[ca. 1941] · [Oregon]
A scarce and revealing collection of more than 100 views of pre-World War II, West Coast motorcycle club culture with a clear outsider sense of identity, predating the post-war non-conformity associated with the accepted dawn of modern biker culture by more than a decade. "St. Helen's Motorcycle Club" can be gleaned, in raised felt letters to the rear of member's sweaters from 2 separate photographs. License plate and vehicle model views clearly indicate 1941 and print quality to some images suggests slightly earlier as well.
Dozens of views capture leather clad riders atop early-1940's Harley-Davidson and Indian models in apparently ad-hoc flat-track racing, hill climbs, and group rides; a particularly compelling series of 4 prints chronicles what appears to be a rider crashing through a flaming wall of wood. Several prints of imposing rows of bikes parked along city streets and a single print of riders blocking a Downtown Portland street while riding in a circle in front of onlookers, coupled with images of leather-clad members making out and drinking suggest the St. Helen's club reveled in its outsider status. The prevalence of "outlaw" motorcycle clubs rose to prominence after World War II, with the infamous Hollister riot of 1947 and the Lee Marvin, Marlon Brando film THE WILD ONES (1953), based on events there, widely credited with the birthing of rock-and-roll style and 20th century youth culture. Therefore an early primary document from the birth of rock-and-roll style and 20th century youth culture. (Inventory #: 23244)