When the Gormully & Jeffery Mfg Co commenced to build bicycles – and that was sixteen years ago – their leading aim was to make the best wheel that human ingenuity, guided by the highest mechanical training, could possibly construct. Since that genesis of their extensive manufactory, they have spared no expense to make the best still better, whenever an opportunity has occurred.
The Rambler bicycle industry, although it has grown to immense proportions, did not spring up like a mushroom. The G&J Company’s ambitions were prompted by the spirit of the times when the bicycle age was in its infancy; and the first factory in the world which was devoted exclusively to the manufacture of bicycles and allied industries was erected by the Gormully & Jeffery Mfg Co. That was the nucleus of the enormous Rambler works which now push their eight stories ever upward, as if in sympathy with the constantly upward tendencies of this progressive firm.
The continual praise of countless numbers who ride our Ramblers is a good reward for our efforts. Besides its unequalled success in the land of its invention, the mails from sunny India, progressive Japan, the young republic of Hawaii, Mexico, South America, Australia and the conservative countries of Europe, bring us numerous newspaper clippings containing detailed accounts of Rambler victories on highways and track. ‘Rambler First’ has been the result of many a hotly contested race. World’s records were broken with it twenty-five times during 1894, and all its various victories run well up into the hundreds.
– from the 1895 G&J sales catalogue
Rear-steering tandems were all the rage in America and Britain from 1895 until the beginning of the 20th century …when the automobile took over the duties of conveying a driver and passenger. They were known as ‘courting tandems’ and they did indeed allow a man and woman to ride together, in an era when society frowned upon unchaperoned mixing of the sexes. Often a female chaperone could be seen trailing behind the tandem on her own bicycle …though, as a tandem was faster than a bicycle, she was invariably soon left far behind.
These days, the importance of the male-female tandem within the strict confines of late Victorian society is largely unappreciated. The rear-steering model, which was only current for a short time, now seems very strange indeed, and its design obviously reveals a lot about Victorian ideas, where the female rider’s ability to steer the machine herself could be controlled by the man behind!
The tandem shown in the amusing photograph below is an 1895 Gormully & Jeffery Rambler rear-steerer, the first year this pattern of tandem was put on the market. Its linkage connecting the rear handlebar to the fork crown can be clearly seen. As well as being one of the top three US cycle manufacturers, G&J had active agencies in Europe, their products selling particularly well in Sweden, France and England. In fact, after the company was eaten up by the American cycle makers’ conglomerate known as ‘The Trust’ in 1899, Ramblers were assembled and sold in Sweden to supply the European market.
1898 Gormully & Jeffery ‘Rambler Combination Tandem’
4 Matching Rambler pedals
Matching Rambler Handlebars & Grips
This rare Rambler rear-steering tandem is in good all-round original condition, being restored and repainted many years ago. The previous owner purchased it in the 1980s, and he fitted an extra brace to the front loop to strengthen the frame. It does not look out of place.
The machine retains its original head-badge, and also its matching pedals and handlebar grips, which suggests that despite its weathered appearance, it has not been used a lot (such items are usually missing). The wooden wheels are also the originals: 120-year-old wooden wheels are not practical for much more than occasional riding, but it’s nice to see the machine with its original specifications.
1898 GORMULLY & JEFFERY CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
THE RAMBLER TANDEM: 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898
The most easily recognisable difference between the first Rambler tandem (1895) and the models of subsequent years is the ‘loop’ of the front part of the frame (the parallel down tube from the headstock).
The 1895 model has straight bars at the front while the following years’ models have a loop, similar to the Rambler ‘loopframe’ lady’s safety bicycle.
If you compare the two illustrations more carefully, you can also see that the rear top-tube is downward sloping on the 1895. The frame geometry is actually quite different on this first year of the Rambler tandem.
The following catalogue illustrations are in date order:
DETAILS OF CONSTRUCTION