Founded by brothers William and Tom Henderson in 1911, the Henderson Motorcycle Company was the first American manufacturer to introduce the kick-stand. Their first offering was a 56 cubic inch, 7 horsepower model that featured a folding hand crank for starting. The bikes quickly set the pace for long distance and endurance records. In 1913, a 1912 Model A circled the globe and in 1917 a Model G shattered the Transcontinental long distance and 24-hour records. In 1922 Harley-Davidson challenged Henderson to a contest in which Henderson won 11 out of 12 heats. 1922 also saw a Model K set a 24-hour endurance record that would stand for 11 years. The Streamline was introduced in 1929 and boasted a variety of innovations, including 57 new features, 40 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and top speeds of over 100 mph. The Henderson in-line engine was a favorite of light plane builders for its smooth, quiet, vibrationless power. One such engine was used in the Museum’s Milliken Special.
In 1917 Henderson sold out to Ignaz Schwinn of Schwinn bicycle fame and manufacturer of the Excelsior Motorcycles, who produced it as the Excelsior-Henderson. However, n the summer of 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression, Ignaz Schwinn called it quits, telling his department heads, “Gentlemen, today we stop.”