Chicago Tribune, June 9, 1895
“Birds of a feather clock together.” Anyway this is what the schoolmaster often wrote when called upon for “copy” in the days when log schoolhouses were in vogue and readymade copybooks were unknown. And if the schoolmaster was alive today and should visit Chicago he would find abundant proof pf his pet assertion ready to his hand.
Business of various sorts certainly does “flock together” in the city. The most noticeable example is to be found in “Bicycle Row.” Everybody who rides a wheel knows where “Bicycle Row” is, but for the benefit of those who have been unable to buy a wheel it may be explained that Bicycle Row is the north side of West Madison street from Ashland boulevard west one block. Here are nine retail bicycle houses in a consecutive row with another across the street and still another around the corner. It is the greatest bicycle center in the city, which is equivalent to saying it is the greatest in the world. Here can be found every kind of wheel built and everything that the bicycle rider can wear or use. Nothing is sold that does not pertain to bicycling. Each store does a renting and also a repair business. Since each and every one of the dealers sells every wheel he can get hold of, sometimes before it is built, the denizens of the row dwell together in a state of neighborly love most delightful to behold. There can be no bitter rivalry where, owing to the great demand, competition is obliterated, so these dealers are at peace with the world. When one gets out of any article like ankle guards or lamps he just runs over to his neighbor and borrows whatever he needs to supply his customer, just as our grandmothers in pioneer days, when they had visitors to dine, sent out to borrow a cup of sugar or a drawing of tea that the guests might be suitably entertained.
Bicycle Row is at the height of its glory at night. Apparently every man, woman, and child on the West Side fortunate enough to own a wheel and rides straight to Bicycle row as soon as supper is swallowed. It is the general rendezvous for all. The rider not only goes there to meet his friend or his best girl, but he goes there for any minor repairs he may need and to pump up his tires. The curb is lined with an impassable chevaux de frise of wheels; the pavement and the shops are packed with an impatient mob all wanting to be waited on at once. About all the business of Bicycle Row is transacted between 7 and 9 p.m. The proprietors put on all the salesmen they can find room for and let them take care of what trade they can. If a customer can’t get waited on he helps himself and comes around some other time to settle. Bicycle Row cannot take care of its business and longs for additions to its numbers.
Chicago Chronicle, April 26, 1896
Bicycle Row Prospers.
Bicycle row on Wabash avenue is enjoying the most prosperous year since its institution. The makers are finding business so lively that many of them have to enlarge their quarters. Mr. Gleason of Gleason & Schaff said yesterday:
- Trade was never in such a healthy condition. Everybody wants to ride a new wheel. We try to take their orders , but frequently have to disappoint them for days, as the factory is pushed to the limit by the demand. The wheel industry is growing to immense proportions.
Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1898
“Opening day” among the bicycle houses was fairly successful yesterday, and today it is expected the different wheel repositories will be crowded with patrons anxious to inspect 1898 models and novelties. If the weather is more propitious the dealers agree they ought to have the biggest crowds their stores have seen in many a day.
Decorations of various kinds made the different stores attractive yesterday. One store was festooned with American flags and looked like a Fourth of July celebration. The wealth of patriotic bunting almost eclipsed the glistening rows of wheels below it. But the crowds only looked at the decorations for moment before turning their attention to the wheels and sundries. The courteous attendants had to talk as they haven’t talked for a long time explaining new gears. There was considerable discussion regarding the chainless wheels, and the different models were closely inspected and the dealers were asked for their candid opinion by many anxious visitors. They nearly all seemed to be a little qualified in their statements. They said they thought the stability of the wheel greater, but as it was heavier thought it would not be as speedy as the chain gearing. The new chainless gears look as if they would make admirable road wheels.
Palms and electric lights played an important part in nearly all the exhibits. Several of the stores looked like greenhouses, and in one instance this effect was enhanced by the beautiful green models displayed among the palms.
There doesn’t seem to be any material change this year. The parts have been strengthened and made more graceful in many instances, but all the bicycles retain their characteristic features.
