Texas Highway Patrol Motorcycle
Policing the state’s first highways
The Texas Highway Patrol was established in 1929 to police the state’s new and expanding system of public roads. At the time, local law enforcement was not equipped to deal with the surge in motor vehicle traffic, and traffic violations and deaths were increasing at an alarming rate.
The Texas Legislature passed traffic regulations, like a 45 mile per hour speed limit for highways, and created a statewide police division — the Texas Highway Patrol — to enforce those regulations. The first Patrol force in 1930 consisted of 50 men tasked with covering the entire state. The small force made little impact on traffic regulation enforcement and was increased to 120 troopers the following year. In 1935, the Highway Patrol became part of the newly-formed Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and remains part of DPS today.
For the first two decades of its existence, Texas Highway Patrol officers patrolled on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. All recruits were trained in how to operate and care for a motorcycle. Early patrolmen also received a 20-page Rules and Regulations guide that detailed their personal and professional demeanor, appearance, and expectations. Rules included familiarizing themselves with state highway laws and enforcing them in an impartial manner, not using liquor or narcotics at any time, not smoking while on duty, and keeping themselves, their motorcycle, and other state equipment in good physical condition.
Most Highway Patrol motorcycles were phased out during the 1940s. One of the reasons DPS stopped using motorcycles was because of how dangerous they were — protective gear for motorcycle police was minimal and did not include helmets. Despite being phased out of patrol use, troopers continued to be trained in motorcycle operations until 1957.
Texas Department of Public Safety Historical Museum, Austin
Time Period: 1866 - 1936
This artifact is currently on view.