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The Whole Spiel

Seamark Bicycle Shop and the Flying Merkel

March 2, 2020

In preparing for our new Capital Jewish Museum exhibitions, one research activity has been to look more closely at the tenants that occupied the Adas Israel Synagogue at 6th and G streets NW from 1909 through 1968. This is the first in an occasional series about some of those tenants.

Known in the region for being hard working (12 hours’ day, except Sunday) and one of the few local dealers of Emblem and Flying Merkel bicycles, Harry F. Seamark was the first of the ground floor tenants of our historic building. His bicycle shop was the first tenant of the 619 6th street NW storefront.  He was there from 1909 through 1920. In the summer of 1909, Seamark obtained a permit (1146) for the show windows to be added to the corner facades up to 10 feet high and 3ft wide, which you can see in the photo below. These storefront windows are partially to blame for the cut level on the building when it was moved in 1969!

Motorcycle illustrated. v. 5 (Jan.-June 1910). New York : Motorcycle Publishing Co; page 32.

Mr. Seamark started his career working for the Pope Bicycle Company. In 1899, he started his own business at 6th and F Streets NW as a bicycle dealer. Some of the bikes he sold were Emblem bicycles and the Flying Merkel. By 1909 he had developed such a volume of sales that he moved to the corner of 6th and G streets NW, to lease from Mr. Stephen Gatti, purchaser of the Adas Israel Synagogue. In this 1916 issue of Motor Cycle Illustrated, you can see both the synagogue interior and exteriors building clearly, with the bicycle signs flanking the corner!



Motorcycle illustrated. v. 12 (Jan.-June 1916). New York : Motorcycle Publishing Co; page 42.

Seamark was known to both sell and lease bicycles with and without motors.  The Flying Merkel was originally produced in Pottstown, PA beginning in 1902, and sold to Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company of Middletown, Ohio in 1911. This version of the Flying Merkel is the most similar to sketches in early advertisements from the Washington Post (1910-1922) for Seamark’s bicycle shop. These ads tell us one could come down to the store to demo a Flying Merkel, and lease one for $100 deposit. Bicycles could be purchased at Seamark’s with a $10 down payment.

And just for fun here is a recent photo of a Flying Merkel courtesy of the California Automobile Museum, Sacramento, CA.

Author: Jonathan Edelman, Curatorial Assistant

Motorcycle illustrated. v. 5 (Jan.-June 1910). New York : Motorcycle Publishing Co; page 32.