“A man in the street once remarked: ‘When I think, or hear, or see motorcycles I always think of the Indian.’ This psychology might be applied further in the sense that to think of the Indian is to think of Oscar Hedstrom, its creator, for the two are inseparably linked. In the vocabulary of the day, Hedstrom was the man who put the ‘mote’ in motorcycles, ‘way back in 1901, and the Indian has been ‘moting’ pretty steadily ever since.
Sweden has a reputation for turning out some pretty good inventors, and the standard was not lowered any by the production of Oscar Hedstrom. Rather it was enhanced measurably. America, the land of opportunity, looked pretty good to Hedstrom’s parents about the time he was nine years old, and they ‘obeyed that impulse.’ Brooklyn school-marms were entrusted with grounding the lad from the Land of the Midnight Sun, in the three ‘R’s.’ Their lot was an unenviable one, for although an apt pupil, young Hedstrom much preferred teaching’s of Peck’s ‘Bad Boy.’
When the grammar institution finished with Hedstrom, his shop career commenced. He entered a watch case factory, and when he came out he was a crackajack toolmaker. Before graduating from the shop classroom, he took up bicycle racing, which was the proper thing in those days, 1894.
At first he raced outside of shop hours, and gradually made the sport his profession. Hedstrom was more than an ordinary rider, for he won the one-half-mile indoor championship at Madison Square Garden in 1899, with Eddie Bald, Arthur Gardiner, Nat Butler, Harry Caldwell and other stars in the final. Before he had been racing long, Hedstrom was conceited enough to think that he could build better racing wheels than a lot of other people were building.
He went ahead and built a few, and the men who rode them won so easily with them that the builder became well known almost overnight. . .
[Soon Hedstrom’s wheels bore the nameplates for major companies. Hedstrom next tackled the DeDion motors and was quite successful.]
Hedstrom knew more about motors in those days than any of the other racing men, and when they wanted their machines ‘dinged’ they asked him to do it. [For $10 Hedstrom would completely overhaul a motor.]
Middletown, Conn., 40 miles below Springfield, on the Connecticut River, was the birthplace of the Indian motorcycle in the spring of 1901. Here, in the plant of the Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company, where earlier he had built racing bicycles and motor tandems, Hedstrom secluded himself from the world, put on his apron and went to work, and in four months the Indian was born. He made all his drawings, and some of the patterns for that first machine.
Now Hedstrom had the utmost confidence that his machine would run, and he insisted on having every part nickeled or enameled and completely finished before he took it out for trial. There were some who had serious doubts that the machine would run, and they couldn’t understand why Hedstrom insisted on wasting time, as they thought finishing a machine which had never been tried.
Hedstrom wasn’t saying anything, but the first time he took the machine out, he gave a demonstration that made the skeptics feel like a flat tire. Although the engine was only 1 ¾ horsepower, Hedstrom picked out a 9 percent hill and towed a 180-pound rider on a bicycle up it, to utter astonishment of his audience, including George M. Hendee. This was President Hendee’s first demonstration of the capabilities of the machine, on the manufacture of which he staked his fortunes.
Then Hedstrom came back to motor racing, not with a tandem, but with the Indian, to which he now gave himself over entirely. Early in the twentieth century threw was a bicycle track circuit in New England, and Hedstrom used to go to these meets and give exhibitions. This was along in 1902 and 1903. . .
At the first big automobile race meet on the beach at Daytona, Fla., in 1903, Hedstrom was on hand and made some of the big cars look like canal boats for speed. For the next few years he was on hand at all the big motorcycle events. In 1907 he stopped racing and settled down to develop the Indian.
[Hedstrom not only developed the machine, he developed riders who became winners including all the top names of the day. He put them on Indians and taught them to win races.]
Of late years Hedstrom has played a new role. After starring as an inventor, designer, and rider, he went into the architectural field and planned all the new buildings of the Indian plant, since it first was moved to the present site. He also keeps tabs on the experimental work, and is a sort of advisory board all in himself. When something in the shop gets snarled up they come to him.
Hedstrom doesn’t live in Springfield anymore; that is, legally. He has a beautiful country place at Portland, 40 miles down the river, and travels back and forth in his car. His present hobby is motor boating, and he has won the motor boat championship of the Connecticut two years in succession, with Indian I and Indian II. His clubs are the Royal Automobile Club of Great Britain, Springfield Yacht, and Nyasset.”
Source: “Motorcycle Illustrated”. 1913.