in the United States. The event was the first officially recorded motorcycle speed contest in the U.S. and the Orient won.
The Orient went on to establish the U.S. record for the mile at one minute and ten seconds (51.43mph/83.75kph). News of the Orients’ competition successes led to strong sales and Metz became so confident in his new motorcycle that he established a new business to manufacture it.
A few years later Metz developed a two-cylinder version that doubled the power to 4.0hp and negotiated a merger with the Marsh Motorcycle Company of Brockton, Massachusetts, to establish the American Motor Company and produce the Marsh-Metz motorcycle that was first launched in 1908. The Marsh brothers had built their first 1.0hp, single-cylinder Marsh Motor Bicycle in 1899 and by 1902 they had built a 6.0hp belt-driven racer that could reach 60mph (97kph).
The American Motor Company motorcycles bore the name Marsh & Metz or M.M. and achieved another milestone in 1906 by producing the first 1,000cc, 90-degree V-Twin in the U.S. Marsh and Metz also sold engines to other builders such as Peerless, Arrow and Haverford. However, by 1913 Charles Metz had shifted his full attention to the automobiles that Waltham Manufacturing he had begun producing in 1902 and the American Motor Company ceased to exist. The Waltham company became known as the Metz Car Company.
(Professional photographs courtesy of Mecum Auctions and Graeme Robertson)