Robert M. Keating started the Keating Wheel Company in Westfield, Massachusetts on September 10,1890 after working as the superintendent at the Warwick Cycle Company in Springfield and before that with the Overman Wheel Company in Chicopee, Massachusetts. The first Keating Wheel Company factory was a leased space in an existing factory building formerly used by the Westfield Whip Company located on Elm Street in Westfield. The factory employed ten men and by the spring of 1891 the Keating Wheel Company turned out the first seventy-five Keating wheels. They are called “The Superior.”
On July 2, 1891 the company was reorganized with a new board of directors and in January 1892, the Keating Wheel Company moved its operations into a new factory located at 30 Dwight Street in Holyoke, MA. By 1892 the company had 300 employees. Over the next five years the company produced some of the lightest, strongest and fastest bicycles made at the time, along with introducing the innovative and unique Keating curved center brace design, celebrated by the tag line, “See That Curve” on all its advertising.
The bicycle boom in America hit its stride in 1895 and the Keating Wheel Company again found itself in the position of needing to expand. Revealing their intentions to leave Holyoke, the company was courted by cities and towns in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. Middletown, Connecticut made the most attractive offer and on the evening of May 23, 1896, an official agreement to relocate the Keating Wheel Company to Middletown was signed. A brand new two-story, 1000-foot long factory was constructed on two parcels of land purchased by the company on “the old race course near the Berlin branch road” which will become Johnson Street. The factory’s machinery was designed to run completely by electricity – the first manufacturing plant in the country to do so. It was also designed and equipped with more than bicycles in mind.
In 1898 the Keating Wheel Company began manufacturing motor carriages for use as delivery vehicles along with the Keating wheel. The following year the company changed its name to the Keating Wheel and Automobile Company and its first production model motorized delivery wagon was presented to the market in November of 1899. The giant Siegel-Cooper department store in New York City made the first purchase.
In June and July of 1900, Keating filed a series of patents for a motorized bicycle (he will file over 50 patents over his lifetime, including the patent for the home plate now used in baseball) and by November the first Keating motor bicycle was tested on the company grounds using Keating’s patented designs. Unfortunately, the Keating Wheel and Automobile Company ran into serious financial difficulties and went into receivership that same July.
In 1901, Oscar Hedstrom, under contract with the Hendee Manufacturing Company, leased space at the factory previously used by the Worcester Bicycle Manufacturing Company, also in Middletown, and is developing a motor bicycle of his own. The Keating Wheel Company released their motor bicycle into the market in March of 1901. Hedstrom completed a prototype of his motor bicycle at the end of May and shipped it up to the Hendee Manufacturing Company in Springfield for testing. Hedstrom’s motor bicycle would become the Indian Moto-cycle.
On June 15, 1901, the Keating Wheel Company was sold to the Eisenhuth Horseless vehicle Company. Over the next year they continued to build and sell the Keating motor bicycle until it was abandoned to make way for automobile production. Keating continued to develop engines for motor bicycles and marine use in Middletown under the name Keating Motor Company until going into bankruptcy in August of 1906. The Eisenhuth Horseless vehicle Company went bankrupt five months later.
On August 26, 1914, Keating sued the Hendee Manufacturing Company for patent infringement in their design of the Indian Moto-Cycle, traditionally considered the first American motorcycle. On October 30, 1917, Keating sued the Harley-Davidson Motor Company for patent infringement. Keating won both suits. The Keating Motor bicycle that was running around the Middletown factory in November of 1900 is the first original, commercially designed motorcycle in the United States.
Around 1982, the Keating Wheel Company was resurrected, originally as a way to obtain information on the original company.
We specialize in un-restored originals/barn fresh antique and classic motorcycles, light restorations, some brokering and special requests. We have sold motorcycles to all of the major motorcycle museums in the USA! BPK!!
"Historical information above from the forthcoming book on the Keating Wheel Company" R.K.Keating