Bicycling | Bicycle Manufacturers
BICYCLING IN CHICAGO
In the 1850s and 1860s, Frenchmen Ernest Michaux and Pierre Lallement placed the pedals on an enlarged front wheel. Their creation, which came to be called the “Boneshaker”, featured a heavy steel frame on which they mounted wooden wheels with iron tires. The Boneshaker was further refined by James Starley in the 1870s. He mounted the seat more squarely over the pedals so that the rider could push more firmly, and further enlarged the front wheel to increase the potential for speed. With tires of solid rubber, his machine became known as the “Ordinary” in the United States. British cyclists likened the disparity in size of the two wheels to their coinage, nicknaming it the penny-farthing. The primitive bicycles of this generation were difficult to ride, and the high seat and poor weight distribution made for dangerous falls. Those who were neither athletes nor acrobats chose to watch cyclists rather than ride.
Chicagoans gathered at the Chicago Coliseum to watch six-day endurance races held on indoor tracks, and spectators lined the streets from Michigan Avenue’s Leland Hotel to Pullman to watch the annual Pullman bicycle race.
The high cost of a high-wheeler limited bicycle ownership to the upper class. Wealthy cyclists willing to spend $200 to $400 for a bicycle donned elegant riding uniforms and joined wheelman’s clubs. By the late 1890’s, 54 clubs boasted more than 10,000 members. Some clubs constructed ornate buildings equipped with gymnasiums to enable members to exercise during the winter. Wheelmen used their political clout to lobby for bicycle-friendly legislation, including a state highway system, protection on desolate roads, and smoother street surfaces. Carter H. Harrison, Jr capitalized on cyclists’ political proclivities during the mayoral election of 1897. A campaign poster featured a cycling Harrison identified as “Not the Champion Cyclist; But the Cyclists’ Champion.” Harrison attributed his victory to strong support from cyclists, and he rewarded his constituents with a bicycle path along Sheridan Road from Edgewater to Evanston.
Chicago Bicycle Club at the Columbian Exposition Dedication Parade (1893)
Chicago was the center of the industry in America, with 30 factories turning out thousands of bikes every day. Bicycle output in the United States grew to over a million per year at the turn of the century. On 10 August 1893, the Columbian Exposition held “Wheelmen Day” as over 600 members of the League of American Wheelman Club paraded through the White City. The Chicago Tribune called it a “dancing river of fire rushing along at breakneck speed.” Most bicycles carried two Chinese lanterns, while several others carried as many as fifty.
According to the 1898 Chicago Bicycle Directory: A Reference Book of the Trade, approximately two-thirds of the country’s bicycles and accessories were manufactured within 150 miles of the city. In 1895, German immigrant Ignaz Schwinn and meatpacker Adolph Arnold formed Arnold, Schwinn & Co. Their bicycles were recognized as among the finest. Ignaz was not only an ingenious designer and an exacting supervisor; he was an astute businessman as well, so Arnold was able to be the ultimate “passive partner”. By 1899, Schwinn was producing one million bicycles a year. Another massive bicycle factory in Chicago was Western Wheel Works which produced the famous Crescent brand. They were located at 501 N. Wells Street.
Program for the Eleventh Annual Chicago Road Race (May 31, 1897)
Bicycle parade on South Michigan Avenue, looking north,May 1897
“Papa” Smedley, 51 years old (inset), Handicap of Fifteen Minutes, Crosses the Tape First.
June 1, 1897
This first bicycle boom was short-lived, as automobiles soon replaced bikes as the preferred means of transportation on American streets. However, with the advent of mass transportation using horseless trolleys, the wheel was no longer in vogue. By 1905, output nationwide was one-fourth of what it had been but five years earlier, and only 12 bicycle makers remained in Chicago. Competition for parts and for the cooperation of the department stores which sold the bulk of the bicycles became intense. Schwinn saw opportunity where others saw only gloom. He bought out failing firms on the cheap, and built a new factory on Chicago’s west side.
