History of Laconia Motorcycle Week | 1925 – 1945
Even though the back of the 1925 reward was engraved with the words “Perfect Score”, no “Perfect Score” in an endurance run was required. The June, 1925 Harley Davidson Enthusiast magazine noted that the 1925 award would be presented to any registered AMA rider or sidecar passenger who completed the Gypsy Tour. The award was also versatile. As noted, “…If you do not care to use it as a fob, then file away the strap loop and you have a dandy emblem, provided with three holes to mount on your motorcycle or sidecar.”
LET’S RIDE! Instructions to the club captains (“Gypsy Tourmasters”) for the 1932 Gypsy Tour.
1934 Gypsy Tour article
Everybody’s Going –Are You? “SURE–LET”S GO! To pique riders interest, a variety of events are held. A September 1-2, 1935, Pomona CA Gypsy Tour program lists regular races and hill climbs, plus Ladies Three Legged Race, Kick the Can Race, Austrian Pursuit Race, Boots and Cap Race, Barrel Race, assorted “Dig Out” Races, and awards for Neatest Looking Rider and Machine; Oldest Rider at Rally; Oldest Machine Ridden To and From Rally; and Longest Distance Rider.
Another promotional Gypsy Tour article in the Harley-Davidson Enthusisast magazine by writer “Uncle” Hap Hayes
In 1937, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, held its Gypsy Tour in conjunction with its annual motorcycle race. The area had been running motorcycle races for many years prior to 1937 (see the 1930 article, above). While the souvenir program advertises this Gypsy Tour as the 21st, it was referring to the National series of Gypsy Tours. It is unknown when Old Orchard Beach had its first Gypsy Tour, or ran its first race.
100-Mile National Championship motorcycle racers on the beach at Old Orchard. The Hotel Vesper (1907-1984) is seen in the background. 1937 was the last year of National Championship racing at Old Orchard, as the race moved to Laconia the following year. Also, a list of 1937 racers from the above program.
In 1938 motorcycle racing began at the Belknap Mountain Recreation area in Gilford. Fritzie Baer, who was instrumental in bringing the race to Laconia from Old Orchard, stands hidden, 3rd from the left. The 1938 National Championship race was unusual in several respects. It was the first official Laconia race. It was the only 200 mile race ever held at Laconia. And it was held in September rather than the usual June. The “TT”, captioned in the photo, literally means Tourist Trophy and was based on the Isle of Man TT race, an annual road course motorcycle race that began in 1907, and which is still the most well-known and challenging road race held in Europe.
The first TT racing in New Hampshire had occured only a few years earlier, in 1934, 1935 and 1936 in Keene, NH. The 1935 race was a 200 miler, held at Keene’s Safford Park the weekend of July 13-14, the same weekend as the Keene Gypsy Tour. The Keene races were sponsored by the NEMDA and by Fritzie’s Roamers (Baer’s Springfield, MA motorcycle club). This medal was given to the entrants in the 1936 race.
1934 &1935 programs. While these were the 18th and 19th tours nationally, they were the first and second official tours in Keene.
Official 1939 program cover and (incomplete) list of racers.
Below are the winners of the first 100 mile race, and second National Championship race, to be held at Laconia. Sam Davis was the runner-up.
Before the advent of motorcycle racing at the Belknap Mountain Recreation area in Gilford in 1938, the New England Gypsy Tour officially took place in Laconia. During the first three years of racing, from 1938-1940, Laconia (or Weirs, as seen on the cover of the 1940 program below) was still the official center of the rally. In 1941, for the first time, Gilford became an official part of the rally, when the program advertised the rally location as “Weirs, N.H.-Gilford, N.H.”. After WWII, from 1946-1949, official programs referred to the “Laconia-Gilford” rally. The 1950-1951 program covers mention only Gilford. However, from 1952 onward, the official program covers dropped Gilford, proclaiming the rally as the “Laconia” rally.
The rally became tightly associated with the racing in Gilford because of the many non-race activities that took place at the Belknap Recreation Area in the late 40’s and 50’s. Now, only a very small percentage of motorcyclists who visit Laconia for the rally actually attend the races, now located in Loudon.
1939 Motorcyclist magazine cover. This issue had numerous articles about female Motorcyclists, some written by the ladies themselves.
Official program and list of racers
Laconia held its 25th annual “New England” Gypsy Tour and “National” Championship Road Race in 1941. But for Old Orchard Beach, the pre-1938 site of the race, the 1940 and 1941 rallies were the 1st and 2nd Annual “Maine” Gypsy Tours and “New England” Championship races. The Old Orchard Beach rally was permanently discontinued during World War II. All Gypsy Tours were suspended during World War II; while Laconia revived its rally after the War, other locales did not.
a Harley Davidson press release and poster
World War II. There was no Gypsy Tour in Laconia.
1943 – 1945
World War II. There were no Gypsy Tours anywhere in the USA.