Welcome to Facts & Fiction
I have collected some information on bicycles, the history of the bicycle in the United States and any other bits I can find to try to chronicle major character in American history.
You may find some of this information is repeated. That is not by design or with the intent to bore you the reader, but because of the way I have gathered this information, by bits and pieces. I cannot seem to find an impartial book or article, most seem to be slanted to one manufacturer or the other. The information here is as factual and as impartial as I can make it. If you find anything you disagree with, or have information concerning bicycles you think might belong here, I would like to know, please e-mail me. Note, please use this address only for notifying me, the webmaster about information in the Facts and fiction section, if you want to send e-mail regarding a bike listed on the site, send it to email@example.com. I would like to keep this as up to date and correct as possible. At the moment, there is no particular order to the information herein, I hope to change that in the near future, as well as having a table of contents that will allow the reader to jump to their favorite bike or manufacturer.
The bicycle heyday lasted from 1890 to 1910, bicycles did not require food or water like a horse. The advent of inexpensive automobiles was the demise of the bicycle.
1843 - Albert Pope's date of birth, May 23rd. He ended up becoming a Captain in the Civil War. Came out of the Civil War looking for a job. Later he was referred to as Col. Pope.
1876 - Pope attended the Centennial Exposition where he saw a two wheeled contraption. When he came back he researched and went to Europe.
1877 - The Pope Manufacturing Company was organized. First small beginnings in the bicycle business as importers and makers at 45 High St. Boston, Ma. His first wheel cost $313.00 and the factory was not equipped for mass production. He began looking for a vendor.
1878 - Larger salesrooms and a Bicycle Riding School at 87 Summer St. Boston, Ma. The first American manufacturer of cycles begun with the Columbia Bicycle at the Weed Sewing Machine Company factory in Hartford, Ct. The first regular trade catalogue was twenty pages long. The first bicycles were the 60" Hi Wheelers and sold for $125.00 when sewing machines sold for $13.00.
1879 - Agency systems and a uniform pricing system was established. The model was the "Standard Columbia".
1880 - Model's "Special Columbia", "Youth’s Columbia", "Mustang", and "Youth’s Mustang". The "Columbia Ball Bearing" was introduced. Started the Wheeling Association to fight for better road and cycling clubs. Still around today.
1881 - Larger quarters at 597 Washington St. Boston, Ma. The Columbia Warrant or Guarantee was instituted.
1882 - A Branch House in New York was established. Model "Expert Columbia" was the first bicycle ridden across the U.S., from Oakland, Ca. to Boston, Ma. - 103 days, 3,700 miles. Then went around the world. "Columbia Enamel" was introduced.
1883 - Model's "Columbia Racer" and "Three-track Tricycle".
1884 - A Branch House in Chicago was established.
1885 - Model's "Columbia Light Roadster" bicycle and "Two-track Tricycle".
1886 - Model's "Columbia Safety" (front drive), "Semi-roadster" bicycle, and "Ladies Two-track Tricycle". Records of one mile in 2:29 4/5 seconds and 22 miles in the hour were made on a "Columbia Racer" and stood as World's Records for years to come.
1887 - The building at 77 and 79 Franklin St. Boston, Ma. was occupied in January. Model's "Columbia Tandem", "Columbia Racing", and "Light Roadster Tricycles".
1888 - Model's "Veloce Columbia" (rear drive Safety), "Volunteer Columbia", and "Surprise Columbia Tricycle".
1889 - Model's "Columbia Light Roadster" and "Tandem Safeties".
1890 - Model’s "Columbia Ladies Safety" and "Racing Safety". Columbia "Cushion Tires" were introduced. Final control and absorption of the Weed Sewing Machine Company took place. Stock went from $5.80 to $75.50. Colonel Pope bought the company for $15.60 and started the Pope Manufacturing Company. "Father of Good Roads" awarded. Instrumental of Congress awarding $10,000 needed for good road construction. M.I.T. started four courses in road engineering.
