This fabulous top-of-the-market chainless bicycle has two company histories. By the late 1890s, the leading American company Gormully & Jeffery was in its prime as a cycle manufacturer, producing state-of-the-art machines with unique features to compete with the other two leading US cycle makers, Pope (Columbia) and Overman (Victor). Unfortunately, a downturn in the cycle market meant that, in 1899, the company was absorbed into ‘The Trust’ – officially known as the ‘American Bicycle Company’ – which was a conglomerate of most of the US cycle makers who banded together to try and avoid bankruptcy in an era of overproduction and competition. Thomas B Jeffery turned his attention instead toward the new technology that was about to take the world by storm, building a rear-engined prototype automobile in 1897, and entering the market in 1902 with the 8hp Rambler Model C open Runabout and Model D folding top automobile. 1500 units were sold in the first year, making Jeffery the second-largest car maker behind Oldsmobile. Jeffery died in 1910, and the company was sold to Nash in 1916.
1901 Gormully & Jeffery Men’s Chainless Roadster
Model No 38
28″ Wooden Wheels with Gillette Ambassador Tubeless Tyres
Gormulley & Jeffery Patent ‘Model 26’ Handlebars with Cork Grips.
Inch Pitch Chainwheel with forged crank and G&J Patent Rat Trap pedals
This 1901 Rambler Chainless Roadster has all the unique features of Gormully & Jeffery’s bicycles, such as their patent handlebar with cork grips (introduced in 1898 for the Model 26), patent rat trap pedals, ornate rococo lugwork throughout the frame and the G&J chainless design. It retains its original paintwork.
But, while the steering head sports the regular G&J head badge, the transfer (decal) on the seat tube is from the ‘American Bicycle Company’. It’s an interesting combination of branding that only appeared for two years, as the ‘American Bicycle Company’ then went out of business, to be purchased by Colonel Pope (Columbia bicycles). Only the best-selling models were retained by the new company, and were subsequently rebranded as Pope bicycles. I don’t have a 1901 catalogue; the illustration below is from he 1904 Pope catalogue.
When I purchased it, the Rambler sported a home-made sprung front fork. I’ve ridden it both with that attachment and without (you can see two photoshoots here, at the beach and at the farm). Though I felt that the attachment is part of the bicycle’s history, added by a former owner to personalise the machine, it’s not actually functional, and as the rest of the machine is 100% original I’ve left it off.
1904 POPE RAMBLER CATALOGUE
1897: THOMAS B JEFFERY & EXPERIMENTAL RAMBLER AUTOMOBILE
RAMBLER NEW ZEALAND & INDIA
The company exported Rambler bicycles around the world. The above photo in New Zealand is from 1903. The Rambler tandems in front of the building are from 1898 (on the left) and 1895, suggesting the company got rid of its surplus old stock abroad. The Rambler advert below mentions sales in Bombay, India.
DEDICATED MUSEUM FOR RAMBLER BICYCLES