Motorcycle Week has been a part of New Hampshire’s history for ninety-eight years, more or less. The event grew out of the Gypsy Tours (unofficially began in 1916) and evolved into today’s very popular Laconia Motorcycle Week. In 2014 the Week runs from June 14-22 [see schedule].
In 1918 advertising for the Gypsy Tours could be found in almost every major newspaper
in the United States. One sample reads: “Be a Gypsy for a couple of days. Swing into your saddle–take your sidecar pal. Join the motorcycle Gypsies with a new Harley-Davidson. Ride in the 1918 National Gypsy Tours, June 15th and 16th. The 1917 Gypsy Tours were an unqualified success. The riders voted them to be an annual festivity among motorcyclists. The Gypsy Tours are our expression of joy and pleasure–a chance for a carefree two-day ramble into the country. Fathers, mothers, children, sweethearts–all ride out into the open–for in the open the rider of a HARLEY-DAVIDSON [For 16 Years The Master Mount!] is in his own. During Gypsy days new riders are taken into the fraternity of the Knights of the Gasoline Mount, Old riders renew acquaintances–children “gambol on the green.” On all heads rests contentment. The Gypsy Tours are the climax of the motorcycle year. Every motor that can run, every wheel that can turn, is going. Come on along–get a new Harley-Davidson for the trip! [Cade Long, Agent etc.]”
An article in the Lima News (Lima, Ohio) of 4 May 1918 reported, “Last June 22,000 motorcycle riders turned gypsies for two days and took part in the first annual Gypsy Tour. ….With the greatly increased interest manifested in motorcycles since the United States entered the war, there is no doubt but that 25,000 to 30,000 riders will participate in the Gypsy Tours this year.
The Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg Pennyslvania) newspaper article of 22 June 1918, sheds light on how the Gypsy Tours were organized: “Every motorcycle rider in America is interested in the annual National Motorcycle Gypsy Day Tours. This year the Federation of American Motorcyclists has decided to hold the tour June 22 and 23. The National Gypsy tour is one gigantic motorcycle pleasure tour, made up of hundreds of local pleasure tours held all over America at the same time. Last year 22,000 riders participated in the National Motorcycle Gypsy tours. This year the officials in charge estimate that at least 30,000 riders will take part. Motorcyclists could do no more patriotic thing than to plan to take their vacations, or part of their vacations, in the saddle. Railroads are congested now–everyone knows that. Vacation trips this summer, when taken by rail, will greatly increase the burden of the transportation companies. The motorcyclists’ National Gypsy tour offers a splendid opportunity for riders to take a patriotic vacation. The local motorcyclists are already talking about the coming Gypsy tour, which will be held here. All motorcycle riders are urged to take part. The local tour is being organized by Keystone Motor Club of Harrisburg.”
The Morning Tulsa Daily World (Tulsa, Oklahoma) newspaper of 26 May 1918, reported
on that awards would be offered to participants. In 1918 state representatives to the Federation of American Motorcyclists were to be elected. ” The national gypsy tour is composed of a large number of individual motorcycle tours which take place in practically every motorcycle center in the United States and Canada. The federation of American motorcycles will award a handsome bronze medal to each rider completing the tour. The average length of the tours last year was 150 miles or about 75 miles riding per day, which made it more of a pleasure tour than endurance contest. This year the average should be about the same. To members of the federation of American motorcyclists, which is the national motorcycle riders’ organization, the association will award a medal with an extra bar fitted, as shown in the illustration. The tours are open to all riders whether members of the F.A.M. or not, but where the riders are not F.A.M. members the medal carries no membership bar at the top. In towns where a gypsy tour has not already been organized the riders ought to get together and organize a tour. Any gorup of five or more riders can hold a tour by communicating with Mr. W.H. Parsons, 450 Fourth Street, New York city, who is chairman of the tour committee of the F.A.M. He will be glad to send interested riders a bulletin giving all the details, illustrations of the prizes, etc.
Pursuit, October 1935, Auburn MA Motorcycle Race [photograph only]
Early 1930s motorcycle – Berwin Webby Webster – New Hampshire [photograph only]