French bicycles from the turn-of-the-century are interesting. Top manufacturers such as Peugeot and Clement made their own parts. But small companies had to rely on foreign components to build their machines, or to buy bicycles ready to assemble from established foreign companies such as BSA.
The Paris Exposition of 1900 had a major impact on the French cycle industry. It was the first forum for the country’s existing bicycle and component manufacturers (and also sales agents) to meet all the engineers, inventors and general retailers who wished to move into the bicycle business. Several cycle events and races were held at the Exposition, as part of the 1900 Summer Olympics. The cycling part of the World’s fair included 250 competitors, 160 of them French. In the two Olympic events, 72 competitors (all men) from six nations competed.
In every part of France, engineering workshops were ready to buy bicycle frames and components from the major suppliers, to assemble and sell to the new markets emerging in their own areas.
As France’s own industry was still in its infancy at this time, most of the parts available were either British or American; both countries had many agents in France selling British and American bicycles. Within just three or four years, the French agents selling foreign bicycles had started their own French businesses, manufacturing both bicycles and components. And the small regional manufacturers who started out by using British and American components were able to start using French-made parts.
E. Collesson, of Joigny, in Yonne, was one of those who started out this way. His Velo de Course featured here is an upmarket machine, using top quality parts that were available at the time. If you examine the head badge carefully, you can see that Collesson’s name is simply etched across the centre of a standard blank badge, which was standard practice at the time. The bicycle was supplied by Great Western Manufacturing Co of Laporte, Indiana, USA, with the French company adding a French saddle and wheel set with Eadie coaster brake.
The Hussey handlebar and stem and the Fauber crank hanger (bottom bracket and pedal cranks) were available to order from American catalogues, but also fitted as stock items on American bicycles made by Crown, David Bradley, J. Lonn & Sons, and Adlake (Adams-Westlake). These were the companies that had merged in 1898 to form the Great Western Mfg Co of Laporte, Indiana.
The ‘1898 Pattern’ Eadie Coaster was one of England’s first coaster brakes; this one has a French licensing stamp.
The chainwheel is large, suitable for track use and on a road racer.
This Great Western Mfg Co / Collesson machine was in storage for many years; I took the photo below after my friend Alan had taken it out of his basement for me to inspect.
1900 Velo de Course E. Collesson
Export Model from Great Western Mfg Co of Laporte, Indiana, USA
Fauber Crank Hanger
Eadie ‘1898 Pattern’ Coaster Brake (Licensed in France)
I could see that this rare French bicycle had top-notch American components, but did not realise that the frame and forks were also American-made. I assumed that a French frame-builder had simply purchased the components from a trade catalogue, as was common practise at the time.
But, after advertising the machine for sale, I received the following email from America, confirming its identity:
Greetings from Indianapolis, Indiana. I just wanted to compliment you on the gorgeous bike.
I am the historian for the factory that produced this frame, in LaPorte, Indiana. I am also a Fauber historian and can appreciate the crank assembly, especially the sprocket.
This is the ‘Perfection’ sprocket, also called a ‘Tangent’ which is one of the most uncommon designs. Thank you for the superb photo showcasing the sprocket.
I plan on publishing a book on the factory sometime in the future and will be showcasing Fauber . I would like to use this image if possible.. I own almost all of the Fauber sprockets but this one.
Once again, gorgeous bike and I wish that I could own it! Best wishes, Richard Peglow, Crown Cycle Company/Great Western historian.
So I have now updated this description to show its American origins.
GREAT WESTERN MFG CO
LAPORTE, INDIANA, USA
The Great Western Manufacturing Company was formed in 1898 as the result of a merger between four other cycle companies: David Bradley, J. Lonn & Sons, Adams-Westlake, and Crown. A further merger took place in 1902, as you can read in the New York Times article below:
FAUBER CRANK HANGERS
EADIE Mfg Co Ltd
The company was acquired by Albert Eadie (who died 17 Apr. 1931) with other businessmen in November 1891 by the acquisition of George Townsend, & Co.
Eadie obtained the services of Robert Walker Smith, formerly of Daniel Rudge & Co, where he had been assistant manager, and now became works manager. Production continued at the Townsend premises at Givry Works, Hunt End, Redditch although the ‘Ecossais’ name was dropped and the model name ‘Enfield’ was first used from October 1892.
A new factory was laid down in 1896 at Lodge Road and Union Street, Redditch. On 25 June 1896 the company became the New Eadie Manufacting Co. Ltd and continued to make both components and complete machines, primarily for the trade. Eadie also formed the New Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd on 1 July 1896. The Eadie company marketed an eccentric chain adjuster in 1897 which others copied. The American ‘Morrow’ free wheel was made under licence from 1899. A cross and drop- frame machine was made from c.1901. The cross-frame had struts to the chainstays, similar to the Royal Enfield, and was probably the first with this design. In 1901 the New Beeston Cycle Co became defunct and the Eadie Manufacturing Co acquired the machinery to increase production of free wheels under licence from the James Cycle Co. Ltd.
A double cross frame was produced in 1901 which provided a very stiff mounting for the bracket. The ‘Fagan’ 2-speed hub was made under licence from 1903. The Eadie 2-speed coaster hub was made from 1905. The Eadie company was acquired by the Birmingham Small Arms Co. Ltd (BSA) in 1907.
HUSSEY HANDLEBAR & STEM,
TOLEDO, OHIO, USA