1891 - Model’s "Columbia Light Roadster Safety" and "Pneumatic Racing Safety".Great enlargement of the factory. Erection of a new building for the headquarters at 221 Columbus Ave. Boston, Ma.
1892 - Model #30 (Relay). Century Columbia. Columbia Pneumatic Tire. Started a big growth period. Purchase and enlargement of Hartford Rubber Works, a steel company, the largest nickel plating factory in the world, tube mills, motor carriage factory (auto), bicycle factory - over 1 million per year sold - $200.00 ea. sold in every civilized country of the world. "Trotting" transformed by the application of Columbia Pneumatic Tires and Ball Bearings.
1893 - Model’s #31, 32, 33. Columbia’s Pneumatic Tires were first successfully applied to road carriages. The Tube Mill was completed and put into operation. A new East wing was added to the factory.
1894 - Model’s #34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39.Erection of a new office building at Hartford, Ct.
1895 - Model’s #40, 41, 42, 43, and 44. Concentration of all interest at Hartford, Ct.Sale of Hartford Cycle Company’s product taken. Started purchasing all competition (over 75 companies) and put them under the "American Bicycle Company" that he owned. Pope put together other companies for the automobile. Built factories, formed "Electric Company".
1896 - Large additions to Columbia plant. New Tube Mill Completed. Experimental work was done on auto’s. The Mark I Phaeton Electric Car was completed. Hiram Maxim, an engineer, astonished everyone with operating a gasoline carriage (auto) on the streets of Hartford, Ct. Col. Pope purchased all the rights to the car. Beginning of the Westfield Plant: Lozier Manufacturing Company of Cleveland Ohio is building a factory division in Westfield, Ma. Land was donated by the Noble family, 10 acres on Silver St. and $10,000 to cover a shortage in the subscription. Subscription raised $75,000. August 5th, contract signed, company to build Cleveland Bicycles.
1897 - In 1897, the Westfield Plant was completed in less than a year. On February 3rd, it was expected that the factory will be operating by February 15th. New tube mill in operation . Five percent nickel steel tubing a new Columbia feature. A new building was added to the Columbia plant in Hartford, CT. Total floor space, 17 1/100 acres under one roof and extended over a mile along the New York - New Haven - Hartford Railway, employed nearly 10,000 people. Col. Pope produced the "Pope Hartford" and was running from New York to Boston, MA. The Mark III auto was developed. In May, ten vehicles were exhibited, sold for $3,000 each. Gasoline powered Tricycle available. Rental business of Columbia Electric Carriers on a for hire service established.
1898 - The GREATEST contribution to cycling and autos! They produced the chain-less bicycle. It was shaft driven with bevel gears (another new patent). Chain was the biggest problem with cycles. Men attempted to break them for sport. Major variations in automobiles could not gain speed with chains. The Mark VIII is available. It is comparable in design to modern cars with regards to the chassis and engine position.
Pope Shaft driven bicycle
Below, close-up of the shaft drive
1899 - Columbia Electric Coach (electric automobile). The Coach was built by Columbia for the New York City Transit and was used to ferry dignitaries from the railroad station to the city offices. A number of units were also to provide a taxi service in the city from 1899 to 1906, when they changed to gas powered units. Charles Murphy "Mile A Minute Murphy" rode a Columbia Tribune one mile in 57 4/5 seconds in Long Island, NY. behind a train.
Above, Punnett Companion, below close-up of the badge.
1897 Punnett Companion
Punnett Cycle Mfg., Co.
There were several ways to fashion a bicycle built for two, but the Punnett, with a pair of frames, side-by-side attached to a pair of in-line wheels, was one of the more unlikely ones. The rear axle had a sprocket on either side, each powered by a corresponding chain, front sprocket, and pedals. If this seemed like difficult cycling and balancing the Punnett with two riders was no easy task there was another option: a third seat post could accommodate a single rider who would use the inside pedal of each crank set. This was not entirely comfortable, but it was considered practical in getting the machine to and from the abode of the wheelman's lady friend.