The last sanctioned League of American Wheelmen high wheel race was the International LAW meet in Chicago during the summer of 1893.
Probably took place at the Washington Park racetrack.
Lakeview Bicycle Cub, Orchard Street, 1890
Chicago mayor Carter Harrison and his bicycle built for ten during the 1890’s bike craze.
Behind Mr. Harrison are seated Si Mayer (President of the Automobile Club of Illinois), William C. Malley, Robert G. Fisher, William H. Arthur, and Granville W. Browning, attorneys; George K. Bennett; Ed McNeil, broker; Charles P. Root and Alderman James B. Bowler.
RISE AND FALL OF THE WHEEL
Rather quickly, the bicycle boom went bust. Sales plummeted, and many cycling clubs disbanded. The number of bicycles manufactured nationwide plunged 79 percent from 1897 to 1904, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Suddenly, bikes were far less common on Chicago streets. The Tribune reported that the social elite had lost interest in the “fad.”
Here are several articles that show how interest in the bicycle progressed.
Chicago Tribune, April 15, 1894
Eight strong and courageous bicycle riders of Chicago can bid defiance to the somberless male cyclists to beat them at 100 yard runs. In any kind of weather and over any kind of roads over which wheels can be ridden these women have the pluck and endurance and speed to ride even with the best flyers who put “centuries” to their credit.
These eight representatives of the gentler sex are members of the Century Club of America, a national organization possessing a large membership in this city. A member also makes a “century” run is entailed to a gold bar which is then suspended from the club badge. On the bar are engraved the club initials and the date of the run.
Some of these women always have crowded the line in their hundred-mile jaunts. Two have ridden more “centuries” than any other women in the West.
Mrs. Fred McEwen and Miss Alice Waugh divide between them the honor of being the first to demonstrate that “century” riding is not outside the province of womankind. Miss Waugh was a teacher in the city schools. Her experience was short, for her first “century ” was her last.
Mrs. McEwen is a wheelwoman of note. Her rapid, graceful riding is famous throughout the bicycle world. In many a fierce “scorcher” she has easily outstripped the best of the boys. Three bars are suspended from her badge, but she emphatically declares “century ” riding to be nonsense for either men or women, 100 miles in ten hours requiring in her opinion too great and dangerous an expenditure of strength. Although she has been a wheelwoman for seven years and intends to accomplish an immense amount of future riding it is not her intention to undertake another “century.”
Miss Lizzie Hegerty’s fifteen bars bear witness that she is the champion woman cyclist of the West. She has used a wheel for five years. Her 100-mile runs have been principally to Elgin and Aurora and back, but she also has run to Kenosha and Milwaukee. She smiles when describing her first “century.” It was in October, 1891, and was a far greater achievement than her later triumphs, for she rode an old solid tire wheel that weighed fifty pounds, a striking contrast to her present dainty machine of twenty-five pounds weight. She traveled 3,000 miles on the bicycle last summer, and often rides twenty-five miles in a summer evening. Miss Regerty is a tall, handsome young woman, with an exquisite complexion which her excursions in sun and wind do not appear to injure. Her fifteen bars are made into a chain for her watch. If nothing interferes, the chain will be lengthened by a number of additional bars when another season is over. Her cycling dress is a dark Eton suit, the skirt as narrow as possible, with rubber stirrups to keep it in place. She is a bookkeeper in the office of a bicycle company. With superb strength she walks to and from business when the streets are not in condition to make the use of a wheel possible. Her home is three and one-half miles from the office. So her stroll is seven miles daily.
