1917 Red Wing Truss Bridge (Archbar) Bicycle (Westfield Columbia)

1917 red wing advert copy

The New England Cycle Co of 68 High St, Worcester, Mass, appear to have launched a range of bicycles in 1917.

Their 1917 advert, above, explains that the Red Wing is a real man’s bike – because their bicycles have a 5 1/2″ crank (chainwheel) that’s interchangeable with the standard 7″ crank so that it will continue to fit the owner as he gets older.

This Truss Bridge model was made by Columbia. If you compare the photo of the bicycle with the ‘Pope Archbar’ illustration below it, from the 1918 Columbia catalogue, you’ll see that it’s identical apart from the badge.

Ken Kowall, the American Columbia specialist, explained to me that the chainwheel was not standard on the 1917 Pope Archbar, although other 1917 Columbia models of that year were fitted with it. Columbia’s Archbar appears to have been fitted this chainwheel from 1918 to at least 1922.

Iver Johnson was the patent holder for the truss bridge frame design. Although you’ll see my prototype 1904 Columbia Archbar on this website, that did not appear in any Columbia catalogues; 1917 was the first year for Columbia’s Archbar.

I wonder if this was because the patent had lapsed by that year? Is it a coincidence that Iver Johnson changed their truss bridge frame design slightly – the fitment between the truss and top bar was elongated – but the 1917 Columbia Archbar has the older style fitment? Perhaps the patent lapsed on the original Iver Johnson design, and that’s why Columbia was able to introduce the model at this time?

The model was obviously important to Columbia. It was heavily promoted after WW1: as you can see in the 1919 catalogue cover photo below, a Columbia Archbar was even put into a wartime setting to help its postwar sales, even though it was not made as a military model.

So this is an interesting bicycle: supplied by Columbia to a local cycle company (Worcester is 60 miles away from the Westfield factory) during WW1, and advertised by Columbia as a WW1 military model after WW1!


1917 red wing bicycle

1917 Red Wing Truss Bridge (Archbar) Bicycle

Mfg by Westfield Columbia

22″ Frame

28″ Wheels

(Now sold)


This archbar bicycle is in very good original cosmetic condition. I’ve replaced the original wooden wheels (which, typical of American bikes of this era, were not in usable condition) with period style metal wheels, new cream Schwalbe tyres and tubes, and a coaster hub.

Most American bicycles of the teens to the thirties were heavy-weight, and fine for short distance city riding – such as doing a paper-round – but unsuitable, both then and now, for any serious riding. Built by Columbia to compete directly with Iver Johnson, who had great success with this style of ‘truss bridge’ frame, the Red Wing Arch Bar combines the fabulous styling of early 20th century classic bicycles with a practical middle-weight frame that can be used for long-distance runs.

The Red Wing has been recently serviced. As you can see in the video as I cruise along Rottingdean sea-front, it rides well.


























1917 red wing bicycle

 1918 Pope Arch Bar




1917 red wing bicycle



Patent litigation between the major American cycle manufacturers took almost as much of their time and effort as building bicycles.

In America, the original patent term under the 1790 Patent Act was decided individually for each patent, but ‘not exceeding fourteen years.’ The 1836 Patent Act (5 Stat. 117, 119, 5) provided (in addition to the fourteen-year term) an extension ‘for the term of seven years from and after the expiration of the first term’ in certain circumstances. In 1861 the seven-year extension was eliminated and the term changed to seventeen years (12 Stat. 246, 249, 16) from the initial grant date.

Iver Johnson’s truss bridge frame was introduced around the turn of the century. If the 17 year patent term was applicable, then the introduction of the truss bridge frame by Columbia in 1917 may have related to the expiry of Iver Johnson’s patent.

Iver Johnson had already been experimenting with a springframe model: the picture below of an Iver Johnson my friend Tyler restored a few years ago illustrates their design incorporating sprung rear stays.

However, Colonel Pope owned the patent on the conventional ‘cushion frame’ design, which was introduced in the late 1890s. Iver Johnson appears to have introduced a conventional ‘cushion frame’ model around the same time as Columbia introduced their Archbar, presumably because the patent expired on the cushion frame too after 17 years.


iver johnson spring frame


1917 red wing bicycle



Albert Augustus Pope was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1843 to parents of impeccable New England settler ancestry. However, his father, a merchant and real estate operator, suffered financial reverses in the 1850’s and `lost his comfortable competency,’ an event which seems to have left a lasting impression on theyoung man who might otherwise have aspired to attend an ivy league university before entering his father’s business; instead, at 16 years of age he was forced to start work. Perhaps anxious to erase the memory of his father’s failure, Pope spent most of his life amassing a large fortune as one of America’s first venture capitalists; few anticipated that he, too, would suffer a setback in his later years, although he still had a sizable fortune at the time of his death.

