Across America on a Motor Bicycle 2003
In 1903 a young gentleman from San Francisco by the Name of George A. Wyman rode, pushed, pulled, carried, and crawled his 1902 "California" brand motor bicycle from San Francisco to New York City. He achieved this monumental undertaking before the first automobile crossing by Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson in his Winton Automobile and made better time, finishing his adventure in New York City at the "New York Motorcycle Club" rooms, 1904 Broadway, a mere 50 days after departing San Francisco. Amazingly, over half of Mr. Wyman's journey was accomplished by pounding over the ties of the trans-continental railroad as there were no "real" roads (in the sense that we in the modern age think of roads- asphalt, concrete, or tar and gravel) to travel upon.
Patented and manufactured by Roy C. Marks, the 'California' motor bicycle was produced from 1901 through 1904; in 1904 this company was sold to "Consolidated Manufacturing" of Toledo, Ohio and became the "Yale" motorcycle. 1904 and 1905 were the only years for the "Yale California" ('Yale' make- 'California' model).
Coincidentaly 1903, the year of Mr. Wyman's coast to coast journey, was a landmark year filled with "first" accomplishments. The first "Harley-Davison" motorcycle was produced, the first year of Henry Ford's famous automobile company, as previously mentioned, this was the year of the first automobile crossing of the U.S., the year the first Tour De France bicycle race was run, and the first flight of the Wright Brothers airplane. Just to name a few.
George A.Wyman's account was originally published in a series of articles and in his own words in "The Motorcycle"; a periodical of the time dedicated to motorcycling. "The Motorcycle" was a relatively short lived periodical, in publication from 1903 until 1906, and yet played a key role in the the history of motorcycling. George A. Wyman's incredible account was in their premier issue (Issue 1, Volume1, June 1903). Unfortunately, this accomplishment was for the most part lost and forgotten. George A. Wyman never recieved the credit he was due for this historic feat. This series of articles was found and reprinted in a special edition of "Road Rider" magazine (courtesy of the late Roger Hull) in it's complete form in the late 1970's (1979). Yet again it was lost and forgotten; until a friend of mine discovered it and I recieved in the mail a manila envelope containing a xerox copy of the publication.
At once I began to read of this astonishing account of trial, failure, and triumph. Once finished, I immediately started over again; scarcely believing what I held in my hands! I became enthralled with George Wyman and his incredible feat. I was moved by the great grace and tickled by the humor with which he endured the hardship of this adventure. For nearly 18 months now I have been doing research to find out more about Mr. George A. Wyman, and in July 2003 arrived back home from having finished re-creating his incredible journey to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his achievement.
Born in 1877, in California, to parents George W. Wyman (a house painter) and Arvilda Wyman (maiden name Stickney), George A. was the second youngest of four children and the youngest male child of the Wyman family. In 1902 at age 25, a member of the Bay City Wheelmen and bicycle racer, George A. Wyman became the first person to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains with a motor vehicle in 1902, riding his 1 1/2 horsepower California brand motor bicycle to Reno, Nevada for a bicycle racing event at the Reno Fairgrounds. George arrived on August 31st, 1902 awaiting the arrival of his comrades who brought his racing cycle along, by rail, one week later for the race with rival cyclists the Reno Wheelmen on Sept. 7, 1902. It was this trip to Reno that gave Mr. Wyman the inspiration to attempt the first crossing of the American continent on his motor bicycle. To quote George (from his original 1903 text) while he was travelling over the Sierra mountains: "I was travelling familiar ground. During the previous summer I had made the journey on a California motor bicycle to Reno, Nevada, and knew that crossing the Sierras, even when helped by a motor, was not exactly a path of roses. But it was that tour, nevertheless, that fired me with the desire to attempt this longer journey - to become the first motorcyclist to ride from ocean to ocean."
George A. Wyman left the corner of Market and Kearney streets in San Francicsco, CA at 2:30 P.M on May 16, 1903 and arrived in New York City on July 6, 1903; enduring many hardships and heartbreaks while en route, yet he still manages to tell his story with a great grace, humility, and wit that could only be described as true American spirit. George did become the first motorcyclist to cross this great land of ours, then dissapeared into obscurity recieving no credit in the pages of our history books for his accomplishment. He also seemed to have just disapeared; we have spent the past 18 months doing genealogical research (along with all of the other research concerning the vehicle, the geography of the time, the route travelled, etc.) and have only recently had a breakthrough with the rest of his story. Fortunately, I have been able to discover a little bit about what happened to George A. Wyman after his continental crossing. Here is what we have discovered: It would apper that George continued to follow his interest in motor vehicles as he worked in different capacities relating to motor vehicles. According to the 1910 census George had returned to San Francisco where he was working as a mechanic and chauffer, while residing at the Dorel Hotel, 1507 California Street. The 1920 census tells us that George, at age 43, was at this time married with three children, and was working as a second hand automobile dealer / salesman. His wife Nellie Wyman, (maiden name Lovern) age 41, had brought a child into the union; her son Harold, age 19, was a clerk for the Railroad. George and Nellie had also concieved two children of their own- son William (Billy), age 4; and son Richard, age 2. George A. Wyman had relocated from San Francisco by this time. He and his family apparently were now residing in Eureka, California. In the 1930 Census, George is still living in Eureka, CA with his two sons William and Richard. George is now working as an automobile mechanic. There is no record of his wife Nellie residing with him at this point. Through a search of the Social Security Death Index we discovered that George A. Wyman, the first motorcyclist to cross the Continental United States, left this world November 15, 1959 at age 82 in San Joaquin county, CA. Furthermore, we found that his youngest son, Richard Charles Wyman, passed away on the 29th of August, 1988 in Humbolt county, city of Eureka, CA. We have not found a death for George's son William; yet we have not located him as still living either, although we are continuing to do our research.
In October of 2003, Bob Johnson, who built an exact replica of the California motor bicycle and had it on public display and was heavily involved in the centennial re-enactment, was contacted by a Mr. Jon Wyman, a direct living decendant of George A. Wyman.