Miss Regerty’s constant companion in her riding is Miss Lucy Porter. That the latter has the brilliant record of fourteen “centuries” is proved by the handsome necklace, composed of fourteen of the Century club bars, that adorns her throat. But though such honors count high Miss Porter can claim greater; she is the first Chicago woman brave and plucky and sensible enough to adopt the use of trousers. She has inaugurated an era. She made her first public appearance in this costume on the occasion of the run Of the Illinois Cycling club to Riverside, early in the month. The suit is trousers extremely graceful and pretty, with no hint of immodesty or unwomanliness. It consists of exceedingly gathered in at the knee; jersey leggins and a long coat-like basque with vest end revere. A bicycle cap gives the last jaunty touch.
The effect is charming, grace and comfort being harmoniously blended. Miss Porter’s sensations on her first experience with this costume are best expressed ia her own words. She said:
I felt dreadfully nervous. I became so weak I could scarcely ride, but when I entered the club and all the boys came up and shook hands witb me and congratulated me I began to feel better. But I grew nervous when we started out. I fully expected to be hooted and hissed and yelled at all along the route, but, though people stopped and stared at me, I was not tho recipient of any insulting attention until we reached the outskirts of the city, when a group of silly, half-grown boys indulged in cat-calls. But I had got my courage up by that time and didn’t mind it. It took lots of nerve at first, though.
How did the new suit affect your riding?
I doubled my usual speed, although we were facing the facing the wind. I kept in advance of the club without an effort, which I could not possibly have done in ordinary dress. My wheel seemed five pounds lighter. A skirt is a nuisance. It gets soiled and torn and constantly tangles in the wheel. I was delighted with the experiment and shall never ride in skirts again.
Miss Porter is a stenographer. She proposes to use her new costume habitually in riding to and from business, keeping a skirt at her office to slip on during working hours that susceptible callers need not be shocked by her attire. This young woman’s independence and courage, wheelmen say, cannot be too highly praised. Her friends believe she has struck the keynote of dress reform not for bicyclIsts only but for a all business-women. Her costume is an ideal work dress.
These two companions rode last summer on their wheels to Clinton, In., and return. Two years ago they explored the interiors of New York, Massachusetts. and New Hampshire in the same manner. Both are expert with the camera; their kodaks are taken on each trip. and they possess fine collections of views of the sections they have visited. They contemplate a trip by wheel to New York and back the coming summer.
Among the Chicago girls first brave enough to attempt the famous “century” run, was Miss Hilda Peterson. Two bars bear testimony to her successful efforts. She is a vigorous and graceful rider, but thinks 100 miles too long a ride for a woman and doubts if she ever attempts to win her third bar. She uses her wheel for pleasure merely, not for honors. Her favorite cycling consists of a bell skirt, Eton jacket, and Stanley cap.
Two sisters in Ravenswood, the Misses Stahl, belong in the honored list; one has made three runs, the other one.
Miss Hattie Bicker has made rather a unique record. She rides a “century” just once a year, but she rides on time and invariably comes in first. She has three bars.
That bicycle riding is conducive to health is the enthusiastic and unanimous verdict of these expert wheel-women. Miss Porter’s innovation in dress is most favorably received. Women who dread to become conspicuous by its use in sunlight are planning to slip out with it on after dark. As the weather becomes milder the boulevards promise to be filled with sprightly girls enjoying the comfort of wearing trousers under the less tell-tale gleams of electricity.
Chicago Tribune, April 12, 1896
BICYCLES AND JACKSON STREET
Boodle1 Aldermen are seeking to sell to a street railroad corporation the only free east-and-west street left which traverses the business district and which can be used for bicycle and social travel by residents of the West and South Divisions or by other Chicagoans. How much boodlers are to get for their corrupt votes is not publicly known. Some of thom may receive as much as two or three thousand dollars. The cheaper ones may have sold their votes and their constituents for ten to twelve hundred apiece.
But the value to the people of what these corrupt rascals propose to give away to a grasping corporation is inestimable. It can hardly be measured by millions. When Chicagoans once come to understand what the effect would be of the passage of the “Central Electrie” Jackson street ordinance over a veto of Mayor Swift they will mark for political death every man who may have had anything to do with it.
