- Written by webmin
If you get an opportunity, pick up a copy of the April 2011 issue of Smithsonian magazine. In it, you will find an interesting article, “The Early, Deadly Days of Motorcycle Racing,” by David Schonauer, about board-track racing enthusiast and photographer Ashley Franklin Van Order.
Van Order moved to Southern California in 1911 to race motorcycles on the high banked board tracks that seemed to sprout up everywhere during the time. After an accident cut his career short (as was often the case in board-track racing), Van Order stayed close to the racing he enjoyed by promoting motorcycle racing and cross-country events, officiating at races and selling Harley-Davidsons. He also began documenting many board-track racing events during the sport’s early years with photography. Although he was not too good at picture taking at first, he got a lot better through perseverance. Some of his glass-plate negative photos were featured in the “The Art of the Motorcycle” exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in 1998, and many of them were forgotten about and weren’t even developed until the Fifties. Van Order went on to write a retrospective column in Motorcyclist magazine from the late Thirties to the early Fifties, after board-track racing fell from favor with the public and politicians. A. F. Van Order died in 1954, and was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 1998. Hundreds of his images, including many that his great-grandson had digitally remastered, are still owned by his great grandson’s estate and are some of the few remaining photographs of the board-track racing era.
Several more of Van Order’s photos can be seen at David Schonauer’s I Like to Watch blog.