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My Grandmother Rides a Flanders 4 Motorcycle!

Updated on January 5, 2020
Virginia Allain profile image

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

Here's Ruth Vining on Her Brother's Motorcycle

This is Ruth Vining of Tyro, Kansas on a Flanders 4 motorcycle.
This is Ruth Vining of Tyro, Kansas on a Flanders 4 motorcycle. | Source

The Flanders Four and Other Vintage Motorcycle Photos and History

My mom brought out this vintage photo of her mother during one of my visits. Somehow, I'd never seen it before. One doesn't think of your grandmother in the early 1900s on a motorcycle.

My grandmother isn't exactly attired for motorcycle riding but maybe in 1918 she didn't have a leather jacket and britches, only a lady-like dress. Her name was Ruth Vining and she lived in Tyro, Kansas. To read more about her life, check out my mother's book, My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing Up in 1930s Kansas.

It's hard to tell if that's smoke around the back of the motorcycle from the exhaust or just fading or damage to the old photo. I've edited it and others have edited it, to clear away the spots and creases and dimness of a 100-year-old photo.

Being a librarian, I couldn't resist doing some research about the motorbike (the Flanders 4) that my grandmother is riding. I found some fascinating background information on it.

Read on for more about Ruth and more about the motorcycle.

More about the 1911 Flander's Motorcycle

My mom told me the story about this motorcycle. Her uncle, Albert Vining, owned it before World War 1. The family lived in the small southeast Kansas town of Tyro. Albert had a temper and would get really angry with the motorcycle when it wouldn't start. One day he blew his stack, and took a sledgehammer to the bike, destroying it.

I wish she had told me the story earlier, so it could have been included in her book. There was still time and space to put the photo in the book. It's in the back section. The photo shows the motorcycle with her mother, Ruth Vining on it.

Preview the book, My Flint Hills Childhood


Original Advertisement for the Flanders 4 Motorcycle

If you'd like to know more about the motorcycle, a reader clued me in that it's a Flanders 4.

I looked more closely at the family photo and you can see the Flanders name on the body. With a little internet research, I found an old ad from 1911 that features it in the Milwaukee Journal of June 17, 1911. There's a great picture of the motorcycle and detailed description. It sold for $175 when new. The Flanders "4" motorcycle was 4 horsepower, belt-driven, free engine motorcycle with a Splitdorf magneto.

I Also Found a Photo of One on eBay

Not the motorcycle, they are just selling an ad for it.
Not the motorcycle, they are just selling an ad for it. | Source

See a Vintage Flanders Motorcyle in Operation

Turn the sound up, it's a little low. I found this well worth watching if you're intrigued by these old motorcycles. This one is from 1912 and is now owned by a lover of vintage motorcycles.

Learn about Earl Flanders

For a biography of Earl Flanders, visit AMA Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame | Earl Flanders.

Video of a 1912 Flanders Motorcycle

More about the Popularity of the Flanders Motorcycle


Flanders Used Advertising Copy Effectively

This is from

The San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco, California
11 Feb 1912, Sun • Page 68

Don't Believe Other Makers When They Tell You You Can't Get Flanders "4" Motorcycles

SINCE OUR LAST Announcement, in which we warned buyers that unless orders were in soon there would be serious delays in getting Flanders "4's", competitors have been busy distorting the facts and circulating stories to the effect that you can not get these machines at all.

FIRST THEY TRY every argument they can think of or invent, to prove that we can't afford to sell as good a motorcycle for $175, magneto included, as they have been asking $200 to $250 for.

THAT LINE OF TALK falls flat, of course, in most cases. The customer replies that since the name of Walter E. Flanders is back of the product and on the guarantee, the buyer need not worry.

THEN COMES THIS CLINCHER: Well, let's admit that the Flanders is a first-class, high-grade machine just as good as you can get elsewhere for $50 to $75 more. We believe Flanders will go broke selling such a machine magneto included at the price he does. But that doesn't interest you if you can get one at that price you don't care about Flanders' end of it.

But you can't get a Flanders they are heavily oversold if you order now, you may have to wait till next fall it's remarkable how foolish buyers are over that machine and the Flanders reputation. We know they have thousands more orders than they can fill" and a lot more to the same effect.

NOW YOU CAN EASILY SEE thru that argument. When all else fails, they try to convince you you can't get a Flanders and hope thereby to induce you to buy their machine at a higher price.

