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Laconia Feature: Motorcycle Police Museum

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
The American Police Motorcyle Museum sheds light on how long police forces have been utilizing motorcycles.
The American Police Motorcycle Museum is a little treasure in Meredith, not far from Laconia, that is definitely worth a visit if you're attending the rally.
The American Police Motorcycle Museum is a little treasure in Meredith  not far from Laconia  that is definitely worth a visit if youre attending the rally.
While many are familiar with Dale Walksler’s “Wheels Through Time” motorcycle museum, there’s a lesser known gem tucked away not far from Laconia called the American Police Motorcycle Museum. Step inside and it’s a dizzying array of police motorcycles in impeccable condition, photographs, news clippings, uniforms, police radios, billy clubs, patches, memorabilia and movie clips. It will take you on a journey through the annals of time and demonstrates how the history of motorcycles and police forces has been inextricably linked for the last 100 years, which makes it a one-of-a-kind.

The collection ranges from the humorous, like tin toys from the 1970s TV series CHiPs, to fallen officers tributes, including the standard issue equipment, personal papers and log books from New Hampshire State Policeman Lawrence V. Carpenter, Class of 1937. In all, the museum has 57 motorcycles and all but two of them run.

The American Motorcycle Police Museum is the brainchild of Doug Frederick, a former Hartford, Connecticut police officer. Frederick’s passion for collecting motorcycles started at age 12 when he bought his first bike, a 1955 Indian. He was able to keep his purchase a secret from his mom until the day he brought the motorcycle home.

“That was the start of a hobby that got out of control,” Frederick said.

The collection is divided among the museum’s three floors. The top floor has the oldest bikes, ranging from 1911 to 1959, with Harleys on one side and Indians on the other. The two have been rivals for a long time and are kept separate to honor the long-standing competition between brands. The mid-level collection of police motorcycles ranges from 1966 – 2005, while downstairs has a variety of models, a children’s area, and a workshop where Frederick is working on his next restoration for the museum, a 1927 Indian Laconia Police Motorcycle.

In the special section for kids, Frederick has prepared a light-hearted oath they can read or have read to them, similar to a policeman getting sworn in. If they agree to the terms of the oath, they ring a bell once and are awarded either a badge or ID card. There’s also a pint-sized uniform for them to put on if they so choose and then they can have their picture taken on a novelty-size Harley-Davidson. There’s fun for big kids, too, as there’s a 1948 Indian to sit on and have your picture taken. Take the fun to the next level by throwing on a police uniform and hat from the 1940s and grab the six-shooter for good measure.

See The King Elvis Presley at the American Police Motorcycle Museum.
We spotted Elvis at the American Police Motorcyle Museum. The collection includes the motorcycle which reportedly led 'The King's' funeral procession.
Owner Doug Fredericks latest project is a 1927 Indian Laconia Police Motorcycle.
Owner Doug Frederick's latest project is a 1927 Indian Laconia Police Motorcycle.
Among the special police motorcycles is a 1976 Harley-Davidson FLH 1200 police cruiser from Memphis, Tennessee. Its place of origin is a big clue to its claim to fame. Story goes the motorcycle served in the Memphis Police Motor Squad and led Elvis Presley’s funeral procession. The Harley FLH was assigned to the commander of the division and is in impressive original condition because it was seldom used. It even has all of its standard issue police emergency equipment including the radio.

Just down from it sits a special display for the Boston Police Force featuring an old leaf spring Indian and pictures of six officers from the Boston Police Motorcycle Unit who lost their lives in the line of duty during the 1930s. One of our other favorites is an old Norton from the Ministry of Defense which served as an escort bike for the Queen of England, reportedly one of only two of its kind. Another display pays tribute to vets and includes Harleys and Indians from World War II.

A common theme amongst the old literature and articles is the promotion of motorcycle safety. There are also demonstrations of motorcycle officers’ riding skills along with a police training movie from LA in 1956. On the lighter side is a hilarious video clip of the police motorcycle chase scene from the W.C. Fields movie “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break”

The American Motorcycle Police Museum is a place where people come to share stories. While we were there, a gentleman came in and told Frederick about his grandfather who was a policeman in St. Petersburg, Florida, back in the day. The story goes his grandfather had the hots for this girl who worked at the local soda fountain and was showing off for her one day on his Indian, riding by the store doing a headstand on his bike while in uniform. A local reporter snapped a photo of him doing the stunt and the picture ended up in the paper. Needless to say, his grandfather lost his job, but he got the girl and ended up marrying her. The man said he had a copy of the news clip somewhere, so Frederick asked him to send him a copy and so he could add it to the collection. Turns out, many of the memorabilia in the
Downstairs at the museum you can don a police uniform from the 1940s and have some fun while having your picture taken on  a 1948 Indian Chief police motorcycle.
Grab your gun and have some fun at the American Police Motorcycle Museum while having your picture taken in a vintage motorcycle policeman's uniform while sitting on a 1948 Indian.
museum has been donated by friends or family members of former and current officers.

How many museums do you know of where the owner greets you at the door with a smile and will provide you with a personal tour if time allows? Frederick will. Walksler will too. Besides the common bond and passion for motorcycles the two share, Frederick said he decided to open the museum after being inspired by a visit to “Wheels Through Time” seven years ago.

Few realize American police forces have been using motorcycles to help them with their duties almost as long as motorcycles have been around. Thanks to Frederick, more people will.
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