Throughout most of the twentieth century, H.P Snyder Mfg Co was one of America’s leading bicycle manufacturers, two of that company’s leading brands being Hawthorne (for Montgomery Ward) and Rollfast. One of the best-known postwar Rollfast bicycles was the ‘Hopalong Cassidy.’ Little is known of Snyder’s first cycle company, S&F (Snyder and Fisher), which appears to have been in business between 1896 and 1897.
1896-1897 S&F ‘Swell-Newport’
(H.P Snyder Mfg Co)
This very rare survivor from the American ‘bicycle boom’ years is a lightweight machine that weighs only 14lbs as is. It features early style pedals with bolts on the outside rather than screw-in threads, which suggests 1896 manufacture. The wooden rims are sound, the front one being newer. I already have cushion tyres and handlebar grips for it; some skip tooth chain is currently on the way to me from USA. So assembly should be completed in a few weeks.
SNYDER & FISHER BICYCLE WORKS
Little Falls, New York
The D. P. Harris Hardware and Manufacturing Company of New York City was established in 1895 and was renowned for many products, especially Rollfast bicycles, tricycles and roller skates. The bikes were sold under such names as Princeton, Harvard, Savage, Roamer, Gold Medal, Rex, Peerless, Century, Peerless, Standard, Royal Flyer, Champion, Lexington, Black Beauty, Fleetwood, Blue Ribbon, Cadet, Winchester, Keystone, Ben Hur (also used by Schwinn) and Puritan. They also made bikes for the Pep Boys automotive stores. In the 1890’s Mr. Harris became a distributor of the Reading Standard Bicycle and established a factory to produce bike and skate parts including ball bearings. This may have lead later to the use of the ‘Rollfast’ name and explain why the ball bearing was featured on the head badge through the 1950s.
The H.P Snyder Company of Little Falls, New York started manufacturing circular ring knitting machines in 1895, the same year that Harris established his company. Snyder, and his partner Fisher, began producing a high quality line of bikes under the ‘S & F’ name. Their best known bicycle was the ‘Swell-Newport.’ The company reorganized in 1899, with the retirement of Fisher, and renamed the business the H. P. Snyder Manufacturing Co. With the failure of the American cycle industry at the turn of the century, Snyder was left with 300 bikes he was unable to sell. D.P Harris offered to sell the bikes, and managed to do so in less than a week. A partnership was born.
By 1917 the firm was producing bikes and bike-related items only. They later added wagons and trikes, and a second location was acquired in Michigan City, Indiana. During the Great Depression the Snyder Company was hard hit. Harris and Snyder agreed that the Snyder Company would market their bikes directly to large department stores such as Montgomery Wards who sold them under the Hawthorne name.