Minneapolis Michaelson Team Invent Early Motorcycles

If you’re a Minneapolis motorcyclist, you have the privilege of cruising around in a city that played a major role in the invention of your favorite vehicle. The Minneapolis Michaelson Team is a historic team of motorcycle inventors who paved the way for the durable, fast, well-designed bikes we use today. These fellow Minneapolis residents shaped the art of motorcycling. 

Here’s what you need to know about the Michaelson team, famous Minneapolis motorcycle inventors.

The Michaelson Brothers

Jack, Anton, Walter, and Paul Michaelson were brothers who created a small Minnesota company that blazed a trail for motorcycle innovations. They built their brick motorcycle factory in 1908, positioning it on Fifth Street South directly across the Mississippi River from Thiem Manufacturing Co. 

Thiem, another small motorcycle manufacturer in the area, played a significant role in developing the Michaelsons’ first motorcycles. The Michaelson brothers supplied their first motorcycle engines from Thiem Manufacturing, building their first motorcycle quickly after the opening of their shop. 

The first inaugural bike was named “Minneapolis” after their hometown. These brothers not only enjoyed building motorcycles, but they also appreciated the art of racing. Racing was another factor that contributed significantly to the expansion of motorcycles across the U.S. Those who didn’t participate in races came to watch, rapidly spreading the popularity of the craft. The brothers won various racing titles in 1909 and 1910, including at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

The Invention of the Side-Valve Engine

While the Michaelson brothers dedicated some of their time to racing, they also worked hard to develop motorcycle innovations that could improve the speed, comfort, and power of these vehicles. In 1911, three years after opening their shop, they designed one of the first side-valve engines in the motorcycle industry. 

This large, single-cylinder engine relied on the ‘F-Head’ design, featuring 590 ccs, a 2.5-inch bore, and a 3.75-inch stroke. The machine sold for $265, and the Michaelson brothers installed it in their new version of their original Minneapolis bike. 

This new motorcycle design was the first United States-manufactured motorcycle to include a two-speed layshaft gearbox. The brothers placed the timing chest on the “wrong” side of the engine, a feature that became an identifiable aspect of their future bikes. 

With the introduction of this new Minneapolis design, the Michaelson brothers became known as innovative, almost futuristic manufacturers. Their bikes began including advanced features that other United States manufacturers failed to include until the 1950s or later. 

The Michaelson’s V-Twin Motor

As Michaelson motorcycles increased in popularity, the Michaelson brothers continued adding features that set their bikes apart from the rest. In 1912, the company added a v-twin engine to its list of features. This Minneapolis motorcycle inventor placed the engine backward compared to the placement of other motorcycle engines at the time. This feature also set the company apart from manufacturers like Sears, DeLuxe, and Dayton.

The Impact of WWI on Motorcycle Production

World War I impacted many industries, including motorcycle manufacturing. Many American motorcycle manufacturers participated in military contracts to produce necessary goods and equipment for the War. Those that didn’t join these contracts — such as Michaelson — struggled to handle the rising labor and material costs resulting from inflation.

Michaelson struggled to stay afloat during this period of severe inflation. In April 1914, the brothers decided to sell their manufacturing company to Wilcox Motor Co. Still, you can often find Michaelson motorcycles on display at motorcycle history museums, demonstrating the innovation the brothers poured into the craft. 

Now that you know all about this famed Minneapolis motorcycle inventor, you can have a stronger appreciation for being a Minneapolis motorcyclist. If you ever cause or become a victim of a motorcycle accident in the Minneapolis or Twin Cities region, call Law Tigers at (888) 863-7216. Law Tigers – motorcycle attorneys who ride –  will refer you to a motorcycle attorney in your area.