1920 Born to be wild | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

1920 Born to be wild

1920 Born to be wild

What: A motorbike, registration number 190, which I guess makes it the 190th motor vehicle registered in the colony. Do we have any motorbike historians reading, who can tell us what model we're looking at?


The white suit is an interesting choice, given the oily nature of an old motorcycle!

There's also a poster on the pillar, advertising a film called "The Claw" [1] showing at the Hong Kong Theatre [2]:


When: Here's the back of the photo, dated 18th October, 1920:

Back of photo

Where: Probably somewhere in Central, not too far from the Hong Kong Theatre. The theatre was in the old Land Office building, where the corner of Queen's Road and Theatre Lane is today.

Looking at the back of the card again, it says the photo was taken in front of the office of ... then I struggle to read the writing. A couple of clues are that the two names are the same, and the first letter looks like the "K" in "Hong Kong". Here's a comparison, with "Kong" on top, and the company name below:


Looking at the nearest Jurors' list we have [3], I got lucky. There's a company listed named "Komor & Komor", which matches the writing. I thought they sounded like a legal firm, but it turns out they were dealers in Japanese curios! [4]

The next clue is a newspaper article from 1921 [5] reporting that Komor & Komor were going out of business, and closing their shop in the Alexandra Building. We've got a couple of photos of that building [6], but none with enough detail to show if there's a match in the pillar design. For now I'll assume we're looking at Alexandra Building (the Des Voeux Road side, based on the shadows).

Who: The first name looks like "George", and the second looks like the "Komor" in the company name. There's a mention of a George Komor from that company in a 1923 newspaper [7], so I reckon he's our man.

As always, comments & corrections welcome!

Regards, David


  1. "The Claw" starred Clara Kimball Young. It was released in 1918, so it had taken its time to reach Hong Kong.
  2. The Hong Kong Theatre.
  3. Currently the latest Jurors' List we've finished typing is the 1914 list. Can you help us type up the 1915 list?
  4. "Paul [Komor] moved with his parents to the Far East in 1896, when his father decided to join his uncle Siegfried Komor in a Japanese curio business in Hong Kong." from "Portrait of the Komor family in Shanghai"
  5. China Mail, page 4, 11 Oct 1921
  6. The Alexandra Building (1st generation)
  7. The Brisbane Courier, 11 Sep 1923

Reference: EA007

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Monday, October 18, 1920


That motorcycle (or 'Motocycle' in this case) looks to be an Indian Powerplus. I'm not sure of the year, as the rear portion of the frame is not exactly as the photo I linked.

(scroll down to see the Powerplus)



Here's a link to a Military Powerplus that looks quite similar:



as a final edit, upon studying the enlarged photo more, it looks like the "Indian" script can be faintly seen on the side of the tank, in front of the shift levers?

1920s Hong Kong Hotel Brochure showing Alexandra Building as the location of the shop.

1920s Komor and Komor

And the pillars of the building outside the curio shop. This appears to match the  pillar beside the motorcycle.

1920s Komor and Komor Curio Shop

1920s DVRC showing Alexandra Building and the probable location of the Hong Theatre advert on the 3rd pillar from the right.

1920s Des Voeux Road Central

Indian Powerplus 1918
Looks a lot like this one. 

Doug & Freddie, thanks for the quick response. Looks like you've nailed it, an Indian Powerplus it is.

Moddsey, I wasn't expecting to see photos of the actual store - thanks for posting them! Good to have it confirmed as the Alexandra Building. I don't think I've seen a face-on view like your second photo before. It looks a lot grander building from that direction than it does in the usual side-on photos.

Regards, David

That's a coincidence - well spotted!

Not sure about pre-war years, but a separate set of registration numbers for motorcycles was in use for some time.  It consisted of numbers with no prefix, and numbers with one-letter prefix (e.g. A123).  At one point, the use of this set was discontinued, but issued numbers remained in use.  As recent as 2007, the numbers 2, 3, 6 and 8 were still being used on motorcycles.

Thanks C, that's good to know.

Any idea what car registration numbers looked like at this time? Maybe they were 4-digits to distinguish them from motorcycles?

Regards, David

Hi David, I think both sets (car and motorcycle) of registration numbers initially used the same numbers without prefix (i.e. from 1 to 9999).  This would explain why there is a motorcycle with the license plate number "2" as well as a car with the same number.
As for prefixed numbers, the prefixes for cars started with HK, then XX, then AA, then AB and so on.  The prefixes for motorcycles were one-letter until the set of motorcycle registration numbers stopped being issued.

Thanks again,