Money flowing into the cycle industry from sales in the 1890s attracted innovation from every walk of life. The industry’s own engineers had been busy inventing and patenting any item with the potential to improve the use and safety of the bicycle. By 1897, cyclists and cycle enthusiasts started to invent accessories, and various unusual apparatus started to appear on the market. Some inventions were offered direct to cycle manufacturers, and others were advertised in the cycling press. But many small inventors had a few prototypes made and exhibited them at the annual cycling shows. As a major meeting place for industry and enthusiasts alike, this was an excellent way to find a financial backer.
…Consider ‘No 5’ above. This unique tyre inflator pump entailed lifting and pushing down on the saddle to pump air through the seat tube.
At the shows, top manufacturers took their pick of interesting accessories, and if they discovered items that could add to the exclusivity of their sales lines, negotiations would ensue. Patents might be purchased outright by companies or freelance agents. There were also opportunities for inventors to join forces with small manufacturing companies: this was more beneficial for an inventor if the interested party was a component retailer such as Gamages, who would place orders and take care of all the advertising, sales and distribution.
In the early years of cycling, Singer Cycle Co was a major innovator. Their 1893 catalogue advertised a front luggage carrier with fitted valise, and in 1896 they added an accessory that one might assume was invented many years later – a wire centre stand, similar to that of the 1950s NSU Quickly moped.
But, perhaps drawing inspiration from the illustration above at the 1895 National Cycle Show, the strangest contraption ever marketed by Singer was a handlebar with an inflator pump fitted inside.
Singer was an exclusive brand; its components were made in-house, unique to the company, and of top quality. Customers of the Singer Cycle Co were society ladies and gentlemen. Photography became popular among the gentry in the late 1890s, and many female riders would buy the latest camera equipment – which had recently become more portable and easier to use. They could join a club to go on cycling outings in the countryside to take pictures with their friends. The camera with the Singer (above) is a ‘Midg’ made by W. Butcher & Sons of Farringdon Rd, London, while the cameras in the American picture below are Kodaks.
1897 Singer Modele de Luxe Ladies with Camera
Middlemore & Lumplugh ‘Model L93’ Saddle
Slotted ‘Singer’ Named Pedals
Frame No 115987
Singer Patent ‘Inflator Pump’ Handlebar
Lucas ‘Cycloe No 10’ Front Carrier with Valise
Brass Front Acetylene Lamp
J Dixon & Son Sheffield Picnic Tray in Leather Saddle-mounted Case
Butcher & Sons ‘Midg No 0’ Camera
This Singer de Luxe has been mechanically restored and repainted in matt black. The original Singer hubs have been laced into newer 26 x 1/3″ wheels of the correct style. The unique Singer patent handlebar retains its original nickel, now tarnished, with the cartouche SINGER PATENT stamped in the centre; internally it has been restored and it functions well: unscrew the end clip and the narrow pump can be pulled out; pushed back in, its telescopic function enables the end clip to be reinserted and screwed back to close it.
The Singer has an inch pitch Singer chainwheel and chain, slotted pedal cranks with Singer named pedals, 1″ cork handlebar grips, period Middlemore & Lamplugh saddle with leather cased picnic box for carrying snacks. Slotted cranks were already out-of-date by 1897, but Singer sold their old stock for several more years.
This machine is accessorised with items available for purchase in the late 1890s and turn of the century. The front carrier is a (repro) Lucus Cycloe No 10 which carries a valise for the camera. Kodak in America was the only company to advertise a bicycle front carrier with box for their cameras; in Great Britain, a camera and cycling enthusiast would need to buy a Lucas accessory carrier plus valise to achieve the same effect.
SINGER PATENT HANDLEBAR WITH INTERNAL INFLATOR PUMP
CYCLE VALISE & LUGGAGE CARRIER
Singer introduced their cycle valise and luggage carrier in 1892 (above) as an optional accessory for their bicycles. When bicycles were fixed gear, the rear was an emergency escape route for the rider: carriers were only fitted over the rear mudguard after the introduction of the freewheel in 1898. Lucas introduced their small adjustable Cycloe front carrier for the mass market in the late 1890s, but by the turn of the century rear carriers became a much cheaper option and soon became the standard type of carrier rack.
A Lucas front carrier is very hard to find nowadays. So when I found one, I had some remanufactured by a local blacksmith, using the original for a pattern. As you can see, each part must be cut out and assembled by hand …in fact, it was made exactly the same way as in the Lucas factory 115 years ago.
Above: head lock open
Below: head lock closed
DIXON & SON PICNIC CASE
1896 SINGER CATALOGUE
1902 BUTCHER & SONS ‘MIDG No 0’ CAMERA
The Midg No. 0 camera was manufactured by W. Butcher & sons from 1902 to approximately 1921. Constructed of mahogany polished on the inside and covered with imitation seal grain leather on the outside. Fitted with a large achromatic fix focus lens with iris diaphragm, and three magnifiers for adjusting the lens for close exposures for 4ft, 8ft, and 12 ft. The shutter provides time and instantaneous speeds form two seconds to 1/100th of a second wit bulb release. Two tripod sockets as well as two brilliant view finders are included. A door is provided in the front to access the lens for cleaning and a metal door in the back so the exposed plates can be readily withdrawn without interfering with the unexposed plates. This camera carried twelve plates, quarter plate in size and used the infallible changing system. Originally priced at 21s.
In the early days of photography chemist shops sold camera equipment. William Butcher Sr. and his son William Fredrick were pioneers in the wholesaling of photographic apparatus and materials amongst retail chemists. Butcher Sr began practicing as a registered pharmacist in 1869 in his firm of Wm Butcher & Co, wholesale homoeopathic chemists of Blackheath, London. In 1889 he and his son became London agents for Mr. McKellan’s Cathedral hand camera, and also set up their own small camera factory. The popular Midg series of camera was introduced in 1902.