Heritage 1876 - 1931

The story of what later would become the Excelsior-Henderson brand, began through the efforts of the son of a German immigrant, George T. Robie, who founded the Excelsior Supply Company in Chicago, IL, in 1876.  The company was a distributor, specializing early on with sewing machine parts, however during the 1880s, the popularity of bicycles grew and the company branched out into all forms of cycle parts, becoming one of the largest suppliers in the United States. When automobiles were in their infancy, Excelsior again expanded its distribution business and by 1905 became one of the largest distributors of machinery and automotive parts and supplies.

George Robie had one son, Frederick Carelton Robie, who joined the Excelsior company around 1900 and was interested in manufacturing complete vehicles of motorcycles and automobiles. His father preferred to remain in distribution and avoid the difficulties of manufacturing a complete vehicle. However, Excelsior did become involved with a complete motorcycle, and started selling some built from assembled parts in the early 1900s, subsequently launching their own proprietary motorcycle in the 1905-1907 timeframe. With the company's vast history of distribution, the Excelsior motorcycle sold well and the company had trouble keeping up with the orders.
(adapted from story by R. Turek, Antique Motorcycle Club of America)

The Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle Manufacturing Company resurrected the brand and continues to pay great homage to the heritage. In the factory Riders Handbook originally printed in 1999, there is a section devoted to the history, which is believed to be among the most accurately recorded in one document.  Please press START on the link below, and you will be taken to a new page that will allow you to view an adapted version. It is approx. 50 pages, so you will need to wait while it downloads, depending upon your internet connection speed. If you have a dialup connection, you will not want to click unless you can wait for the download...

Press the  START  button to launch the look-back in time...