It is rumored, that this bicycle belonged to the actor Steve McQueen, however, we have nothing to substantiate that. It is possible, McQueen had a collection of "About 210 motorcyles, over 55 cars, five airplanes, and over ten thousand miscellaneous items. Most everything was auctioned off by his family in 1984."
1934 Elgin Blackhawk
Columbia Westfield Mfg. Company
Built at Columbia facilities in New England, Sears did not stint in equipping the Blackhawk as a full-fledged motorcycle might have looked With streamlined twin-bar motorcycle-type frame, ``tank," electric horn, stainless steel mudguards, and chrome everywhere, the price was a then impressive $41.95, a hefty fare Sears made affordable with"easy terms" of $5.00 down and $5.00 a month. With products like these and terms like those, Sears had about 25% of the youth market at this time.
Buying a Sears bike on the installment plan provided youngsters with the first payment books of their consumer careers.
Columbia Manufacturing Co.
During the 1930s, two wheels took flight in the form of the Elgin Bicycle. The innovation and beauty of these Elgins are matched by few other bicycles. Elgins were sold through Sears, and Sears was one of the largest distributors in America, Elgin naturally commanded one of the largest market shares of the time. Around 25% of all bicycles sold in America were sold through Sears. Keep in mind that the bikes were not only sold in stores, but through mail order catalogs as well, in fact many small towns did not have a Sears store, but virtually every town had a Sears catalog store. The catalog store in Laramie, Wyoming in the 1950's was a desk in a hardware store!
Named for Borg-Warner's Ingersoll Division, which produced and marketed it, the Ingo was conceived by a pair of depression-era inventors who got the idea watching kids on homemade scooters. The rear hub was off-center, and when the rider pulled on the handlebars and provided some body English, the machine propelled itself nicely. It was originally called an Exer-Cycle because of its potential for people in need of a light workout but who might not feel safe on a conventional two-wheeler. The Ingo got plenty of publicity after a fanatic rode one from New York to Miami in twelve days. It was also featured in a "Three Stooges" comedy. And it got plenty of wartime use when motoring was discouraged. Unfortunately, the factory that made Ingos was converted to military production, and the scooter was discontinued. The Ingo was only produced for two years.
Huffman Mfg. Co.
The Huffman bike-building legacy began in 1888, when George P. Huffman, at the age of 27, purchased all the assets of the Davis Sewing Machine Company, manufacturers of high-quality sewing machines in Watertown, New York. He moved the plant from New York to Dayton, Ohio the following year, 1889, to larger facilities that had just been built Davis continued to make quality sewing machines, a product they made throughout the lifetime of the company. The face of the company began to change, however, when the Davis Sewing Machine Company built their first bicycles in 1892. At first, the company made bicycles for other companies and for hardware stores. It was not until 1895 that Davis started manufacturing their own line of bicycles the legendary ``Dayton."
1930's Hiawatha Dayton Chieftain
Huffman Mfg. Co.
Dayton, OHThe Davis Company built their first bicycles in 1892. Initially, they made bikes for other companies and hardware stores. The first year bicycles were produced under the name "Dayton" was 1895.
By 1897 Davis was the largest manufacturer of bikes in the United States. Davis produced top notch bikes with very fine finishes. All the bikes were produced in the same color, a carmine red. In 1897 the Dayton bikes had a leather tool box suspended form the frame. The tool box had an apron the unfolded from the bottom of the box and contained an oil can, adjustable wrench, hand pump and tire repair kit. This toolbox was the forerunner of the horn tank that appeared on later bikes. In the late 1890's Dayton produce a shaft drive bike with a dual shaft on each side. In 1899 the Davis Company introduced the "Dayton Special" with spherical hubs and crank hanger. Davis showcased their bike by sponsoring a racing team from 1895 to 1921. Bobby Walthour became national champion on a Dayton bike in 1920. A 1902 advertisement featured the Czar of Russia riding a Dayton. In 1897, U.S. bike manufacturers built 2,000,000 bikes which dropped to 250,487 units in 1904.
