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The Republican (Salem Mass.)


Thursday, June 21, 2007






SPRINGFIELD - The owner of the closed Indian Motocycle Museum is donating her multi-million dollar collection of antique motorcycles and memorabilia to the Springfield Museums Association to assure it will be remain in the city where the historic company was founded more than a century ago.


Esta K. Manthos, 91, who has traveled to all 50 states by motorcycle, collected bikes made by Indian Motocycle Co. for many decades, along with thousands of biker toys and mementos.


Yesterday, the sprightly, ponytail-wearing owner of the Indian Motocycle Museum at 33 Hendee St. gave nearly all her beloved relics away, including her own 1942 Indian.


"There is no other collection in the world like this," said Springfield Museums Association President Joseph E. Carvalho III. Historically, it has "priceless intrinsic value" for the city, he said. Manthos, who has no children, said she wasn't interested in selling off the collection to live the rest of her life in riches. "That is unimportant," she said, adding that maybe the charitable gesture will encourage others with valuable collections to donate for the public good.


"I'm very history- and civic-oriented," she said.


The collection that Manthos donated to the Springfield Museums includes 54 motorcycles and approximately 5,000 toys.


It will hold a prominent place in the yet-to-open Museum of Springfield History on Edwards Street, Carvalho said.


About $1.2 million has been raised and another $4.5 million is needed to complete renovations to turn the former Verizon building adjacent to the existing museums in downtown Springfield into a home for the motorcycle collection, Carvalho said. The Indian Motocycle Museum, which Manthos and her late husband, Charles, opened 35 years ago, was housed in the defunct manufacturer's last remaining building.


Annual Indian rallies at times drew thousands of bikers to Springfield. Carvalho said that once the new museum opens, 18 to 24 months from now, he hopes to revive Indian Day. The collection's exact monetary worth, loosely estimated at $3 million to $5 million, is unknown, Carvalho said, although he noted that original Indian motorcycles in top condition can sell for $40,000 to $100,000 a piece


Public interest is strong in motorcycles, American inventiveness and industrial history, he said.


News of Manthos' gift was making the rounds of vintage motorcycle aficionados and auctioneers yesterday.


"It was a very philanthropic thing for her to do," said Dale Walksler, curator of the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, N.C., which has nearly 300 rare American motorcycles


Walksler said he was impressed by the artifacts when he visited the Indian Motocycle Museum. They include original tools that belonged to C. Oscar Hedstrom, a company founder.


Those items, along with literature and an Indian V-8 airplane engine, may have an even greater aggregate value than the bikes, Walksler said.


Moving the motorcycles and other items safely is a major task, which is expected to continue today.


"I sat up all last night ... We're doing the best we possibly can," said Mark R. Dahlke, owner of Dahlke's Moving & Storage, of Springfield.


Each motorcycle is being secured with straps, and about six at a time fit in a truck, he said.


The effort was leading to "a lot of sore backs," said John N. Sampson, owner of Sampson Family Chapels and a longtime friend of Manthos.


Workers included employees from Dahlke's and Sampson's, plus volunteers. The toys will be wrapped by Springfield Museums staff, he said.

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