Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Talented Tuesday~Wall Of Death Rider

Photo Courtesy of Dick Dykes "The Balloon Man"
My Maternal Grandfather, Melville Morrison Smith was a dispatch rider during WWI and developed a love and great skill for riding motorcycles during that time.
After WWI ended my grandfather who was 18 years old joined the Johnny J. Jones Exposition in 1920. He was part of the Motordrome riders act, also known as "The Wall of Death". Grandpa toured with the Expo from 1920 to 1928. In August of 1928 he crashed  while performing his stunts, fracturing his skull and ending his career as a Stunt rider.

Female Motordrome rider with Lion
The Wall of Death or motordrome is a carnival Side show  featuring a drum- or barrel-shaped wooden cylinder, ranging from 20 to 36-feet in diameter, in which stunt motorcyclists ride and carry out tricks. The very first carnival motordrome appeared at Coney Island amusement park (New York) in 1911. The following year portable tracks began to appear on traveling carnivals and in 1915, the first "silodromes" with perpendicular walls were seen. These motordromes with perfectly straight walls were soon dubbed the "Wall of Death."  In 2004, six or seven of these motorcycle shows were still touring the US. From the Wikipedia


  1. This is seriously one of the most interesting grandfather stories I've ever seen. I'm more than a little envious. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Thank you :) I wish grandpa had lived long enough for me to know, he was truly a dare devil who loved adventures.