In spite of these tough times, the Davis Company thrived. In 1916 Davis purchased the Yale and Snell lines from the Consolidated Manufacturing Company of Toledo, Ohio. Davis also purchased the "National" line of bikes from the National Bicycle Company of Bay City, Michigan. Davis kept the National head badge changing only the name of the city in which the bikes were built. Davis even kept painting the bikes the National blue color. Dayton manufactured motorcycles from 1914 through 1918. Bikes began to take on the look of their motorized cousins. They had an extra top tube, truss rods on the forks, extra long handlebars and sometimes a "gas tank" fitted between the top tubes. One 1913 model was the Three Arch-Truss Roadster which used three braces between the main tube. Dayton also had a spring fork, which replaced the fender with a leaf spring and pivoted where the fork met the head tube, on some 1912-1913 models. The 1914-1915 "Chief" model was painted red, had an ornate head badge and the name "Chief" engraved in the pedals.
In 1916 George Gorman of the Davis Company acquired a patent for a self-contained motor to be fitted to a bike. The "Gorman Motor Wheel" slip over the front forks and had a throttle that attached to the handlebars. It was built through 1918. Davis also produced bikes under the names of Duro, Dixie Flyer, LaFrance, Daytonia, Shrayer, Ohio, Shapleish Hardware, Western Auto and Western Flyer.
In 1917 Davis produced seven models for the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company. The bikes were designed to imitate the motorcycles. The colors and panels were copied from the motorcycles as well. The Harley models were known as Motorcyke and 7-17 Special. Both models had a curved top bar that dropped two inches just ahead of the seat post cluster, imitating the style of the motorcycles. The Harley bikes used a typical quadraplate fork crown that was different than the other Davis bikes.
The Harley-Davidson bicycle was meant to appeal to children and young adults. An anomaly in the Harley-Davidson line, one can't help but think that the bicycle was a reaction to the success of Schwinn who owned the Henderson Motorcycle company and the Excelsior Motorcycle company. Seemingly out of place in most Harley-Davidson dealerships, sales did not meet expectations.
However, the bicycles were attractive and well-made. They were painted and pin striped in the same colors as their motorcycle brethren. Ads for the bicycle were primarily directed at pre-teen boys and girls; they clearly intended to capitalize on the Harley-Davidson name and mystique of the day. Most notable is the crank; note the ingenious "HD". Harley-Davidson received a patent for this design. Also note the wheels; the rims are wooden. The bicycles were built for Harley-Davidson by the Davis Sewing Machine Company from 1917 to 1922. They were discontinued that year for lackluster sales. Contributing to their demise might have been the number of models: 9; or, the high price which ranged from $30 to $45. Unique to the girl's model was the front chain guard and the web of string covering the rear wheel spokes. This web of string, which is original, kept the long skirts from getting caught in the wheel. Davis remained the sole supplier of Harley bikes until the Davis Sewing Machine Co. folded in 1922. Horace Huffman had worked in the business since 1900 and by 1922 he was in charge of liquidating the assets of The Davis Sewing Machine Company. He used the profits from the liquidation to form the Huffman Manufacturing Company.
Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works
Iver Johnson's notoriety grew as the sponsor of Major Taylor when the racer's career was peaking in Europe. So the company produced a bicycle with many features of Taylor's track model, such as light steel tubing and racing handlebars specified by Taylor himself. In the interest of durability, designers added the truss beneath the cross bar for the everyday rider, who was more likely than Major to beat his bicycle along bad roads.
Monark Super Deluxe
Monark Silver King, Inc.
Tops in beauty, features and performance… Monark offered one full year of fire and theft insurance with every bicycle.
HISTORY OF ROADMASTER
Roadmaster has a history dating back more than 60 years. Here are some of the more significant facts about Roadmaster.
