George A. Wyman - A Sesquicentennial feature story

George A. Wyman was the first person to cross America on a motorized vehicle.  -Photo courtesty of Tim Masterson

by Kathy Pierce

with assistance of Tim Masterson,

Project Manager for George A. Wyman Memorial Project


The town of Ogden goes down in history as playing a small part in a man’s historic motorcycle ride across America. George A. Wyman’s brief stop in Ogden is commemorated on a bronze-tone plaque that will soon be erected here. It reads: 


In 1903, George A. Wyman became the first motorcyclist to make a transcontinental trip across America. He was the first ever to cross America by means of a motorized vehicle. He rode a 1903 California motorcycle (200cc and 1.25 hp) designed by Roy C. Marks.

On Sunday, June 14, Wyman stopped for the night in Ogden, Iowa. He likely stayed at the Ogden Hotel on Walnut Street. The next morning he sought the services of the Marquardt Blacksmith Shop at the corner of Walnut and SW 5th Streets, to repair the rear axle and coaster brake of his motorcycle. It was 11:30  a.m. before he departed, riding the 11 miles to Boone where he stopped for lunch.


Tim Masterson project manager for the George A. Wyman Memorial Project, is promoting the story by marking points along the way from San Francisco to New York City. The signs identify locations cited in Wyman’s personal narrative.

In August, 1979,  Road Rider Magazine republished the original narrative that was published only once in Motorcycle Magazine, in five parts, June - October, 1903.

Below is a transcribed copy of an article as it appeared in the Road Rider Magazine, August 1979 issue.


Leg IV

Through the Valleys of the Two Great Rivers to Chicago


It had been my design when I started to take the more southerly route from Omaha, by way of Kansas City and St. Louis to Chicago, because I understood that, although the distance is greater, I would find better riding by so doing. When I came along, however, all that country was under water, one might say, so I decided to follow the route of the Northwestern Railroad past Ames, from which a spur of the road runs south to Des Moines. For the credit of the country, I hope the southerly route is better than the one I followed. On the whole, Iowa gave me as much vile traveling as any State that I crossed.

Enroute to Ogden


I started from Denison at 8 a.m., taking to the railroad. After going five miles the roadbed became so bad that I could not ride, and I sought the highway. This did not help me much, for I was able to ride only a little way at a time, and then walk anywhere from 100 yards to a mile. My coaster brake, which had begun to give me trouble the day before, became on this day a coaster broke. The threads of the axle were stripped, and, while the brake would not work, the coaster worked overtime, so that I could not start the bicycle by pedaling; I had to run it along and then hop on. This day, July(sic) 14, was the hottest I had yet encountered.