A new exhibit at the Skagit County Historical Museum features one of the first internal-combustion motorcycles ever made - but it's more Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday" than Marlon Brando in 'The Wild One."
"It's a Franklin!" is a collection of 11 vintage and unusual motorcycles, including the 1898 Franklin, made by the Franklin Iron Works of Mount Vernon, which manufactured bicycles and other household items.
Only a handful of Franklins were made and the museum's motorbike is believed to be the only one remaining intact. Like most motorcycles of the late 1890s, it was simply a bicycle with a small engine mounted on the frame. In the case of the Franklin, the engine came from parts its creators found around the shop.
"That's what this is - a bicycle with a washing machine motor," said Jo Wolfe, the museum's education and publicity coordinator. It even still has a bicycle chain and skinny tube tires.
Wolfe said the museum received the motorcycle as a donation last year from a collector in Kansas City, Mo. He even paid shipping.
"He said it needed to come home," Wolfe said.
Also on display are vintage motorcycles on loan from private collectors and members of the Washington Vintage Motorcyclists Club. They include a 1929 Harley-Davidson, a 1937 Harley-Davidson with a sidecar, and something Wolfe calls the Frankenbike - a Ford V-8 engine mounted on a 1933 motorcycle frame.
"It is the biggest bike I've ever seen," she said. "It's a very interesting mix of motorcycles, and not just for motorcycle enthusiasts.
"It's a Franklin!" continues through Sept. 29 at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S. Fourth St. in La Conner. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and children 6-12. Museum members and children 5 and younger are admitted free. There's also a special family rate of $10 for two adults and two children.
For more information about the museum, go to skagitcounty.net/museum or call 360-466-3365.