Today - Roadmaster produces a wide array of products, including 13 lines of bicycles in 102 different styles, 17 styles of tricycles and 4 styles of wagons. Roadmaster continues to produce a broad product line with innovative features and high quality.
1940s Roadmaster (green)
Cleveland Welding Co.
By the time the war years interrupted most bicycle production, the classic lines of the cruiser bike were well established. So were the standard features such as two-tone paint, spring front fork, horn tank and headlight. Roadmaster was one of the many companies that got into the newly revived industry. It was one of the few that would remain in the business all the way through to the present time.
Roadmaster Luxury Liner
Cleveland Welding Co.
One of the first industrial designers to utter the words "planned obsolescence" was Brooks Stevens who designed this Roadmaster. His meaning was ``better, more desirable products each season so customers can't resist upgrading." In this case it meant a Shockmaster coiled-sprint front fork, chrome-trimmed horn tank, rear carrier with taillights, and a Searchbeam headlight which was unusually powerful and tempted kids to stay out after dark.
Schwinn Black Phantom
Arnold, Schwinn & Co.
For reasons which had as much to do with the baby boom as this bicycle's intrinsic design, the Black Phantom became one of the most popular bicycles ever in America. It had a curvaceous cantilever frame, a
refinement of the streamlining that had been going on for nearly two decades. It had the knee-action spring fork, a fine-looking feature even if it did not conquer every pothole on postwar American roads. It had a cycle lock and the added attraction of a guarantee against theft for a year. Most of all, it had chrome on rims, tank, fenders and wherever else it could be added. Chrome made heavy bikes look faster than they were.
Arnold, Schwinn & Co.
Arnold, Schwinn & Company was founded in 1895 in Chicago, just as the "bicycle boom" of the Gay 90s was at its peak. In the few years that followed, many of the hundreds of companies that made fortunes building and selling bicycles went out of business. But not Arnold, Schwinn and its founder, a tough-minded German immigrant named Ignaz Schwinn. The manufacturer's Teutonic tenacity enabled his company to survive the bicycle markets many low points, until the 1930s when America's interest in bicycles surged and sales skyrocketed. Sales booms came again after World War II and yet again in the late 1960s.
Bike booms, when they came, were important in making the Schwinn firms dominant and its name one of the most famous in the United States. Indeed, whole generations of American kids grew up riding Black Phantoms, Varsity's, and Fastbacks or wishing they were. Yet Arnold, Schwinn's got real strength was not just in riding over the good times; it was the way it through the rough spots as well. Indeed, Schwinn prospered so well in the good times because it survived very well through the bad.
The first two decades of the 20th century were hardly flush for most American bicycle makers, as the automobile had replaced the "wheel" in the affections of the American imagination. Yet Schwinn persisted, building bicycles for chain stores and other retailers-at paper-thin margins, to be sure-but keeping the Chicago factory running and growing. Meanwhile, Ignaz Schwinn used his talent for cycle building in the manufacture of motorcycles - Excelsior's and Hendersons - which had their own profitable days in the sun and certainly helped keep the bicycle business going in its darkest hours.
In 1931, the Excelsior Motorcycle Company was abandoned, Ignaz retired, and his son Frank W. endeavored to bring the bicycle back to the forefront of American life. This he did by conceiving the balloon-tire bicycle - heavier and far more durable than inmost previous models. For the first time children were encouraged in great numbers to be bicycle riders. The balloon-tire era lasted through the 1950s and helped Schwinn become the most prominent bicycle maker in America by far. While Schwinn had competitors, and some surpassed the Chicago commune in volume, none matched the prestige of Schwinn nor the quality that Frank W. demanded and backed up with a lifetime guarantee.
Not everything Schwinn did was a rousing success. In 1937, Frank W. set the wheels in motion to build what he hoped would be the greatest racing bicycle in the world, and the Paramount laid fair claim to that title. The problem was that the price tag for a chrome-moly lug-frame bicycle with components of the best possible quality was out of reach for most. Moreover, the idea of adults on touring bicycles-as they were in great numbers in Europe -- was slow to catch on in car-crazy America. While Paramounts made a huge impact on the sport of six-day racing in the few years left before World War II, Paramounts remained the best idea that Frank W. ever had that made a dime, at least in his lifetime.
