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The Mysterious 1913 Jefferson/Waverly

One of the First Overhead Valve Engine Configurations

By Wilburn Roach with photos by Markus Cuff and from the St. Francis and Marquette Museums

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The Jefferson motorcycle was only made for one year--1913!

--St. Francis Motorcycle Museum

St. Francis Motorcycle Museum
St. Francis Motorcycle Museum

This is a strange one. I was also told that only one twin OHV Jefferson exists. As the years pass the stories fade and alter. This particular machine has been a treasured piece on display in the secret Don Whalen/Richard Bunch Collection. I can’t tell you where or I would be in sever trouble. Don is the founder of the Sierra Madre Motorcycle Company.

Somewhere in this article we will discuss where the second 1913 Jefferson twin is. “As soon as someone says there’s only one,” Don said, “three more show up.”

In December 1910, the press announced a new and innovative OHV single engine manufacturer. The Waverly was manufactured in Milwaukee and was the brainchild of Perry E. Mack, who débuted his new vertical-overhead-valve engine in 1910; one of the earliest motorcycles to have valves 'upstairs'.

The company only sold engines initially to the Kenzler Company of Cambridge, Wisconsin, under the Kenzler-Waverly name. The single, and then the twin gained a reputation as an excellent racing puppy, due to the better breathing afforded by overhead valves.

In 1911 the Kenzler team fitted the Waverly single into an Indian Racing chassis and with Ralph Sporleder behind the bars won several events including several open races competing with twins.

In 1911 the company re-organized and moved to Jefferson, Wisconsin. During a board of directors’ meeting the decision was made to change the Waverly engine name to P.E.M. after the founder and designer, who was accomplished in the motorcycle and the automotive industry.

The engines continued to be produced by the Waverly Manufacturing Company until 1913 when they named the motorcycle after the Wisconsin town of Jefferson.

Side Note: Dudley Perkins started his dealership with Al Maggini and sold Deluxe and Jefferson motorcycles in 1913 in San Francisco. Perkins, a racer supported the shop marketing with his racing victories. His successful Jefferson twin was called “little Jeff.”

An interesting feature of the twin roadsters was the use of short-link suspension both front and rear. In each case suspension was controlled by short bell cranks connected to leaf springs, providing 1.5-inch travel to absorb bumps; another innovation from the Waverly Company.

Company names changed during the rough war years and economic times of the area. When the company moved to Jefferson, they ultimately opened Universal Machine Company in Milwaukee. The Mack (P.E.M) motors were manufactured in the twin configuration (7 and 9 Hp) and as OHV singles at 4 and 5 horsepower. The engines were available outside the Jefferson name to other motorcycle builders and cyclecar manufacturers.

WWI rocked the world from 1914 to 1918 and impacted the materials needed to manufacture motorcycles and engines. The Jefferson brand was reliable, well made and fast, but couldn't survive as a company. During 1914 the company closed. Maybe the crew went to war.

Unfortunately, innovation and race wins simply weren't enough to keep small manufacturers alive in those brutal early days of the American motorcycle industry.

This magnificent Jefferson twin was sold to Mike Bahnmaier, of racing fame, Mid-Continent Racing and was once the youngest rider to open a Harley dealership in Salina, Kansas in 1978 at 25. His father had to co-sign for his first shipment of motorcycles, although he was severely nudged by mom. Mike’s been a collector ever since.

Mike loaned this bike, the black cyclone, to the Marquette, Kansas Museum devoted to famous racer Stan Engdahl, who ran a TV and radio repair shop in the town of 600. He also built a dyno, tuned and balanced neighborhood bikes out back, including race engines for Mike. Engdahl took home over 600 racing trophies and was National Scrambles Champ 5 times and Kansas state champion 16 times. During the last race of a season he had a broken leg, but he cut the cast off and raced and won the championship.

When Stan retired, he donated his building to the city for what is now the Kansas Motorcycle Museum. The building needed work, but as you can see it’s a classic and now houses over 100 race and antique bikes. Mike loaned his ’13 Jefferson, a ’28 Cleveland four, a ’39 Indian four, a ’38 Chief and a ’28 single hillclimber. That’s not all, but we’ll end the list there.

Mike also owns another semi-restored Jefferson twin, so there are two of them in Kansas. It’s housed in St. Francis, Kansas, 300 miles from Wichita, but just 180 miles from Denver. Mike’s son, Brett Poling, lives in St. Francis and is very involved in the museum. The town said they would build a motorcycle museum, and a local banker handed over a check for $200,000, after a resident donated the land. “The driveline of this Jefferson is original, but the chassis and tins have been refreshed and painted,” Mike said.

The St. Francis precious motorcycle vault.
The St. Francis precious motorcycle vault.

Ultimately the St. Francis museum became a state-of-the-art 11,000 square-foot motorcycle museum with a twist. “We suggested a tornado-proof basement,” Mike said, “to house the very rare motorcycles.” They live in tornado country. It was determined that the basement would be cost-prohibitive, but they found an alternative. They built a steel incased and reinforced vault in the center of the museum to house the rarest antique bikes from Mike’s collection including an early Pope, an Orient single and of course the Jefferson twin.

Every few years Mike rotates bikes from St. Francis to Marquette almost 300 miles away. He sold his H-D dealerships and has recently helped a young man, David Hope, start a small dealership in Dodge City, with a population of 30,000.

There’s another missing link to this story. Neither of these bikes have swingarm suspension in the rear as claimed. Indian did create a 1914 model with a swingarm, but I would bet the additional costs during WWI was prohibitive. Mike mentioned that the one-year rumor may have come from a name change. “Maybe they called them Waverlys in 1914 dropping the Jefferson name. We need to find a 1914 OHV Waverly with swingarm suspension on the rear… Wait, how about a 1913 single?

Could this be another Jefferson board track racer?
Could this be another Jefferson board track racer?

Hang on for the next antique motorcycle story. If the motorcycle doesn’t tell a wild tale of survival, the collector, the restoration master, or the rider has another twisted tale.

--Wilburn Roach

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Reader Comments

VERY KOOL ! I always love to learn about the history and evolution of one of my favorite subjects.

el Waggs
Oceanside, CA
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Editor Response Hang on for the Nelk coming soon to a theater near you.

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