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The History of the Three Piece Patch

The history of the three piece patch worn by numerous motorcycle clubs across the world has its roots in racing during the early years of motorcycling, as well as in World War II, and a little California town called Hollister.

As early as 1901, when the first single-cylinder Indian motorcycle rolled out of the factory, clubs were being formed to extend the pastime of motorcycling to groups and social circles. Following the success of Indian and Harley-Davidson, numerous other motorcycle manufacturers like Ace, AJS, and Henderson sprang up. Soon, riders wanted to race their bikes, formed racing clubs, and many of them were sponsored by manufacturers.

The American Motorcyclist Association had been created in 1924 by a motorcycle trade organization to organize motorcycle racing events. Motorcycle clubs at the time adopted uniforms and matching jackets with pants. They designed club logos and sewed them on to the back.

Motorcycle clubs wanted to portray themselves as daring riders on the track, but gentlemanly off. They often wore button-shirts, casual pants, ties, sweaters, and dress shoes at social events. The AMA began giving out awards for the best-dressed club. Most of the early motorcycle clubs were named after their home cities. New York Motorcycle Club, Yonkers Motorcycle Club, Pasadena Motorcycle Club, were examples.

After World War II, American soldiers returned home and many of them continued their wartime camaraderie in the States through motorcycling. They formed motorcycle clubs and named them after the same adventure and adrenaline rush they had been accustomed to in battle.

As early as the 1930s, the AMA sanctioned a motorcycle rally in Hollister, CA. But during WWII, the rally had been cancelled. When the AMA reopened the rally in 1947, it drew a larger-than-expected turnout. Many motorcycle clubs showed up, including the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington, the Boozefighters, the Market Street Commandos, and the Galloping Goose. There were so many motorcyclists, the town couldn’t accommodate them all, let alone police them.

There were reports of drunken motorcyclists riding their bikes and racing in the streets. Bikers were sleeping on sidewalks and lawns due to a lodging shortage. Trash and beer bottles were thrown everywhere.

The event was photographed and publicized in news stories in the San Francisco Chronicle. Originally, it didn’t cause a stir due to other larger stories of that week. But in the days following, Life Magazine republished the photos with little explanation, and caused outrage across the country.

The famous photograph of Eddie Davenport sitting on a motorcycle surrounded by beer bottles became an iconic image of Americans across the country. A witness claimed that media guys had scraped up a bunch of bottles, and positioned a motorcycle in the middle. The first drunk man who exited a nearby bar was called over for a photo. It happened to be Eddie, and the photographer asked him to sit on the bike with a bottle in his hand.

The AMA released a statement saying they had nothing to do with the mayhem in Hollister, and instead blamed it on “the one percent of deviant riders that tarnish the public image of both motorcycles and motorcyclists”. The AMA, however, disputes ever making such a statement.

Posted by admin at 7:34 pm

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