The Golden Age of the Bicycle

1890_victor_bicycle_ad

I’ve always loved bicycle ads from the late 19th, early 20th century, and while this one isn’t in color, nor is it extremely visual, it sure does pack the punch!  It’s so persuasive.  If cars were not a commonplace, I’d definitely consider buying a Victor bike just based off this ad!

When Victor bikes hit the market with their ‘safety bikes’ in the early late 1880s, Overman Wheel Company  began a trend, along with Columbia, that revolutionized biking to the individual.  Very different from the ‘ordinary’ bikes of the early 1880s, which had the large front wheel and tiny back wheel, the ‘safety’ made riding not only easier, but safer as the name suggests.  The large price tag in the beginning, $100 in 1895 and $50 in an 1899 catalog, did not bother most, and the 1890s was considered ‘the Golden Age of Bicycles’ because of the number of bikes sold throughout this decade.

In some ways, Overman had an edge over Columbia: they hired Will H. Bradley, Art Nouveau typographer, to compile their catalogs.  His decorative ads for Overman Wheel Company are extremely beautiful and above the top.

Victor Bike Ad by Will Bradley, 1896.  Photo courtesy of the Rockwell Center.

Victor Bike Ad by Will Bradley, 1896. Photo courtesy of the Rockwell Center.

 

Victor Bike Ad by Will Bradley, c. 1896.  Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Victor Bike Ad by Will Bradley, c. 1896. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Unfortunately, Overman Wheel Company was declared insolvent in 1901, giving Columbia Manufacturing Company a monopoly on safety bikes.

Further Reading:

Bradley, Will.  ‘Victor Bicycles, Overman Wheel Company.’ New York Public Library. 1896. Web. 31 May 2014 http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchdetail.cfm?trg=1&strucID=1018609&imageID=1541568&word=victor%20bicycle&s=1&notword=&d=&c=&f=&k=1&lWord=&lField=&sScope=&sLevel=&sLabel=&sort=&total=2&num=0&imgs=20&pNum=&pos=1

Hangen, Will and Tara Hangen.  ‘Bicycles.’ History Magazine October/November 2001. Web. 31 May 2014 http://www.history-magazine.com/bicycles.html

Hornung, Clarence P. Ed. Will Bradley, His Graphic Art: A Collection of his Posters, Illustrations, Typographic Designs & Decorations. New York: Dover Publications, 1974. Print.

Jendrysik, Stephen. ‘Overman Wheel Company made Victor Bicycles.’ The Republican 23 September 2009: CP4. Web. http://www.masslive.com/chicopeeplus/republican/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1253606013299640.xml

Massachusetts Historical Society.  ‘The Victor Bicycle MDCCCXCIX.’ 31 May 2014. Web. 31 May 2014 http://www.masshist.org/database/viewer.php?item_id=728

Schiller, Joyce.  ‘Decorative Nature.’ Rockwell Center for American Studies, Norman Rockwell Museum. 30 May 2013. Web. 31 May 2014 http://www.rockwell-center.org/exploring-illustration/decorative-nature/

 

 

 

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2 Comments

Filed under 1890s, Advertisement, Art Nouveau

2 responses to “The Golden Age of the Bicycle

  1. So….I want to buy a Victor bicycle now, too.

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