One street after another in the heart of the city has been sold to the railroad companies. At present the only street connecting the South and West Side Park systems which can be used for social travel is Jackson street. There the tens of thousands of bicyclists can get along safely and comfortably. As long as that street and its wide, splendid bridge remain free and unobstructed the boys and the young men and women who take pleasure in a most healthful and enjoyable form of exercise will have perfect facilities for getting from one park of the great system and city to another.
The bicyclist starting from Garfield or Douglas Park can follow the boulevard streets of the West Side eastward. He can cross the South Branch at the fine Jackson street bridge, and go on, unobstructed by trains of street cars, to Michigan boulevard. There he can turn northward to the Public Library or southward to the Art Institute or Auditorium.
Continuing south along the smooth Michgan boulevard he can reach the South Parks. Then turning eastward to the lake and Jackson Park, westward on the Hyde Park and Lake boulevard, which forms the outside connection of the two park systems, he can complete the grand circuit back to Garfield orto Humboldt Park and return to his starting point. And this grand exercise for tens of thousands of young people!
Take away Jackson street, from Michigan to Canal, including the bridge, and he cannot swing around the grand circle.
Take away Jackson street, from Canal to Michigan, and one side of the loop is gone.
It will not be long before Michigan avenue and the Lake Shore drive to Lincoln Park are connected, so that the wheelmen can go with ease over smooth roads from Evanston to Lincoln Park, thence to the Field Columbian Museum.
But if Jackson street from Canal to Michigan boulevard is sold by the boodle Aldermen to the “Central Electric” the North-Siders must ride to Humboldt Park on a Lake View cross street in visiting West Side parks and then return the way they went. Will any of the North Side Aldermen vote to cut off this connection for the bicyclers via Jackson street and the West Side parks and boulevards?
With Jackson street kept preserved for social and family vehicle use there will be two grand loops for the tens of thousands of wheelmen of all parts of the great city, with one side of each extending through the heart of Chicago.
With Jackson street bartered away for bribes the bicyclists can see where they will be. The immense West Division will be pretty much cut off from the others.
The numberof wheelmen in this city must already exceed 100.000. There are multi- tudes of thousands of them who are voters now and are able to strike a blow at the at the treacherous boodlers who have sold out the people s social rights in this city. There are many tens of thousands more who are not voters yet, but who wlil soon be. There Is not a ward in this city which has not bicyclist voters enough to destroy any Alderman who sells out the rights of the bicyclers in this vital connecting street.
1 Boodle: money, especially that gained or spent illegally or improperly.
Chicago Tribune December 20, 1896
Herewith are the results of a careful inquiry among malc6rs of bicycles with the purpose of ascertaining what definite changes and tendencies are shown in the wheel for 1897.
Experts agree that the rush to make the lightest possible wheel has come to a standstill, and that henceforth, at least for some there is likely to be a more conservative tendency in the matter of weight. Bicycles will be a trifle heavier than during 1896. Strength and lightness cannot be combined beyond a certain degree, and the experience of last year has pretty thoroughly proved it. It would be premature to conclude that the models thus far out are a sufficient indication of the change which will be seen in the wheels of ’97. It Is admitted that no marked changes are thus far visible; but those who lead the trade are apt to hold back their models until it is too late for imitators to copy them.
A great deal has been said of the forthcoming chainless bicycle. Some have gone so far as to say that 25.000 of them may be in use next year; but those In the best position to know deny this, for the sufficient reason that there is not at present in the United Slates enough machinery of right kind to produce twenty-five such wheels per day. But the experiments promise to be eventually fruitful. A machine of this kind during the last year been ridden constantly in all weathers and under all practicable test conditions; and after its l3,000 miles of wear and tear experts have reported favorably upon its feasibility. It is a matter, however, on which experts continue to differ, some declaring that no adequate method of doing away with the excessive wear of the, gear has been discovered or Is likely to be. On the whole there does not seem to be very confident expectation of immediately realizing a successful introduction of the bevel gear.
