American Motorcycle Culture : the one percenters

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Jan 222009

This story just came out in the Salem News… I think it is a good showing of just how misunderstood the citizen community can be about the club lifestyle.  As someone who bridges the gap between academia and the subculture that is the biker world, I find it appalling that educators would make such a gross mistake.  Maybe they need to check out this blog!


Love, Respect, and Ride Safe,

ArtBiker (Jan-22-2009)

American Motorcycle Culture: The One Percenters

Tim King

One Percent of all Motorcyclists were deemed “outlaw” by the AMA after the “Hollister Riot” in 1947; the patch has a unique meaning.


Above: The One-Percenter patch designates a certain position in the world of bikers; this is not awarded for Murder or crime committed on behalf of the motorcycle club.
In the located photos below this article: News reporter
Tim King, employed by KATU Channel-2 News in Portland, Oregon at the time, rides the chopped Harley down the street in Keizer, Oregon.
Photo: Gypsy Joker MC Club


(SALEM, Ore.) – A friend of mine who is the President of a local motorcycle club chapter, explained this week that a college criminology course in Salem, Oregon is teaching students false information about the history of bikers and motorcycle clubs.

1232608418Marlon Brando in ‘Wild One'”Tattoo Mike” of the Gypsy Joker club in Salem, says he was frustrated to discover that the college professor was telling students that the 1% patch on the back of club jackets means that the biker has murdered for his club.

That explanation is purely fictitious, and not even close to the actual meaning of what “One Percenter” means.

Did you ever see the movie The Wild One with Marlon Brando?

The tale was inspired and loosely based on a real-life incident that took place over the Fourth of July weekend in 1947 in Hollister, California. Now known as the “Hollister Riot”, the event gained national attention as it was the focus of a Harper’s Magazine article in January 1951 article titled, “The Cyclists’ Raid” by Frank Rooney.

On that weekend, about four thousand motorcyclists and other visitors and enthusiasts, roared into the town over a two day period, and overwhelmed the facilities, according to

The movie made the 4th of July event appear to be much more significant than it actually was, according to most reports. In reality, the town was not ransacked, the women were not accosted, and they did not cause a great deal of civil unrest.



Scene from Hollister in 1947, that manysay was actually staged for the camera.Photo: Chronicle/Barney Peterson


The press apparently couldn’t resist the opportunity to play Hollister for all it was worth. Wikipedia states that “Several newspaper articles were written that, according to some attendees, sensationalized the event and Life magazine ran an article and a staged photograph of an intoxicated subject on a motorcycle parked in a bar.”

This movie actually may have inspired a movement, as other films depicting bikers soon started showing up in theaters, making the hearts of little old ladies grow faint in fear. Soon black leather jackets soared along with Harley Davidson sales.

And this led to the press asking the “respectable” motorcycle group, the American Motorcycle Assiciation (AMA) to comment on the Hollister incident.

The AMA responded by saying that 99% if all motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, and the last one percent were outlaws.

That, is when and where the term “1%” came into being, and it was practically an invitation to would-be outlaw bikers to embrace the term, thanks to the AMA.

So if you ever hear someone tell you that the 1% patch means anything else, you straighten them out and tell them the story of Hollister and the AMA.


Charity Work

I met Tattoo Mike when he and other club members were doing a Christmas Toy Run in 2002. I commented on Mike’s chopper being especially cool and he said, “You want to ride it?”

He looked a little surprised as I took his helmet, fired up the chopped Harley with 22″ apehanger handlebars and a suicide clutch, and took off down the street. I had never ridden a bike with a suicide clutch in my life up to that point, but I had asked enough questions of my Harley friends over the years to pull it off.

He tells me the Gypsy Joker club members still laugh about it; apparently Mike had offered the chance to ride it to several news reporters over the years, and they always declined. He says he had no idea I would jump on it and take off.

I know people in this group who are really decent, and while biker’s club patches may be unwelcome in many places, and loud bikes tend to scare people, I see the better side of them, probably because my dad was a serious motorcycle enthusiast.

To give you an example, one of his last projects was the restoration of a 1913 Harley Davidson. His big, bearded, leather-clad friends who would visit on big chrome choppers were the nicest people you could ever meet. My dad was old school “Mr. Establishment”, but Harleys are a universal language that crosses every boundary.

I hate to hear that professors in our local college system are so misinformed that they would actually try to rewrite a historical event and meaning of a symbol that any biker could explain, if that professor or the people who create their cirriculum, took the time to ask.

This site has a more detailed history on Hollister and the one percenter story:

Here are photos taken by members of the Salem Gypsy Joker MC Club, of me riding Mike’s old school chopper during their annual Christmas Toy Run: