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Thread: Beehive Brouhaha History

  1. #1

    Beehive Brouhaha History

    [NOTE: I believe that "conventional wisdom" in this case reflects the views of numerous respected authors and pretty much everyone else that I have seen address the subject matter in this forum or elsewhere (i.e., people that know a lot more about H-D than I ever will). This post is intended to be factual and educational (for me if no one else). This post is not directed at, or intended to disparage or disrespect, any person or persons, much less all of the people that agree with what may be conventional wisdom. As a newbie, it's sometimes difficult for me to distinguish sarcastic and serious discussions. But, I get the sense that, although you guys may not always agree, most of you genuinely care about the history and the facts and are willing to help educate others.

    I have enjoyed the long-running beehive discussions, but struggled to understand them and why it may or may not be "correct" or "incorrect" to refer to any particular tail light as a beehive tail light. I respectfully disagree with conventional wisdom as to what H-D called tail light 5051-34 (aka the 34-38 tail light) (the "34 Tail Light"), but I may be alone in this regard. When one person thinks something and everyone else thinks something else, it's often because that person is wrong. I have attempted to summarize my understanding of the subject matter below. Please correct me if I am wrong about anything or everything.]

    According to conventional wisdom, H-D called the 34 Tail Light the beehive in certain literature. I have not been able to find any such literature, but may have simply failed to find some announcement or bulletin that many of you have or have seen. However, to my knowledge, H-D has never named, described, or otherwise referred to any tail light as a beehive.

    As to the 34 Tail Light, I believe that H-D named it "Tail lamp" in the name column of parts catalogs and referred to it as the "Air-Flo Tail Light" (and "Air-Flo tail light" and "tail light" and possibly "Tail Lamp and Hood") in other literature.

    I believe that H-D has used the term beehive as an adjective to describe the shape of, and otherwise to refer to, various beehive-type lenses (e.g., sidecar fender lamp, tail light, and parking light beehive-type lenses). However, to my knowledge, H-D has named only one (1) such beehive-type lens as a beehive and has never named any other part as a beehive.

    I believe that H-D named sidecar fender lamp lens 13401-35A as "Red bee-hive lens" in the name column of parts catalogs and used the term beehive to describe and refer to such lens in other literature (e.g., "RED bee-hive lens" and "red beehive lens").

    As to tail light lens 5054-35, I believe that H-D named such lens "Red glass for tail lamp" in the name column of parts catalogs and used the term beehive to describe and refer to such lens in other literature (e.g., "A new beehive type lens has been fitted to the tail light." and "...new beehive lens featured on the tail lights of the 1935 models..."); and that other parties (e.g., motorcycle magazines) also used the term beehive to describe and refer to such lens (e.g., "The tail light lens is of a new beehive design. This accounts for the slightly longer appearance of the tail light assembly." and "...the tail light assembly with bee hive lens...").

    To the extent that the terms "beehive" and "tail light" are used together in H-D literature, I believe that they are used together only a few times and only immediately prior to the term "lens" (e.g., "beehive tail light lens") and only then as adjectives to describe the shape or appearance of the subject lens; and the context makes it clear that the term beehive refers only to the subject "beehive type lens" or "beehive lens" and not to any "tail light" or "tail lights of the 1935 models."

    As to tail light and tail light lens references in 1935 model literature, I believe that the lens was the only part of the tail light that changed from the 1934 models to the 1935 models (i.e., the Air-Flo tail light with lens 5054-20 simply became the Air-Flo tail light with lens 5054-35). So, it makes sense to me that H-D would tout the new lens in 1935 model literature. However, I don't believe that H-D touted a new tail light in 1935 model literature or started referring to the 34 Tail Light as the Beehive tail light (i.e., as opposed to the Air-Flo tail light).

    As to the beehive debate, I don't know when or why it became common to refer to any particular tail light as a beehive tail light, but I understand that more than one (1) tail light is currently, commonly known as a beehive. I'm generally against using the same term to refer to different things where confusion or ambiguity may result. I just don't understand the "what H-D called it" arguments when it comes to beehives.

  2. #2

    Re: Beehive Brouhaha History


    Chris Haynes
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  3. #3

    Re: Beehive Brouhaha History

    Thank you Chris. Pretty much everything I know about beehives is owed to Palmer and you. I don't know where you currently stand on the subject of what H-D called the 34 tail light and what's correct and why. I wouldn't be shocked if someone posts some literature that scuttles my understanding of the facts. But, as to your reply, if the shape of the lens (as opposed to what H-D called the tail light) is a determining factor as to what's correct, then it may be correct to refer to each of the relevant tail lights as a beehive. A 39 lens most closely resembles a box-type beehive (i.e., the most common type since at least the 1800s). A sidecar beehive lens most closely resembles a skep-type beehive (i.e., the most common type in the 1700s). A 35 lens also resembles a skep-type beehive, but only when uninstalled and laid on its open side.

    When discussing this issue, Palmer has noted that, although skep-type beehives were generally replaced by box-type beehives, skep-type beehives could still be seen in the 1930s. For whatever reason, many (maybe most) people seem to think of a traditional, dome-shaped, skep-type beehive when they refer to a beehive or say that something resembles a beehive.

    The "Which one looks like a beehive?" photos that you typically post may pose a bit of a trick question. But, maybe it's intentional. The typical post only compares a 35 lens to a 39 tail light (and not a 34 tail light to a 39 tail light). And, the typical post only includes a photo of a skep-type beehive (and not also a box-type beehive). And, the typical post only includes a photo of a 35 lens laid on its open side (and not also a sidecar beehive lens or a 39 lens).

    Photo 1:


    [End]

  4. #4
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    Re: Beehive Brouhaha History

    Fletch, welcome to the forum.
    Eric






  5. #5

    Re: Beehive Brouhaha History

    Quote Originally Posted by Speeding Big Twin View Post
    Fletch, welcome to the forum.
    Eric
    Thank you Eric. I trust that this catalog is an OEM catalog or a faithful reproduction of an OEM catalog. This catalog doesn't appear to name, describe, or refer to the 34 Tail Light as a beehive tail light. This catalog appears to confirm my understanding that H-D (a) named the 35 tail light lens (identified initially as 5054-35 in the 1935 parts catalog and later as 5054-20 in subsequent parts catalogs) "Red glass for tail lamp" and (b) described and referred to the 35 tail light lens as a beehive-type lens.

  6. #6

    Re: Beehive Brouhaha History

    That's all there was.It was a tail lamp.The 1935 version of lense was taller than the almost flat 1920-35 lense,so they made a note in the catalog.This lense gave better side view of the light,so was often replaced on the 1920-'34 models.By the 1940 catalog it was called red lense.If you were going to call a tail lamp a beehive it would be 1935-38 because of the lense & '39-'46 tail lamp has been mistakenly called beehive for many years..end of story.

  7. #7

    Re: Beehive Brouhaha History

    You just keep beating this dead horse don't you. H-D NEVER called the 1939-1946 tail light a Bee Hive. The did call it's predecessor the Bee Hive. If it has a Bee Hive lens it is a Bee Hive tail light.
    Chris Haynes
    A.M.C.A. Member
    Costco Member
    I can't Re Member
    http://vintageamericanmotorcycles.com/
    Be sure to register so you can view large photos

  8. Re: Beehive Brouhaha History

    I believe the 1935 lens was made taller to accommodate the new brake light (bigger bulb), as well as the safety aspect mentioned by Duffey and shown in the literature from Chris. I have a Beehive lens on my 1936 VLD.
    Last edited by HDSmitty; 07-10-2019 at 12:18 PM.

  9. #9

    Re: Beehive Brouhaha History

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Haynes View Post
    You just keep beating this dead horse don't you. H-D NEVER called the 1939-1946 tail light a Bee Hive. The did call it's predecessor the Bee Hive. If it has a Bee Hive lens it is a Bee Hive tail light.
    Hey Chris... Who's beating the dead horse? You should have quoted the horse beater so I'd know which post you're referring to.

    I don't see anyone here (maybe I missed it) claiming that H-D called the '39-'46 tail light a Bee Hive. I do see Duffy saying that the "'39-'46 tail lamp has been mistakenly called beehive for many years." That's a stone cold fact.

  10. #10

    Re: Beehive Brouhaha History

    Sometimes I think the people on this forum need to get a hobby.

    Hank

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