After much experimenting, it seems pretty well settled that larger sprocket wheels will be used in next year’s machines, with the result of greater ease in propulsion and better management of a higher gear. Those who have tried the larger sprocket are convinced that it increases the wearing power of the machine as well as the comfort of the rider, and that it will do this while allowing a higher gear. They say that the seven-tooth sprocket must be discarded, and that an increase of the gear from the present average up as far as eighty-one is quite practicable.
An improvement of much value has been made by a new brake which does away with the objections long urged against those now in use. it Is quite certain. that the new brake, is a model of simplicity and efficiency, will be extensively used next year. It provides for that long felt want, a graduated tightening, and is applied to the crank axle, the center of weight and power, thus the avoiding the wear on the tire. A spiral steel coil Is placed around the crank axle over all its length inside the bottom bracket, and to it is attached a light but strong chain which runs up inside the frame tubing and, the front fork and, with an arrangement in the grip. The brake Is operated by simply turning the grip. and it can be applied, or released without shifting or foot and without interfering in the slightest degree with the convenience of the rider. All parts of the brake invisible, the only outward evidences of its existence being a button with a milled edge in the center of the handle bar and another smaller button flush with the cork on the inner surface of the grip.
With regard to saddles, they vary in infinitesimal, just as hats do. Nothing new is reported which can be be a decided advance. The tendency to shorten the pommel on the saddles for women’s bicycles is still in force and will probably result in eliminating it as far as possible.
Gear cases are likely to be brought into use. This will be quite a new feature. In England gear cases are quite the fashion, though cyclists on this side of the water are apt to urge reasons other than, those of fashion for such a prevalent use in the old country. Damp, slush, fog, rain—all these are present in greater profusion With the English rider. They keep the dust and dirt oft the chain and sprocket wheel, decreasing friction and allowing a gain in speed, and will be so as to be not only dust-proof, but leakage-proof. The interior Is so arranged that chain and sprocket wheel revolve in an oil bath.
Will there be something new in tires? Well, yes—1897 will see the first practically universal acceptance of the principle that “roughening the tread” of the tire increases the safety and adds to the ease of the cyclist. Almost all the tires are going to be well roughened next year and they will also be a trifle heavier. The puncture-less t!re has not made much headway in.spite of the volumes of talk and large advertising about it.
Expelts think that so far all to produce this variety have resulted unsatisfactorily. The heavier and more “puncture-less” the material, the less resilient it is sure to be, and that spoils it for general use,
Sears 1897 Spring Catalog
Cushion Frames Not Successful.
Inventors have recently been sharpening their wits on the question of the cushion frame, but not with any marked result. One or two makers are attempting to deviate from the accepted idea of the rigid by introduction of the spring cushion principal. It remains to be seen with what success. This has been repeatedly tried from the beginning, but Without much progress. In doing away with rigidity the liability to wear is increased and the steering of the bicycle is affected.
There does not to be much improvement promised in the construction of women’s b!cycles or tandems. They will differ but very little from those now in use. The combination tandem for man and woman has a decided weakness in its present make-up, and can only he adequately strengthened by constructing it throughout in ihe same way as those built for men. One thing Is certain, there will be all immensely increased output of tandems next year. Last vear there was a great demand for tandems, but only a limited supply. The demand for next year will be fully met.
Juvenile bicycles will undergo a marked change. Thus far they have been built too cheaply; inferior material and workmanship have too often affected the safety and comfort of the youthful rider. Manufacturers have awakened to the true state of affairs, the physicians having also put in a strong protest against the way things were going, declaring that bicycles for the young should be of fully as good, if not better, material than those built for their elders: and 1897 will see thousands of juvenile wheels which in material and construction will be exact duplicates of those made for adults.
