Indian Motorcycle was originally founded in 1901 as the Hendee Manufacturing Company. The company was acquired by George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom who renamed it Indian Motorcycle. But few know why they named it Indian Motorcycle. So why did Indian Motorcycles name themselves after the Indians? They did this to honor the Native American people, specifically Chief Sitting Bull of Sioux Nation, who had fought against General Custer at Little Big Horn.
History of the Native Indian American name ‘Indian
The Story Behind Indian Motorcycle’s Name: “Indian” is a word that originates from the Cherokee people, who were one of the first groups to encounter Europeans in North America. When English-speaking settlers came into contact with them, they called these Native Americans “Indians.” The name stuck and eventually became synonymous with anyone from the Americas.
Did the Native American people like Indian Motorcycles being named after them?
How do we know? Because George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom had Chief Sitting Bull’s blessing before they made the change to Indian Motorcycle.
Before long, Indian became a household name after World War II, when it was marketed as an inexpensive bike for returning veterans who were looking for transportation or just something to tinker with on.
Indian Motorcycle also became associated with the larger-than-life Wild West, which helped to fuel its popularity.
The company went on for a while in this regard (even though it wasn’t making money) until they finally fell into bankruptcy and stopped production in 1953. In 2009, Polaris Industries purchased Indian and revived the brand by bringing it back to its roots: producing powerful, heavy-duty bikes with a strong connection to the early days of motoring.
Indian Motorcycles in the 40s & 50s
Leading into the 40s and 50s Indian Motorcycles were known for their power, durability and beauty.
Indian Motorcycles made its way into pop culture in a number of ways: the aforementioned Western movies that would often feature Indians as central characters; Tom Mix, who served as America’s first cowboy hero and starred in more than 100 films using an Indian motorcycle to chase down criminals or other outlaws; and in 1950, when Steve McQueen was gifted an Indian Chief motorcycle.
Indian Motorcycles in the 60s & 70s
In the 60’s and 70’s, Indian Motorcycles were known for their beauty as much as they were power, but it would be short-lived: from 1963 to 1970 Indian produced more than. 28,000 motorcycles.
Indian Motorcycles in the 80s
In 1980 or so, Indian sold more than 45% of all its production to customers outside the US and was profitable for a time with low sales costs, but by 1982 it had been driven out of business because they couldn’t keep up with Japanese motorcycle manufacturers who were selling at. A price that was two to three times lower.
Indian Motorcycles in the 90s
In 1990, Indian agreed to be purchased by a group of investors led by William F. Harley Jr., son of company founder William A. Davidson and grandson of one-time competitor Walter Davidson who had successfully manufactured motorcycles for years with financial. And technical assistance from the British company Triumph.
Indian Motorcycles in the 2000s
In 2002, Indian began producing its first motorcycles since 1951 at a new plant in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. For many years before that their only motorcycle production was limited to importing bikes from England (under license). The US Department of Defense granted Harley-Davidson a contract to produce the MQM-92 Indian Scout.
Indian Motorcycles in the 2010s
In 2011, Polaris Industries purchased Indian with plans to invest heavily into revitalizing and expanding its product line. This included new production of some existing models (now called Chief) as well as development of new motorcycle platforms for street and off-road.
In November 2011, Indian unveiled a prototype Chief of the Roadster at EICMA in Italy. The production version of this motorcycle was released to dealerships on July 12, 2012 as an early 2013 model year bike for $18,999 USD.
The future is bright for Indian Motorcycles, with new products and a world-class manufacturing facility on the horizon.
In 2011, Polaris Industries purchased Indian with plans to invest heavily into revitalizing and expanding its product line. This included a new production of some existing models (now called Chief) as well as the development of new motorcycle platforms for the street and off-road. Polaris pledged to invest $100 million in the company’s manufacturing facility, creating 600 new jobs for Indian employees and an estimated 150 construction jobs from building a brand-new factory on property adjacent to its current location in Springfield Ohio
Polaris CEO Scott Wine says “Indian Motorcycles will be profitable within six months”.
Indian Motorcycles has a deep, rich history with the American spirit and is now poised to make an incredible comeback in America’s motorcycle market!
Once again Indian motorcycles are now proudly made here at home, close to our roots and heritage as well as for all those who have supported us over the years.
Whilst Indian Motorcycle was not the first motorcycle ever made, it is proud to be an American bike and a part of our country’s history.