The Pope Motorcycle Co was one of the first production motorcycles to use overhead valves (Hildebrand and Wolfmuller was first; four valves per cylinder too). With full suspension front and rear and that magnificent engine with shaft-driven magneto, plus all-chain drive and a proper clutch, the Pope was the most advanced production motorcycle in the world at that date, 14 years ahead of European bikes generally, and 25 years ahead of the first H-D production OHV machine - the 'Knucklehead' of 1936. JAP produced an OHV engine by 1906, but any English chassis would have been belt-drive and clutchless.
Albert Augustus Pope in 1878 (Harford, Connecticut), to build the 'Columbia High-Wheeler' bicycle, Pope purchased Pierre Lallemont's original patent for the bicycle. His canny business strategy of purchasing bicycle patents meant Pope collected royalties on the booming two-wheel market of the late 1800s, reaping huge profits. It also meant Pope bicycles owned cutting-edge technology, which made them the largest bicycle manufacturer until nearly 1900.
While Albert Augustus was a big supporter of bicycle racing events, teams, and trophies, I've only ever seen one period photograph of a Board Track racing Pope (below), but many photographs exist of converted roadsters. It seems unlikely that Pope funneled money into motorcycle racing - it could be the profits from his powered two-wheelers was disappointing, and as history tells us repeatedly, the motorcycle biz has always been very tough indeed.
US involvement in WW1 (mid-1917), Pope chose to 'follow the money', and ceased motorcycle production by 1918, and reaped profits anew making machine guns for the US military. Pope motorcycles are rare and highly coveted today; they shone brightly for only a moment, yet remain icons of the very advanced thought behind early American motorcycles.
|Shaft-driven 'Armored' magneto, with choo-choo points cap!|
|Lumpy spots on the forks indicates a paint brush-over at some point in the past 100 years|
|A dry climate could have helped keep the metal from oxidizing...although a lack of dings raises eyebrows.|
|The Eclipse clutch.|