An exploded view by Columbia showing the inner workings of their bevel-gear shaft drive. The large toothed bevel gear at the crank engages with the smaller such gear at the front end of the shaft, turning the long tubular shaft. The shaft’s end gear engages with the gear at the rear hub, driving the wheel. So, turning the cranks rotates the shaft, which turns the rear wheel.
Columbia Catalogue, 1899
Busy in Bicycle Row.
Bicycle row along Wabash avenue presented a busy sight all afternoon, and the colonies on other streets were equally as busy.
“Opening day” this year is more or less of an experiment, and it is designed to set a precedent for future seasons. The local Cycle Board of Trade is anxious to make the event an annual fixture, and to this end the decorations have been placed in the stores and other attractions have been presented. It is argued that it is as feasible a way to present the bicycling novelties and improvements as the big cycle show.
A canvas of opinions among the dealers as to the success from a business standpoint elicited the opinion that then opening days would be successful. They all said they had made a number of sales and were relieved of the worry in many cases of figuring on the wholesale trade, and did not have the task of looking after tyhe agencies which the big cycle show entailed.
There was a little discussion regarding the report of the action of the German government asked by German bicycle manufacturers to include bicycles under the head of upholstered vehicles and tax them accordingly, the duty being nearly 33-1/3 per cent on the price of American wheels as quoted here. This tariff would be prohibitory, and the dealers said it was manifestly unjust, but they had no definite information regarding the attitude of their firms in filling their depots in Germany with a full stock before such a tariff could be put into effect. No information, so far as could be learned, has been received as to takin action on the subject.
Will Keep Open Tonight.
Today the exhibits will be continued and many of the dealers expect to keep open tonight in order to give the Saturday night crowds a chance to inspect their goods. Some of the stores will keep open until midnight.
The list of dealers holding “opening days” comprise the following:
- Manson-Cycle company, Masonic Temple.
Brown-Lewis Cycle company, 293 Wabash
Crawford Cycle company, 86 Wabash avenue.
Meade Cycle company, 287 Wabash avenue.
Mead & Prentiss, 211-213 Monroe street.
Miami Cycle and Manufacturing company, 323 Wabash avenue.
C. P. Warner Manufacturing company, 259 Wabash avenue.
Siegel, Cooper & Co.
Adams & Westlake company, 90 Wabash avenue.
Fowler Cycle company, 93 Madison street.
Iroquois cycle works, 331 Wabash avenue.
Rex Cycle company, 84 Adams street.
J. W. Williams, 154 La Salle street.
James Wilde Jr. & Co., 131-137 Wabash avenue.
Gleason & Schaff, 275 Wabash avenue.
Tonk Manufacturing company, Clybourn avenue and Lewis street.
Von Leingerke & Antoine, 277 Wabash avenue.
Gormully & Jeffery, 128 Searborn street.
D. O. Rohne, 355 Wabash avenue.
Pope Manufacturing company, 105 Wabash avenue.
Monarch Cycle Manufacturing company, 152 Dearborn street and 87 and 89 Ashland avenue.
Sterling Cycle company, 276 Wabash avenue.
United States Cycle company, 155 Wabash avenue.
Excelsior Supply company, 276 avenue.
Liberty Cycle company, 82 Wabash avenue.
A. G. Spalding & Bros., 147 Wabash avenue.
Ralph Temple Cycle company, 204 Thirty-fifth street.
The American Dunlop Tire company, 132 Lake street.
Hartford Rubber Works company, 134 Lake street.
Western wheel works, 495 Wells street.
New York Tire company, 38 Canal street.
Davis Sewing Machine company, 66 Wabash avenue.
Jenkins Cycle company, 20 Custom-House place.
F. G. Smith, 257 Wabash avenue.
The Inter Ocean, May 10, 1896
Typical Sunday newspaper bicycle advertisement.
For context, the 1899 Edition of the Lakeside Business Directory of Chicago, there were about three and a half pages (seven columns) of bicycle dealers/manufacturers. By 1907 that number has dwindled down to less than one half of a column.