Pope Motorcycles were manufactured from 1914 to 1920, and in 1914 with a top speed of 70 miles per hour were the fastest American manufactured motor bike of the time. There is no doubt the Model L Pope Motorcycles were well advanced in their design having an OHV V twin engine [61 cubic inch or 1000 cc], 3 speed gearbox with chain drive, front wheel was a leaf spring with the rear was also sprung with twin coils. Looks very much like the plunger setup that was later popular on many makes, especially British bikes during the late 40’s to mid 50’s. Triumph was the exception here, their Speed Twin had a rear sprung hub. This hub was quite large containing 2 springs, one above the axle, other below and gave the rear suspension a movement of 2 inches. Triumph offered it on their parallel twins from 1946 to 1955. It was a pig, dangerous especially when becoming worn, and became known as both a pain in the rear end and one of the weirdest and worst rear suspension systems of all time.
In 1914 only a few makes had a sprung front wheel, I can’t think of any with a sprung back wheel. Engines were generally side valve and belt drive was the normal way of driving the rear wheel.
The company was founded in 1876 by Albert Pope with the company manufacturing bicycles, later named Columbia. In 1897 Pope started making Electric automobiles, through to 1899 making a total of 500 over the two years. Unfortunately Albert Pope born 1843 went bankrupt in 1907, and died in 1909. He had left school by the age of 9, and went on to build quite an empire. His main activity was bicycles, and he would purchase any patent relating to bicycles, threaten to sue other manufacturers if they looked remotely like doing a slightest copy of the patent, but then let them off if they agreed to pay him a $10 royalty on each bicycle they made. Cunning move to gain recurring monthly revenue.
Pope re-entered the automobile industry in 1901 buying up a number of small car manufacturers. He is credited as being the first car manufacturer to utilize the practice of mass production. In 1900 Pope’s factories in Hartford produced more motor vehicles than any other factory in the world. I wonder how much Henry Ford learnt from Albert Pope about assembly line production?
This would have been the bike to own in 1914, click and see for yourself.
Thank you Jay Leno for doing this video. Photos are taken from the video.