Schwinn got through the war, though primarily as a weapons supplier rather than a bicycle manufacturer. These years were critical for the company, as the factory, including many women skilled at brazing frames, remained up and running and ready take advantage of the great economic boom that followed the war's end.
As baby boomers became bicycle riders, Schwinn strengthened its position, not just because Frank W Schwinn's company knew how to design and build very good bicycles, but also because it knew how to sell them. In the postwar years, the Schwinn Authorized Dealer network became the envy of nearly every other company in America for its loyalty, its knowledge and its almost constant communication with the decision-makers in Chicago.
There were rough spots to come, however. In the 1970s, Schwinn was a burdened giant and feeling the strains of age. Its manufacturing methods -- notably the once-preeminent flash-welding technique-became largely obsolete as lightweight lug-framed bicycles from foreign countries rose to the top of the market. Schwinn's dealer network, moreover, was expensive to maintain in a period when new bicycle companies in BMX and mountain bikes succeeded through "guerrilla" marketing-showing up at races, making fast impressions on bicycle journals, and taking chances on dazzling new products.
Schwinn's hardest times came in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the company went bankrupt and was purchased by a new group that moved the entire operation from Chicago to Boulder, Colorado. It was not a bright moment for anyone involved. Old-time employees were mostly separated from what had been a true family company. The new owners wondered if they would ever recover from the doldrums of a company in distress.
They did, of course, and are now succeeding on the shoulders of values that were established early on-unimpeachable quality, constant innovation, and utter pride in a name that is still synonymous with the American bicycle. The new Schwinn overcome fresh challenges by virtue of old values and reestablished itself as the most enviable name in American cycling.
Source: Schwinn Bicycles
Thomas Stevens history:
Stevens was born in England in 1854. Although his parents were of small means, he managed to achieve a solid education. A nephew described him as having been a ``voracious reader of travel literature, energetic and a realist." At eighteen, Tom suddenly announced his intention of going to America. When he produced the money he'd squirreled away for his passage, his father said, ``Go! Young as you are, you are well able to take care of yourself." In the United States over the next eleven years, Tom held assorted jobs. In the winter of 1883-84, he was working as a miner in Colorado. America was in the midst of its first bicycle boom, and "wheeling" was the rage. The high-wheel, invented by Englishman James Starley, had been introduced to Americans at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. In just a few years, the contraption bowled along every city's streets. Before ever having ridden one himself, Stevens determined that he would be the first man to pedal across America and set out to acquire the proper machine. On the morning of April 22, 1884, he rolled his black-enameled Columbia along the Oakland Pier. He sprinted, jumped the mounting step, and hoisted himself onto the hogskin saddle. Gripping the rubber knobs at the ends of the handlebar, he pedaled toward San Pablo. How he managed to purchase the bike is a mystery. At ninety dollars, it was an expensive item. But Stevens was known for making sacrifices whatever was necessary to attain his goals. The Columbia, with a reputation for durability, was a good choice. Stevens picked the Standard model, one of the most popular bicycles of the day. On July 16, 1884, Thomas Stevens bicycled eastward across the Indiana-Ohio border. In early August, Tom Stevens would complete the first transcontinental bicycle ride. He would then continue on, circling the globe. Stevens's Standard Columbia bicycle, built by the Pope Manufacturing Company, was a substantial and durable machine made of tubular steel. The Pope Company preserved Stevens's bicycle until a World War II scrap drive took precedence.
Note: The picture above and the bicycle exhibited are Singer bicycles, Tom Stevens rode a Columbia, many sewing machine companies manufactured bicycles, in fact, many sewing machine factories were converted to bicycle manufacturing companies, Singer dropped the bicycle line in 1889.
Whizzer Motorbike Company
Los Angeles, CA