With regard to finer finish and neatness of construction. there are several improvements to be noted. The new smooth or flush joint will undoubtedly replace those made by overlapping. It is constructed so that, by an interior connection, the jointure becomes invisible, especially after enameling. The connection is made by a thimble and gives strength and lightness. Pedals also will have more finish than before. Scorchers and crack road riders will stick to the rat-trap pedal, as it holds firmer and is lighter. Wood will be more used in handle bars.
The lamps will be better in minor details. One lamp will especially claim attention by reason of its successful adaptation of the principle of the locomotive headlight, including a glass chimney which creates the draft and admits for the first time of the use of a circular wick. Hitherto it has always been necessary: to use a flat wick. In other matters of finish and , which are almost too minute for notice here, the machines for next year wIill show an improvement upon those of 1896.
Chicago Tribune, May 30, 1897
Woolen sweaters and red and green clocked stockings are no longer en regle in the big wholesale houses clustered around Adams and Franklin streets, and the salesmen and bookkeepers do not push their wheels between bales of prints and stacks of white goods. These establishments do not discourage the use of the wheel, but when it comes to appearing for work in short breeches the managers interpose an emphatic veto.
The new regime was not thoroughly established at Marshall Field & Co.”s until three young men were sent home to dress again a short time ago.
The bicycle craze has run the usual course in this district. At first the riders were few and the number of those who were willing to risk their lives and limbs in the downtown district was comparatively small. Their employers were disposed to be liberal, and the bikes soon began to find space in odd corners in offices, under stairways, and beside the boilers in the basement.
The inconvenience was borne with until the golf craze followed and gave the wheelmen a new garment, which remodeled the old “clips” for the trousers antiquated. Sweaters followed as a matter of course when the riders became imbued with the spirit of the road and declined to allow themselves to be passed by anything except railroad trains without a struggle. White shirts and stiff collars did not look well after exercise of this character.
Hints Effective in Some Cases.
When the evolution was completed and the salesmen began to arrive for duty clad from head to toe in road costume, hints began to drop that it did not look well for salesmen to wait on costumers dressed in an unusual manner.
“While we are in the bicycle business to a certain extent,” the merchants said, “we also handle dry goods, and do not think all the salesmen ought to advertise one department.”
These hints were effective with some of the wheeling employes, but only partially so with others.
As early as last summer the permissibility of sweaters and Scotch stockings became a question on Fifth avenue, Market and Franklin streets. Drastic measures were not resorted to, and after a time first knee breeches and then sweaters made their reappearance from time to time until cold weather.
At the beginning of this season the number of wheelmen was found to be nearly doubled and the interference with business occasioned by the accumulating wheels and abbreviated costumes was sensibly felt. More emphatic hints were dropped on the subject, followed later by warnings.
Three Clerks Sent Home.
“If you have on bike clothes again you will not be admitted to the house,” was a final warning directed by Joseph Girard, usher in Marshal Field & Co.’s place, to the more persistent offenders.
One day three young salesmen who have been leaving their wheels and “bike” clothes at a friendly “bike” stable tarried on the road longer than they thought and had no time to make the change. They determined to run the gantlet. One by one they passed Mr. Girard’s desk and they were sent back home. Since then long trousers and white shirts have had exclusive possession of the field.
Another edict was issued in this establishment four weeks ago. It forbids wheelmen from bringing their machines into the store. They had been allowed to store them where they could find space for them and were accustomed to roll them in and out the main entrance. Sometimes they were muddy and women came to grief on their account., especially at noon and at the closing hour. Now the cyclists must find storage elsewhere. A Quincy street restaurant has set the pace by giving free storage.
Rules at Other Stores.
Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. had a somewhat similar experience with cycling costumes. They never allowed wheels to be stored on the premises.
