The Quadrant Tricycle Co was one of the world’s leading manufacturers in the early days of cycling, introducing many innovations in bicycles and tricycles. The ‘Dwarf Safety’ featured here is a basic model that was developed into various forms of spring frame over the following three years, including several varieties of sprung saddle and seat post, sprung front wheel, and sprung front fork.
The 1897 ‘cross-roller’ patent for shaft-drive bicycles was particularly innovative, but while shaft-drives were popular in Europe and America, they never caught on in Britain.
By the twentieth century, Quadrant, like other cycle manufacturers, moved into ‘motor bicycles’ and their 1901 model with a Minerva engine was one of the first. Their forecar (or tri-car) was an early version of an automobile. But the vast capital investment required for these new forms of transportation did not produce sufficient short-term return, and the company went into liquidation in 1907.
1889 Quadrant ‘No 17’ Dwarf Safety Roadster
30″ Front Wheel. 26″ Rear Wheel.
Bown Patent Pedals
The ‘No 17’ featured here could be described as the ultimate strengthened cross frame model before cycle design progressed to the diamond frame style of bicycle. It’s a ‘semi-diamond’ – i.e. the rear is triangulated – with top and bottom frame stays added to support the main cross tube. Whereas other manufacturers fitted one lower stay, Quadrant fitted two ‘…consisting of light rods, which cross, running from the crank bracket to a small crosspiece below the front end of the backbone immediately behind the steering socket.’
The front fork on this model has a small spring at the bottom of the steering head, which was common on bicycles in 1889 and 1890. The ‘No 17’ remained on sale until 1892 in this form, as a cheaper ‘basic’ model. With the development of a suspension saddle, sprung seat post and sprung front forks, several variations were were also made. An 1890 version had a sprung front wheel.
1892 QUADRANT CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
BOWN AEOLUS PEDALS
QUADRANT CYCLE CO
Sheepcote St, Birmingham
A partnership was formed between William Priest and Walter John Lloyd on 22 August 1881. However, up to 1885 advertisements and catalogues referred to the manufacturer of Quadrant’s as Lloyd Brothers (see separate entry for further details). It is not clear what the relationship was between the Lloyd Brothers and the partnership. A new partnership agreement was made on 17 December 1891, when Priests two sons, Henry Godwin and William Alexander, joined, with the new Quadrant Cycle Co. name to be effective from 1 January 1892. A public company was formed in October 1895 with £30,000 of share capital.
The firm was a manufacturer of high-wheelers and tricycles with works located initially at Harborne and then at Sheepcote Street, Birmingham, Warwickshire. It also had depots at 119 Newgate Street, London (where Charles J. Kirby was the manager); 8 New Station Street, Leeds; 69 Bold Street, Liverpool (where James W. Brien was the manager); 35 Castle Street, Cardiff; 13 Victoria Street, Manchester from 1891-1903, and 8 New Station Street, Leeds. William Priest was the managing director in 1898. There was also a US operation at 249 Columbus Avenue, Boston, Mass. and 309 Wabash Avenue, Chicago, but both had been closed by 1895 following heavy losses.
Quadrant machines had been patented in 1882 and shown at the 1883 Stanley Show when the first catalogue was produced. The Quadrant name was registered as a trade mark from 3 April 1884. The name came from the shaped bearings in which the tricycle guide wheel steered. The first tricycle in 1883 was a double driving rear steerer with a very large rear wheel and an entirely new method of steering, the spindle ends being fitted with heels running in slots in curved bearing plates. At the time, this method of steering was a revelation in smoothness and efficiency. Six models were offered in 1884, including a Quadrant tricycle front steerer No.8, introduced in September 1883, which weighed from 55 to 65 lb. For 1885 the No.8 and No.9 were offered with handles and a tandem was introduced. Models Nos. 1-7 were dropped for 1886 as the firm concentrated on meeting demand for the No.8 and No.9. Phosphor bronze slides were now fitted to the bearings and a rack and child seat had been introduced. For 1887 there was introduced a safety bicycle, ladies tricycle and non-convertible tandem. A spring-framed ‘Quadrant’ No.21 was patented in 1891.
The French agents were Lonclas & Guibert of Paris and they started a ‘Quadrant’ journal. A branch was opened at Châlous, France in March 1891. The ‘Grenville’ was made before 1892. The No.8 was replaced in 1893 with a new machine having improvements to the bearings of the four-point suspension and the underslung transmission and the weight had been cut to 38 lb. A single central ball bearing pedal was patented and first offered in 1895.
In 1897 W. J. Lloyd invented the cross-roller gear for the Quadrant safety (patent 1897/6,435). Rather than bevelled teeth the shaft drive employed revolving rollers on a stud which minimised friction. The rollers were arranged at right angles to each other and were slightly conical in shape. The inner ends of the studs were supported on the points of “star rings” according to Henry Sturmey. The 1898 Quadrant shaft- drive weighed 351⁄4 lb. It had a back-pedalling rear brake. There was a choice of 56, 63, 70 or 77 in. single-speed gears. Shortly after its introduction a Quadrant Chainless Cycle Club was formed. Unfortunately the demand for the chainless was never sufficient to create a commercial success.
In 1900 machines were produced for the War Office. For 1901 two styles of cycle rests were offered for military and general use. An automatic brake lock was also offered in 1901. This automatically locked the front plunger brake at rest which was released upon pushing the machine forward slightly. The ‘Quadrant’ chainless was offered at eighteen guineas in 1903 with 23, 25 or 27 in. gent’s frame (geared 63, 70 or 77 in.) or 21, 23 or 25 in. lady’s frame (geared 58, 64 or 71 in.). Other machines were offered with chains, for example the Standard in 1903 was offered at twelve guineas. The price had reduced to fifteen guineas by 1905 when only one machine was shown at the Stanley Show; all the rest had chains.
The introduction of a Quadrant motor bicycle was its downfall as there were heavy losses which caused the concern to go into liquidation in 1907. The goodwill was bought by Mr. William O’Brien of Coventry and two separate companies formed, one for the manufacture of cycles and the other for motor cycles. William Priest took a management role with some financial share in the undertaking. However there was a falling out and William Priest recovered his Quadrant rights and £500 before the Birmingham County Court.
1889 QUADRANT ‘No 17’ SAFETY v 1891 AMERICAN IDEAL RAMBLER FOR GIRLS
1890/1891 VARIATIONS OF THIS MODEL WITH EXTRA SUSPENSION
ABOVE: 1890 Spring wheel version. BELOW: 1891 Spring Frame – ‘The Last Great Invention.’
Quadrant history with thanks to Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia