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Slide the cover up, and it reveals something a little more intriguing. This was a hangtag given out to customers and fans of the company’s famed Wrecking Crew—the factory-sponsored race team—ahead of the big road race held in Marion, Indiana in September of 1919. This race was important not only because it was the first major event held after WWI ended, but also because the Harley team swept the competition, taking first, second, and third. Printed inside are schedules for trains connecting Marion with Chicago, Cincinnati, and the East Coast. It also notes the team lineup, identified by the different color sweaters each wore, including winners Red Parkhurst, Ralph Hepburn, and Otto Walker.
What gets me though can’t be seen in the just the object itself—it’s a portal into a bigger story. A 1919 newsreel of the Marion race is in the collection at the Library of Congress. Several times in the grainy old film people appear with the hangtag pinned to their coat or suspended from their belt. For me, this humble paper object has the power to connect us to people who were at that race nearly one hundred years ago. I think about how they cheered, and what they saw, heard, and even smelled as the bikes crossed the finish line.