The John V. Farwell company has set apart a room in the basement, with an entrance on the alley, for the use of the wheelmen. They furnished it themselves and employ one of the porters to take care of the wheels. The man arrives half an hour before working hours and is on hand at noon until all the wheelmen are gone in the evening to check the vehicles in and out. At present none of the salesman in this house appears in bicycle costume, though some of those in the clerical departments who do not come in contact with customers and the general public perform their duties dressed for the rosd, especially o Saturday, and nothing is said about it
Chicago Tribune April 10, 1900
DECLINE OF THE BICYCLE CRAZE.
Railroad men are congratulating themselves on the decline of bicycling as a fashionable fad. They confess that in the last four or five years the passion for bicycle touring has seriously curtailed their receipts. especially in their summer resort traffic. The general passenger agent of a Chicago—Wisconsin system says the wheel has been costing his line thousands of dollars every season, but he believes that there will be less country touring on wheels this summer and that his road will no longer be troubled with empty trains from this cause.
This official is probably correct in his belief that “the bicycle as a fad died,” but it is also probably true that there will be more wheels in use this than ever before. Bicycle stores are already crowded with anxious customers seeking repairs for their old or new wheels. The wheel has lost none of its popularity, hut its vogue has shifted to another social class. Apparently it is no longer so much “the thing ” in fashionable circles to ride the wheel. Perhaps the automobile is to be the new fad among the comparatively wealthy. The craze for bicycle clubs and for century runs has also abated, and the humped-back scorcher has lost whatever caste he may once have had. Country touring among men in the social swim has probably abated, and the railroad managers are right in surmising that their moneyed patrons are again in a mood to pay carfare.
Nevertheless, it would be an error to imagine that there will be less wheel riding than before. The wheel has come to stay amd the change only placed it on a more solid and legitimate basis. The people who are now riding or preparing to ride the wheel are doing so not because a fad of fashion has decreed it but because they find pleasure, health, or profit in so doing. The great bulk of the riders are people of moderate means, who find the wheel a valuable and fascinating means for getting fresh air and a glimpse of the country without much expense. The bicycle manufacturers have wisely sought and secured the patronage of this great public by making wheels at reasonable prices. In spite of the doubling of prices of steel, the best of last year’s model are now built and sold for $5 less a year ago. The bicycle is now practically within reach of everybody, and, while the change in its clientele may benefit the railroads, it is likely to be felt adversely by the street car companies.
The men and women of all classes of society who have any independence and who like wheel riding for its own sake vill continue to indulge in this fine and healthful modern sport, both in the city and in the .country. These are not the “scorchers,” and all true lovers of the wheel will probably be as glad as the railroad men that the fashionable craze among the intemperate has waned.
Chicago Tribune July 17, 1904
THE invulnerable law of cause and effect offers a logical though Indefinite explanation of the success of scores of business enterprises which, though money making ventures today, looked like hopeless wrecks a few years ago. This statement applies particularly to the automobile industry with its countless tributaries, There are perhaps more vi,ctims of circumstances in the automobile business today than in any other one line conspicuous by reason of its popularity with the general public, Whatever else may be said about the automobile, however much it may grate upon the sensibilities of the plodding pedestrian or offend the dignity of the adamant park policeman it must be given the credit for having come to the relief of a great number of stagnant and dying industries, infusing them with new life.
It is estimated that fully 80 per Cent of the engaged In the automobile busines, or the many side lines that go to make it, were following the fate of the bicycle during the days of the wheel. This does not apply alone to dealers, but to manufacturers. both of the automobile as a whole and its composite parts. Practically every big concern which came to the fore when bIcycles were high in favor has turned its machinery to the manufacture of automobiles. Many of them continue to manufacture wheels, but the tourIng car or the runabout stands far to the front, and the bicycle, once a leader, occupies tho position of a side line. As a matter of fact the automobIle was the saving factor in the of the manufacturer, agent, and salesman. The lInes naturally call for something of the same energy and the and for this reason the automobile opened an avenue to the dealer in bicycles just at a time when it began to look as though he was down and out.
