Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed 1993 film ‘The Age of Innocence’ was based on Edith Wharton’s twelfth novel, which was serialized in four parts in Pictorial Review magazine in 1920, and later published as a book. It won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, making Wharton the first woman to win the prize.
The picture above is from the 1990s book ‘Collecting and Restoring Antique Bicycles’ by G Donald Adams. It shows three 19th century bicycles that featured in the movie, with their owners appearing as extras.
This particular Mascotte Cross-frame is shown on the right of the photo, with its owner Willis Koehler. It was subsequently purchased from the Willis Koehler cycle collection.
The Mascotte was supplied by George Townsend & Co in Britain and advertised by Harber & Co in the USA. The George Townsend company was purchased by Eadie in 1892 and, by the turn of the century, had become Royal Enfield.
1890 Mascotte Safety ‘No 4’ Cross-frame
(George Townsend & Co)
The Mascotte Safety was advertised by the American cycle agent Harber & Co in their 1891 catalogue, alongside bicycles from Swift, Quadrant and other leading British cycle firms of the day. Although Colonel Pope had started building Columbia bicycles, and other American manufacturers also started up to capitalise on the new interest in safety bicycles, the American market was still in its infancy and it was not easy for a US company to set up cycle manufacturing from scratch. A popular solution was for a business to become an agent for imported British bicycles. Once they had established a local market, many of these agents went on to become cycle builders or assemblers in their own right.
This cross frame safety bicycle was restored in the early 1980s, and appeared in the 1993 Martin Scorsese movie ‘Age of Innocence.’ It is still in good condition and is ready to ride.
Machines built by George Townsend & Co are not easy to find. The Townsend company was liquidated in 1891 and purchased by a group of investors to become the Eadie Mfg Co.
GEORGE TOWNSEND & ROYAL ENFIELD PRE-HISTORY
The history of Royal Enfield prior to 1900 can be a bit confusing to understand: but, in a nutshell, the firm had its genesis in the purchase of George Townsend & Co in 1891, and two companies, eith directors in common, traded side by side: Eadie Mfg Co and Enfield Cycle Co.
Eadie Mfg Co sold cycle frames and fittings to the cycle trade, and there are still surviving examples of ‘Eadie Fittings Machines’ from the 1890s. Enfield Cycle Co bicycles were also built by Eadie Mfg Co, so how can we tell the difference between a bicycle assembled from Eadie frame & parts and an Enfield or Royal Enfield assembled from Eadie frame & parts?
The answer is we can’t! My personal assumption, however, is that a Royal Enfield would have been built using the latest Eadie components, and those same latest components would have been held back for sale in Britain until the following season (though still supplied for export) or perhaps sold at a higher price through the British cycle trade for the first year so that a rival cycle builder could not create an identical ‘Royal Enfield’ at a cheaper price.
GEORGE TOWNSEND & Co
“George Townsend started making sewing machine needles in Redditch in 1855. He died in 1879 leaving two sons, Edward and George to carry on the business. In 1885 they decided to enter the cycle trade, initially making components and a speciality of tricycles for juveniles, including the ‘Mascotte’ in 1884.
The premises were at Givry Works, Hunt End, Redditch. This firm produced the ‘New Ecossais’ Diamond Safety No.1 in June 1890. In November 1890 the firm became a limited company. During 1891 the finance of the business failed and the Townsend family lost control. George Townsend went on to run the Redditch Cycle Co. Ltd.
The new head was Albert Eadie, late of Perry & Co., with his works manager, Robert Walker Smith, formerly assistant manager of D. Rudge & Co. They improved the business, stopped making sewing machine needles, and changed its name in 1892 to the Eadie Manufacturing Co.” *
EADIE Mfg Co
“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. It appears that from c.1904, the company only made frames and fittings. 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.” *
“In 1892 Eadie won a contract to supply rifle parts to the Royal Small Arms factory at Enfield and to celebrate this a new bicycle design was named the ‘Enfield’ from October that year. In 1893 ‘Royal’ was added (from the Royal Small Arms name) making the model name ‘Royal Enfield’. At the 1893 Stanley Show the firm showed a front-driver and a tandem but the latter received some criticism.
The company was registered on 24 February 1893 (No. 170,951). An office with showroom was opened at 166 Edmund Street, Birmingham, Warwickshire, and they were later, from November 1893, at 94 Snow Hill, Birmingham. The badge was a shield with a smaller shield inset containing a field gun facing left. It seems that initially the company sold machines made by the Eadie Manufacturing Co and moved into the former works of Townsend, George & Co. at Givry Works, Hunt End, Redditch, Worcestershire from 1896. There was a London showroom at 6c Sloane Street and a Dublin showroom at 73 Grafton Street. During this time the company name changed several times: Enfield Manufacturing Co. Ltd (wound up on 8 January 1897), Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd, New Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd and then reverted to Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd. For the 1894 Stanley Show there were 19 safeties on display, plus two tandems. A main feature of their lady’s machine for 1895 was the frame which was adopted as a distinctive marketing feature at the instigation of Albert Eadie.
For 1897 there was the Eadie back pedal brake. There was a close association with the Eadie Mfg. Co. At the 1897 Stanley Show Enfield displayed ten safeties, two tandems, a triplet and a quad. The main features for 1898 were the bottom bracket in a separate sleeve, the front brake fulcrum on a bar projecting from the handlebar stem and the lady’s dress guard cords were now wound around studs on the mudguards rather than passed through holes. From 1898 all models were known as ‘Royal Enfield’. The motto ‘Made like a gun’ was used to describe the machines. Models for 1898 were supplied with R. W. Smith’s Patent Disc-adjusting bracket and Enfield Lever Pattern brake. The Light Roadster for 1898 weighed 30 lb. Albert Eadie retired that year.” *
* History of these three companies verbatim from Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia.
GEORGE TOWNSEND & Co at the 1890 STANLEY SHOW
1891 HARBER BROS CATALOGUE