Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bicycle Manufacturing Industry in Connecticut - Bridgeport's Role

One of my first substitute teaching assignments of the new school year (September 2012) was a middle school art class.  During the prep time and lunch period, I was browsing through some of the Connecticut art book material on the teacher's desk.  The book was entitled:  Illustrating Connecticut, People, Places, and Things.  I found a Connecticut historical page regarding the Curtis Veeder Manufacturing Company of Hartford, CT.  In the 1890's Veeder's company manufactured the first "Cyclometer" or bicycle meter which counted the distance the bicycle traveled.  The Veeder Company has its own fantastic history in Hartford, CT including the Veeder House which was later bequeathed to the Connecticut Historical Society. 

The original patents for early 1890's bicycles manufactured in Connecticut were originally from France and French bicycle designers.  In Hartford, CT there was the Hartford Cycle Company and the Pope Manufacturing Company which manufactured Columbia Bicycles.  Pope Company also designed one of the first American bicycle models for women.  Eventually, they build motorcycles, also. 

My suspicion was confirmed that Bridgeport, although seemingly not directly involved in bicycle manufacturing, had a role in some aspect of the 1890's bicycle industry.  The Bridgeport Brass Company manufactured brass for all sorts of products.  During this time Bridgeport Brass was one of the leading manufacturers of the 1890's bicycle lamps (Bridgeport Brass Bicycle Lamps).  Although, I have not yet been able to trace the supply of brass from Bridgeport for other bicycle parts, my theory is that there is more historical information to be dug-up regarding this topic. 

A few days before I stumbled onto the information about Hartford's Curtis Veeder Company in the art class, I had been researching information about John Jacob Astor, the famous New York City industrialist who built the Astoria Hotel in New York City.   Notably, Colonel Astor who fought in the Spanish-American war, was a theatre actor, writer, and inventor.  One of his books, A Journey to Other Worlds was reviewed in the New York Times, 1894

In 1898 he patented an efficient bicycle brake.  I have not yet been able to obtain patent illustrations of his bicycle brake design, however, I am still researching this in the US Patent Office database.  There were a few different types of bicycle brakes and the specific type of bicycle brake invention remains to be clarified.  Perhaps, brass was used in the manufacture of this bicycle brake but this remains to be determined.  Sadly, John Jacob Astor died on the Titanic in 1912. 

Cycling was very popular during this time in Europe, as well as the United States.  The foundation was established in France for the sport of cycling, both road racing and track races. 

The photo above is the Paris Velodrome used in the 1900 Olympics.

There were also bicycle races that were held in the United States:  The Sporting Life newspaper published in Philadelphia, PA featured a section which covered the emerging hobby and sport of cycling and the first column in each article refers to John Jacob Astor's bicycle brake invention:

The history of cycling and bicycle design and manufacture is a massive topic.  Yet, Bridgeport, CT did have a role in early bicycle history with the manufacture of brass bicycle lamps. 

A Mr. Frederick Egge(?) of Bridgeport, CT also filed for a patent for a bicycle lock in 1892:

(left column, scroll down through patent list)

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