It was probably through family connections that he was able to enlist in 1862 as a second lieutenant in the Thirty-Fifth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regi- ment at the age of 19. One could say that he had a ‘good civil war’ since he was brevetted lieutenant- colonel by the end of the war in 1865. He used the title `Colonel’ thereafter, and cultivated connections with his regiment and the senior officer class for business and personal reasons.

The next 12 years were spent building up a successful small business making slipper decorations and shoe-endings. In 1876 he saw a high bicycle (now popularly called a penny farthing) at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, and decided to import eight of them from England. Largely imitating one of the imported models – the Duplex Excelsior – he set about designing his own improved bicycle.

Pope consulted a patent lawyer, Charles E. Pratt, taking out patents on his design and trade name (Columbia Bicycles) in the fall of 1877. On the advice of this lawyer, he sub-contracted the manufacture of his first order to the Weed Sewing Machine Company of Hartford, Connecticut. This firm reluctantly accepted the order, a reluctance that soon turned to regret as they had to solve numerous technical problems in making the first batch of 50 bicycles. Priced at $95, compared to $112 ́50 for imported English bicycles, they sold sufficiently well that Pope returned the next year to Weed with a larger order. Weed continued to manufacture high bicycles for Pope through the 1880s, as he steadily built up the name of Columbia bicycles.

He also pursued in the courts competitors who infringed his patents. In particular, in 1884 Pope began a dispute over patents with the Overman Wheel Company, manufacturer of the Victor bicycle, leading in 1886 to an injunction by Pope prohibiting Overman from selling bicycles. Overman appealed to the courts and won, but there were further acrimonious exchanges between Pope and Overman during the 1890s over disputed advertising claims. These anecdotes indicate that Pope was very conscious of the protection these patents afforded his company, and of the importance of advertising and the image of his company.

Pope launched his first hard tyre safety bicycle, the Veloce, in 1888, and within two years production of the high bicycle had ceased. There followed, in successive years, a series of new safety bicycle models and innovations, including the chainless (shaft drive) bicycle of 1898. Bicycle tyres also changed rapidly: by 1891, cushion tyres were in fashion, giving a somewhat more comfortable ride than the solid tyre. By 1894 Dunlop’s pneumatic tyre had eclipsed all other forms of tyre. Well before this date, Pope had purchased an interest in the Weed Sewing Machine Company, and then bought it outright, adding to it a series of related activities to create in Hartford, by 1894, an integrated industrial complex. He was thus well poised to benefit from the bicycle craze of 1895-97.

Throughout this period, Pope had been very active in three public spheres that lay outside his direct corporate interest, but which nevertheless promoted bicycling. In 1880 he provided a security of $60,000 to cover the start-up costs of the Wheelman magazine, which was later merged with Outing to include a number of other outdoor pursuits. Both magazines achieved a wide circulation. Pope also argued that bicycling should be allowed in public parks, most notably Central Park, New York. An ordnance of 1880 which had specifically banned bicycling and tricycling from Central Park was challenged via a contrived infraction in 1881. There followed a series of appeals to the New York Supreme Court which were at first unsuccessful but which, by an 1887 Act of New York State, did eventually succeed; bicycles were declared carriages, and therefore subject to the same rights and restrictions (including access to Central Park). Pope contributed `thousands of dollars’ to the legal costs resulting from this litigation. Pope also invested a huge amount of energy in promoting road improvement. He lectured across the United States on the commercial advantages of improved roads, invariably receiving favourable press coverage which he assiduously collected in his clipping files. All this was free publicity for his bicycles, and at the same time helped redefine public spaces as`on-limits’ for bicyclists.

The final phase of Albert Pope’s business career began in 1895 with the creation of a motor-carriage department at the Hartford bicycle factory, which evolved into the Columbia Electric Vehicle Company in 1896. Pope experimented with gasoline, steam and electric carriages, eventually deciding to concentrate on the electric (battery driven) vehicle. Pope controlled vehicle factories producing gasoline cars at Toledo, and at Hartford, and electric cars at Indianapolis. With other automobile manufacturers, he formed the Automobile Trust, which obtained the Selden patent on the internal combustion engine. However, a former bicycle mechanic and small-time automobile manufacturer named Henry Ford infringed this patent, and was sued successfully in the first instance by the Trust. But Ford appealed and eventually, in 1907, obtained a ruling in his favour.

In the same year the Pope Manufacturing Company and the Electric Vehicle Company reorganized, both being severely overcapitalized (they represented the larger part of their nominal assets in patents). Pope was still restructuring these companies when he died at his summer residence at Cohasset, Massachusetts in 1909, aged 66.

 To read about Colonel Pope’s first experience of patents, in 1876, as a result of the Pope Brothers Rifle Air Pistol


1917 red wing bicycle










Colonel Pope history – Popeism and Fordism: Examining the Roots of Mass-Production, by Glenn Norcliffe – http://web.uvic.ca/~jlutz/courses/hist317/pdfs/Popeism%20and%20Fordism.pdf