Art Deco Motorcycles


First there is what I had supposed was a “one and only,” a streamliner built on a 1931 Henderson KJ chassis by one crazy dude, Orley Courtney, in 1935 or so. The bike was an obvious choice, since all Hendersons beginning about 1912 were 4-in line, IOE engined and the engines had been refined over time and grown from 67 cid up to 80. The KJ was the last Henderson model, as Schwinn canceled all his side enterprises in 1933 to focus on bicycles for the Depression. The KJ was made from 1929 - 32.

At the beginning of the depression, the Big 3 American bikes were HarleyDavidson, Indian, and Henderson. At this point in time, there are probably more Hendersons extant in Europe than in the US due to Schwinn’s marketing arm (he bought the company in 1926.)


I rode a Henderson 4 of some sort when in high school, late fifties. It belonged to some old bird in my town and was not in top shape.

In particular, it was missing the cover on the left side that protected the spark plugs and wiring. The first corner I came to, I naturally grabbed the bike with my knees, only to get blown off of it into someone’s yard by the ignition system. I’ll never forget it.


So here is the Orley Courtney bike, truly smashing. It’s documented and mostly original, although there has been restoration.




We didn’t have no Hendersons when I was a kid, we had to pee on electric fences to get that kind of a thrill.

I did not know Schwinn ever built motor scooters. Interesting.


But this year, another streamliner has come to light, said to be built on a 1930 KJ along similar lines. This photo is clearly from Berlin, and there is only the one photo in circulation as far as I know. So assuming the owner is German, I’m thinking it may be a recent build using the ideas of the Courtney bike.


Reminds me of the Lightcycle from the New(er) Tron that someone made.