Take a walk Chicago’s automobile center, down Michigan avenue from Twelfth to Sixteenth, and you will observe on the shop windows the names of dozens of men who were as conspicuously with the bicycle trade a year ago. They were naturally buffeted into the automobile business. The new industry came at a time when the bicycle was a dead issue. It had outlived its usefulness so far as the fad loving, novelty seeking American public was concerned. Men who had their invested in bicycle machinery and material naturally looked with alarm upon the situation and were at a loss which way to turn until the automobile began to take hold of the public. Then the problem solved itself and made producers out of bicycle dealers.
From 14th to 16th Streets, Michigan Boulevard.
In considering new industries opened up by the progressive strides of the automobile, which has become of such general use as no longer to belong to the classification of novelties, the rejuvenation of old industries to rank first in the matter of importance. This is true because the craze came to the rescue of men who already had their money invested in a industry and who were unable to stem the tide of public fickleness for a pastime of which it had grown tired. It was only natural that the bicycle industry should become affiliated with with the production of automobiles and it was also natural that the men who followed the fortunes of the wheel should become the first and most ardent exponents of the touring car.
The prevalence of bicycle men in the automobile business is manifest in every branch of the trade from the big manufacturer down to the small machinist whose convenient shop used to be the boon of unlucky wheelmen. Where in years gone by we saw the bicycle repair shop we now find the garage, which may be small for the accommodation of a few machines or large and pretentious, embodying all so6ts of conveniences for the automobilist. The garage is one of the really important industries made possible, in fact a necessity, by the automobile. There are scores of these stabling scattered about Chicago. They have sprung up on all sides of the city within the last two years. The man who owns an automobile pays so a month to have his machine stabled and taken care of. The garage is so essentially indispensable that it is sure to develop into one of the most inclusive industries developed by the automobile.
Perhaps no of class of manufacturers profited more handsomely by the advent of the automobile, than the big rubber concerns where tires are made. Thc passing of the bicycle was in reality a good thing for them, because It opened a field far more extensive and embracing much greater possibilIties. The automobile tire Is one of the really important features of the machIne. It must be strong and of high grade. For this reason there Is every chance for the manufacturer to produce expert workmanship, a condition not always possible in the small, light tire used on the bicycle.
Just as the automobile revived the business of the bicycle dealer, so did it affect the tire maker. The large concerns which practically controlled the tire output during the days of the wheel found themselves wIth little outlet for their product after the decline of the bicycle. Then came the breath of the automobile craze, and with common instinct they shifted the character of their output until today the firms which supplied most of the bicycle tires occupy the same position in relation to the automobile.
After the automobile as a pIece of machinery in form is discussed, the business becomes largely a matter of incidentals, with an innumerable of numbers of angles. The fad lies opened up an entirely new avenue to the small machinist, who finds a shop along some much frequented highway a paying proposition. Then It has developed the chauffeur, the much abused individual who operates the steering gear and is supposed to regard all speed laws and regulations with absolute disdain. The chauffeur is in reality a luxury. but he goes well with the automobIle.
It has been pointed out by real estate men that among the industries developed by the automobile the opening of land tracts at distant from the city must not be overlooked. They say that the practical elimination of distance makes outlying property more likable to men who own machines and that they have felt the effect of the automobile in numerous ways.
So it is with the manufacturer of of all sorts, from big lens equipped gas to the small oil light. Every automobile carry lights after dark. Some of thens carry five or six, and this has a tendency to make the lighting branch of thie automobile industry an important one. Several manufacturing firms have sprung up, the sole output of which is automobile lamps.
On down the list of incidentals identified with the automobile industry any number of articles will be found, each of which represents is practically a new industry or the development of an old one. Manufacturers of men’s and women’s clothing have kept pace with evolution and have found garments for a profitable addition to their stocks.
Sears Roebuck and Co
Chicago Daily News (DN-0064587) photo of one man’s solution to the June, 1915 rail strike