NOW THE REAL FACTS are these: We have a lot of orders ahead thousands of them. You can't order a Flanders "4" on Monday and get it Tuesday. But you can get it within three weeks at the outside and if your local dealer is alive and has his advance specifications in, he may be able to give you a Flanders "4" within ten days to two weeks. REMEMBER, WE HAVE the largest factories in the whole world devoted to the manufacture of motorcycles. We make only one model. So you see a thousand orders are no more to us than a hundred to the next largest manufacturer or ten to some of them.

SO DON'T BELIEVE THEM when they tell you it is impossible to get a Flanders, see our local dealer or write the factory direct, and we will give you the exact date and a definite guarantee of delivery of your machine.

AT THE SAME TIME let us repeat, and emphasize the fact, that if you want one of these sterling motorcycles for spring use, it isn't safe to wait, for the demand is increasing rapidly and by March or April we may be so heavily oversold we will have to decline your order.

SEE THE DEALER TO-DAY or write the factory direct. Edwin F. Merry, 224 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco Flanders Manufacturing Company, Pontiac, Mich. Next week we will have something to say about Spring Forks the most vital part of a motorcycle. Better watch for the ad!

1912 Advertisement for the Flanders "4" Motorcycle

CLIPPED FROM Arkansas City Daily Traveler  Arkansas City, Kansas 25 Apr 1912, Thu  •  Page 6
CLIPPED FROM Arkansas City Daily Traveler Arkansas City, Kansas 25 Apr 1912, Thu • Page 6 | Source

Ads in Old Newspapers for the Flanders 4 Motorcycle

I'm a retired librarian so put my skills to work finding these ads for the Flanders 4. Sure is fascinating to read the original ad copy to see how it was marketed back in those days.

You can see these advertisements in old newspapers on a free database the Library of Congress created.

We Think This Is Albert Vining with the Motorcycle

I can't be sure, the crossbar doesn't look as thick. My mom wrote Albert Vining's name on this with a question mark.
I can't be sure, the crossbar doesn't look as thick. My mom wrote Albert Vining's name on this with a question mark. | Source

Do You Think It Is the Same One That My Grandmother Was Riding?

Vote in the Poll

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Virginia Allain

Are You a Fan of Antique Motorcycles?

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    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I had no idea motorcycles went back that far. Fascinating, and what a cool picture and photo-memory to have of your grandmother.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @Frischy: Sure makes me wonder what else I'm missing. I've made a lens about her early days and marriage to show off some photos I have.

    • Frischy profile image


      7 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      This is very interesting. What fun to find out about this hidden side of your grandmother as a young woman!

    • MrAusAdventure profile image


      8 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Interesting. I am a fan of all sorts of motorcycles, but prefer to ride more modern ones for their safety. But I would love to have a vintage one just to putt around on!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @AlleyCatLane: Give yourself some time to recover from the loss. At some point it will feel right to make some tribute and family history lenses.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love how you turn your genealogy finds into Squidoo articles. I need to do the same with the things my father left when he passed away last May. I just can't seem to get it together.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @greenspirit: It would be great if you did a tribute lens to your dad and his motorcycle interest.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 

      8 years ago from London

      My Dad was a great motor bike enthusiast in the 40's and 50's...I remember watching him as a tiny child tinkering withvarious Vincent's, Royal Enfields and Nortons with love sometimes, and despair and exasperation at others. I don't ride them, but I have a great affection for them. I loved this lens.

    • Coreena Jolene profile image

      Coreena Jolene 

      9 years ago

      That photo of your great grandmother on a motorcycle is priceless. They were fascinating contraptions. I always look at old contraptions with wonder of how they actually worked. Nice lens.

    • EMangl profile image


      9 years ago

      fantastic picturebook!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      didn't flanders go on to make studabakers?

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      9 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I really enjoy looking at old photos like this. Neat that the old bikes really did look like bikes!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      9 years ago

      LOVE this. Lensrolled to Family legends!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I've only been on one motorcycle...but it was a short ride. They are cool machines...and your grandmother was one cool lady.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Cool photos. I love bikes and have had my license for 30 years now for motorcycles.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      9 years ago from Iowa

      I'm a fan of most anything antique. What a fun lens. :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Your grandma was cooler than I have ever been....

      I will never embark on those "machines".

      I'm too much of a scary cat.


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      How cool is this, thank you for sharing, old family pictures are just so special and love vintage bikes!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      9 years ago

      Now that's a cool grandma!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      10 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Fascinating. What a unique family legacy.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Another great lens. I had a Bridgestone 175 cc dual twin. Not quite as old as these and still a classic Japanese bike from the 1960s


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