Known as the “Father of Naval Aviation” and “the fastest man alive” Glenn Hammond Curtiss was a pioneer motorcycle and aeronautic inventor. He was native to and worked around Hammondsport, New York where there is a museum recognizing his work. Curtiss motorcycles showed innovation and better than average performance and durability. Very few were made and they remain exceptionally rare today.

This Curtiss uses a seven horsepower “inlet over exhaust” V-twin engine of Curtiss’s design and construction. It is a nicely detailed, lightweight, powerful motor proven in dirigible, lighter than air, aircraft. One feature unique to Curtiss at the time was the all-roller-bearing bottom end for smoother and more reliable running; ball bearings were more typical. The single cylinder image below is from Wikipedia and illustrates the location of the “atmospheric inlet valve” on top and the cam operated exhaust valve, the exhaust cam mechanism located in the crankcase. Thousands of American and European motorcycles were manufactured using this design.

Illustration from Wikipedia

This 1908 Curtiss features the unique extended rear frame and pillion saddle plus the passenger’s own handlebar to enable him or her to hold onto the bike, bicycle tandem style but without the pedals. Curtiss motorcycles are extremely rare and we are happy to have this example on display at the National Motorcycle Museum.

Glenn Curtiss was born in 1878 in Hammondsport, New York and within 20 years was running his own back room bicycle shop after very little formal education. In addition, he was a Western Union bicycle messenger and bicycle racer, and something of an inventor for Eastman Kodak. Of course his primary accomplishments were in aviation.

In 1902 he had set up the manufacture of his own motorcycle – a Hercules – using his own single-cylinder engine. Before Harley-Davidson and Indian, in 1903 America’s first V-twin came from Curtiss’s shop. His motorcycle building started in 1904 and but ended in 1912. In 1903 Curtiss set a motorcycle land speed record of 64 mph. In 1907 he captured an unofficial world motorcycle speed record of 136.36 mph using a 40-horsepower aircaft V8 in a shaft driven motorcycle currently at the Smithsonian.

This rare Curtiss from the Jill and John Parham collection is one of hundreds of great motorcycles you can take in when you visit the National Motorcycle Museum this summer before the Museum closes permanently September 4, 2023.


    • Engine: V-Twin, 38.5 cubic inches
    • Type: Inlet Over Exhaust
    • Dimensions: 3.57 inch bore and 3.8 inch stroke
    • Specifications: Six horsepower at 1,500 rpm
    • Ignition: Battery and coil
    • Final drive: Non-slip belt drive
    • Wheelbase: 58 inches
    • Weight: 150 Pounds, Approximate
    • Price: $275
1 reply
  1. Charles Durst
    Charles Durst says:

    I think you a have a “Wonderful” museum! My friends, Frank & Barbara Mason who have the “Vintage Motorcycle Museum” in Washington, suggested the I look at your museum. Unfortunately, my health keeps me now keeps me from traveling. I do have your DVD and I love it. I watch it many times. Thank for such wonderful photos. Chuck


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