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History lesson: When the leader of Yonkers Motorcycle club attempted to break world record

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Heather Clark, Rockland/Westchester Journal News

To celebrate the history of the Lower Hudson Valley, we’re taking a trip back in time with this Back in the Day column. If you’d like to put the spotlight on your Facebook group, please email reporter Heather Clark, hclark@lohud.com. 

Each week, we’re teaming up with Facebook groups from around the area that showcase the history of the Hudson Valley. The column will feature a photo with information about where and when it was taken.

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This Back in the Day photo and information was contributed by Keith May, the club historian of the Yonkers Motorcycle Club. To see more history about the Yonkers Motorcycle Club, visit their Facebook page: Facebook.com/yonkers.m

George A. Ellis became one of the earliest and most recognizable motorcycle enthusiasts of the early 20th Century. As a world record endurance holder, promoter, dealer and motorcycle enthusiast, Ellis quickly set out on a record breaking career that would span several decades. As the founder and first president of the Yonkers Motorcycle Club, Ellis took on the role of motorcycle courier from Governor Cox of Massachusetts to Calvin Coolidge, following Coolidge’s election to the vice presidency. In addition to the many racing records that he acquired over the years, he served as State Commissioner to the Federation of American Motorcycles for a number of years.

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A self published article taken from a popular motorcycle magazine ‘Motorcycle Illustrated’ (a magazine from the early 1900’s) detailed his attempt on Thanksgiving Day:

“On last Thanksgiving Day I made a try at the 1000 mile record at the Empire track in Yonkers, starting on Thanksgiving Eve. I had thought the road run for twenty hours was bad but the try on Thanksgiving Eve was the hardest riding I experienced since I mounted the saddle.

“The white frost that night could be scraped off the machine with a knife, and went through my clothes like water. I was so chilled that night I could hardly pilot the machine, but I was game and stuck to the grind until day break. After the nineteenth hour with all its hardships, some one went into the grandstand and flooded the back stretch of the track, which of course obliged me to stop riding.

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“I was aware that I could not break the record well along in the early part of the night as I was surely jinxed. I had broken five chains and had ten punctures, which put me out of the running as the track was dark and I lost all the spare chains I had and we were compelled to look for them.

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“Up to the time I was stopped I had made 777 miles in nineteen hours of riding for one could easily take time I lost looking for broken chains and fixing punctures. That’s all in the game and we must take what we get. At any rate I am game enough to take another try on May 30th and 31st.

“Fraternally yours, George A. Ellis, State Commissioner”

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