by Gus Breiland

Sooner or later, you get nostalgic. With nostalgia comes history. Whether it be for family, your country, whatever your passion may be, you begin to need to know where it came from. Who founded it, who created it, who molded it into what you have today.   When you walk into the shops and basements of some of your favorite riding friends’ homes, their motorcycle lair is covered in Easy Rider posters, vintage bike pictures and trophies from their yesteryear. Family riding photos hang next to old gear or parts. That friend is displaying their history, their museum, their nostalgia.   2008 brings the 150th birthday of Minnesota. There are events and public displays statewide this year sharing our history. While sitting and reading some motorcycle discussion pages this cold winter, dreaming of riding, a few people have stumbled across the photo archive section of the Minnesota Historical Societies web site.   If you go to on the MNHS web site, you will see that collection I.16 is where you want to start. I.16 is a collection of Minnesota Motorcycle photographs from 1910-1987. There are 100 images available to peruse online and even buy. While not a gigantic treasure trove of images, it is still enough to make you think about our 2-wheeled fore-fathers. The winter goofs who ride in sub 32-degree weather have existed for years. Motorcycles have been a piece of transportation history, even in Minnesota and as you can see by the example photo, Minnesota has had their share of clowns on motorcycles, too. Search ‘motorcycle’ in the photo archive and a few more images show up.

While I was considering what images I would like for my man cave, the clown photo gave me a chance to play a practical joke while donating to the Minnesota Historical Society. A win win in my book. A friend, I’ll call him Mike, doesn’t like clowns. This isn’t a huge piece of news, as most people it seems get a bit squeamish around the white-faced devils. I have given him other gifts that relate to clowns, because I want to take advantage of his irrational fear.   Mike has caught wind of my irrational hatred of monkeys. He has decided to litter my shop space with cute little monkey widgets and hoo ha’s. I in turn have pasted his shop walls with all things clowns.   An 8 x 10 matte finish, personal use photo ran about $15 plus shipping, another $2. Prices vary on size, use and delivery, but for a few nice photos the price seems very reasonable. I am in Minneapolis so the standard ground delivery took about a week and a quick trip to the local frame shop for a cheap frame created a tasteful ribbing of Mike’s Coulrophobia. You can choose an option to pick it up at the Minnesota Historical Society, saving you the shipping charge. An excellent option that will allow you to go down and spend a cold winter’s day in a warm building, thinking of something other than the lack of riding weather. (Ed. Gus, you can ride in the winter. I do, why don’t you? Ya big monkey hatin’ baby?)   With vintage photos, profits benefiting the Minnesota Historical Society and tasteful practical jokes, the ability to give historical photos as gifts has a lot of benefits. I like old photos as do many others. Now we have an opportunity to add to our collection from the comfort of our own home.   Being that our historical society does not have a huge database of historical motorcycle photos, I am also thinking we should all leaf through our photo boxes and donate some of our personal archives. We could help them build a better database of images and put Minnesota Motorcyclists on the map, so to speak. Their web site has a donations page that will help you start this process.


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