c.1920 Henderson Model K Four
Engine no. 2858
One of the most charismatic names in American motorcycling history, Henderson produced nothing but four-cylinder motorcycles in the course of its 19-year existence. Founded by Tom and William Henderson in Detroit in 1912, the firm passed into the control of Chicago-based cycle maker Ignaz Schwinn, owner of Excelsior, in November 1917.
Although early models featured an unusually lengthy frame extending well forward of the engine, the Henderson, like the contemporary Indian and Harley-Davidson, was an advanced design for its day. Displacing 965cc initially, the air-cooled cylinders were arranged longitudinally in the frame and employed mechanically operated 'F-head' (inlet-over-exhaust) valve gear. There was single-gear transmission but the Henderson outclassed its rivals for convenience by having a clutch and a hand-crank starter instead of pedals. A shorter frame, folding kickstarter and three-speed sliding-gear transmission were all Henderson features by 1917.
Following his takeover, Schwinn shifted production from Detroit to the Excelsior factory in Chicago and the Hendersons soon moved on. Tom left the industry but William went on to found the Ace motorcycle company - later taken over by Indian - and thereby had a hand in the design of all the major American-built fours. Schwinn soon abandoned the Hendersons' original design, which was replaced by one drawn up by Henderson engineer Arthur O Lemon. Introduced for 1920, the all-new Excelsior-built Henderson Model K boasted a 1,301cc sidevalve engine equipped with forced lubrication, a twin-downtube frame, strengthened front fork and enclosed rear chain. In an emphatic demonstration of the new Henderson Four's capabilities, Wells Bennett set a new world record on a stock example on 31st May 1922, averaging 65.1mph for 24 hours, a mark that would remain unsurpassed for the next 15 years.
One of the very first motorcycles acquired for the Collection (in 2004), this Henderson Model K was previously owned by Mr Werner Dollenbacher of Durmersheim and comes with German registration papers. The machine is equipped with an Eisemann headlamp and Sondor horn.