All Gendron products have an important pedigree, as founder Peter Gendron was instrumental in the development of the metal bicycle wheel, which he patented in 1874 – the advertisement above shows ‘wooden wheel goods knocked out’. The company’s brand name ‘Pioneer’, used on its children’s tricycles and riding toys, was therefore apt.
Peter (Pierre) Gendron was French-Canadian, from Quebec. In 1895, after his American company, based in Toledo, Ohio, had become well-established and the ‘bicycle boom’ was at its peak, Gendron moved into the Canadian market, establishing the Gendron Mfg. Co of Toronto, Canada. His was one of the group of companies that merged to become Canada Cycle & Motor Co. Ltd, more commonly known as CCM. With the sale of its cycle works to CCM in 1899, Gendron turned his attention to the motor car and, by 1920, Gendron had become the world’s largest manufacturer of children’s pedal cars, built to imitate the full-size automobiles of the day. Using the ‘Pioneer’ name, the Gendron brand became synonymous with high quality pedal cars featuring cylindrical rear gas tanks, tool boxes, imitation cranks and nickel trim.
As well as being a major player in the early years of the Canadian cycle industry, Gendron exported bicycles to France at a time when the French cycle market was yet to become mainstream. No doubt his French-Canadain heritage gave him an edge over other American cycle companies who were just as keen to export their products. In the late 1890s, his bicycles were sold by agents in France, many of whom, having established a market, became cycle manufacturers themselves.
1902 Gendron Men’s Bicycle
Fauber ‘Star Sprocket’ Crankset & Torrington pedals
Full Accessory Set: ’20th Century’ headlamp; bell; frame-mounted toolbag; American inflator pump with seat tube mounting bracket
Wooden rims with chain tread tyres & 1st pattern Morrow coaster brake
This fabulous machine was on display at the Gendron Museum in Archbold for many years, until the museum sold off its contents in an auction, to be purchased by my friend Mark in Illinois. (It still displays its auction label). It’s in wonderul unrestored original condition, with nickel fork tips, wooden handlebar, full accessory set, and Fauber crankset.
Some cycle companies fitted Fauber cranksets to gain an edge over their competitors. The Fauber ‘Star Sprocket’ fitted to this Gendron came onto the market in 1898. Being a well-advertised upmarket component, Fauber cranksets have achieved a mythical status among vintage collectors in the 21st century.
Another interesting component is the Morrow coaster brake: this is the 1901 pattern with a non-articulated brake arm. (In 1902, the brake arm was articulated). Until 1904, the arm fitted to the chainstay on the right (chain) side, rather than the left. The first coaster brakes fitted by English cycle companies were actually this style of Morrow, which preceded the Eadie Coaster.
History of Gendron Wheel Company
“Toledo, thanks to Peter Gendron, has become prominent throughout the world for its development of the manufacture of metal wheels and for the quantity and quality of its output of that class of products. Mr. Gendron came to the city at the age of twenty-one and found employment as a pattern maker in the Toledo Novelty Works, then conducted by Russell & Thayer. In 1871 he went to Detroit as a pattern maker for the Detroit Safe Company. As a boy he had worked in his father’s wagon shop and while in Detroit he conceived the idea of a wire wheel. In 1875 he returned to Toledo, perfected his invention, first using the wire wheel on children’s carriages.
In 1877, with three associates he began the manufacture of wheels, but the company lacked sufficient capital to put the product on the market and consequently failed. Mr. Gendron did not lose faith in his invention, however, and after three years of persistent effort established a market for his wheels.
The Gendron Wheel Company was incorporated in 1880 and a small factory was started at 218 Summit Street. Within three years the business increased to such proportions that larger quarters became necessary. A site at the corner of Orange and Superior streets was purchased and a four-story building 100 feet square was erected. In 1890, the capital stock was increased to $300,000 and a few years later it was increased to $500,000.
This company was not only the originator of the wire wheel, but it has always been the recognized leader in the manufacture of goods of that class. It makes bicycles, tricycles, invalid chairs, go-cars, baby carriages, doll carriages, coaster wagons, toy wheelbarrows, etc.
. . .By the year 1890, the company had added 120 feet to their plant on Superior street, employed some 300 men, and was capitalized at $300,000 – no small concern at that time in the rapidly growing Western town. Additional ground, adjoining the company’s plant, was purchased from time to time and buildings were erected thereon until to-day  it owns the greater portion of the block bounded by Orange, Jackson and St. Clair streets, having a floor space of over 250,000 square feet.
The plant is modern in every respect, fully equipped with automatic sprinklers and the very latest fire-fighting apparatus. Power is supplied by thirty-five electric motors, having an aggregate of 500 horsepower. The company was styled the Gendron Iron Wheel Company for several years, but some years ago the name was changed to The Gendron Wheel Company. The company was not only the originator of the wire wheel, but it has been the recognized leader in goods of that class. Many of the machines used in the manufacture of the company’s product are the direct invention of Mr. Gendron or his mechanics. As a result of this, the company is the possessor of some for the most perfect electric welding, rim-truing and wheel-making machinery in existence. The concern has a capacity of 2,500,000 steel wheels, annually, all of which are required to equip articles of their own manufacture. The company has long since been recognized as the largest manufacturers of children’s vehicles in the world. . .The company is still a large factor in the manufacture of bicycles, having been one of the pioneers in that industry.”
FAUBER CRANK HANGERS
Gendron info with thanks to – [Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio, 1623-1923 by John M. Killits, Chicago, 1923, p. 425. Website – http://www.toledosattic.org/]