1907 Bonnet & Morel
1907 Bonnet & Morel
I’ll take a full range of photos of this interesting early French machine in the next few weeks.
I don’t know much about this manufacturer, but Charles Morel was better known as the inventor/ designer of the ‘Captain Gerard’ folding bicycle manufactured by Peugeot, so perhaps this bicycle has some historic significance. Capt Gerard was his business partner, but it was his name rather than Morel’s that ended up being associated with the bicycle.
I’m not sure of Morel’s contribution within the partnership of Bonnet & Morel, but the chainwheel, illustrated below, contains the initial ‘B’ …for Bonnet.
BONNET & MOREL
74 Route de Chatillon, Malakoff, Seine, France
As can be seen from the above poster, Bonnet et Morel made both sewing machines and bicycles, a combination that was common in the early days of cycle manufacture.
The poster below illustrates pneumatic tyres advertised by Morel, and below that is a headbadge, believed from 1911, of a Bonnet ‘Imperial’ bicycle.
THE GERARD-MOREL PATENT
Quite a few historical texts claim that the French military invented the first folding bike. In particular, a French military officer named Captain Gérard is given credit. This simply was not true but there is an fascinating story behind this misnomer. A complete telling of the story is in a book entitled ”Charles Morel – constructeur dauphinois sous la troisième république”. Since it is in French, here’s the short version: Charles Morel, a wealthy French industrialist, became enamored with the relatively new bicycle craze and devised of a folding bicycle and built a prototype in 1892. Independently, in 1893, a French army lieutenant named Henry Gérard imagined the use of a folding bike by the army and filed a patent for one through his father-in-law Henri Noêl on June 27, 1893. The problem was that this bike was deeply flawed and basically didn’t work. While looking for help to fix the design flaws he was introduced to Charles Morel. Mr. Morel showed his prototype bike to Gérard and suggested that he meet with one of his mechanics named Dulac and get his help in perfecting a working folding bike design. Dulac was successful in this endeavor so on Oct. 5, 1894 Charles Morel and Lieutenant Gérard entered into an agreement to manufacture and commercialize a folding bike. Morel would finance and oversee the manufacturing and Gérard would promote it. Production of the bike began in April of 1895 and it was an immediate success with orders quickly exceeding production capacity. In October of 1895 a retail store was opened in Paris to sell the bike to the public. Gérard was tasked to market to the French military which were subsequently supplied with 25 test bikes. The Romanian and Russian armies placed orders as well. Lieutenant Gérard was successful in selling the idea of using folding bikes to the army and was ultimately put in charge of a regiment of folding bike equipped soldiers and was eventually promoted to the rank of Captain, largely because this folding bike. Charles Morel let Gérard become the public face of their folding bike joint venture, leading everyone to believe that Captain Gérard was the father of the idea when in fact Mr. Morel had the idea first and completely financed the venture. After a while Captain Gérard started to believe this hype himself and sued Mr. Morel for what he though was his fair share of the profits. This caused a falling out between the two men culminating in the dissolution of the partnership. The patents for the folding bike were eventually sold to a consortium of Peugeot, Michelin, and the French army and they took over production of the bike in 1899. This folding bike first appeared in the Peugeot sales catalog in 1899, which has led some historians to erroneously believe that it was invented by Peugeot.
So what became widely known as the “Captain Gérard folding bike” was not actually the first folding bike, since Emmit Latta’s bike preceded it by a number of years, nor was it actually invented by Captain Gérard. However, it probably was the first folding bike manufactured in relatively large volume. I was able to find a patent application made in England for the “Captain Gerard folding bike” dated January 18, 1896 (two years later than the French patent mentioned). Henry Gérard is listed as the co-inventor on the patent along with Charles Morel.
[This info thanks to - http://www.foldingcyclist.com/folding-bike-history.html]
The rear hub is an Eadie Coaster.