The 1897 Luthy catalogue has made its appearance. Like all of Luthy’s work it is very neat. The Luthy wheel at $130 the makers claim on account of its workmanship is a cheap wheel. While the price sounds high, a careful examination of the wheel shows readily that extra pains and extra fine finish and time have been expounded in its make-up.
– Sporting Life, 15th May, 1897
Luthy & Co, of Peoria, Illinois, was a major manufacturer and distributor of horse-drawn buggies, surreys, farm wagons and agricultural equipment. Like many other companies, they were attracted by the bicycle boom of the mid-1890s to make their own brand of bicycles. Their quality machines were aimed at the top end of the market. As they already had a distribution network for their existing products, their bicycles were available to these local markets. But all small bicycle makers also had the opportunity to sell abroad.
In the mid to late 1890s, cycle manufacturers exhibited at national shows, and used such opportunities to meet suppliers of components, agents, distributors and exporters.
French manufacturers in the 1890s were not yet geared up sufficiently to satisfy total French demand for bicycles, so British and American companies opened agencies there to meet the shortfall. Felix Fournier & Knopf had offices in New York and Paris. They exported Luthy bicycles to sell in France, from their Paris office at 103 Rue Lafayette. They sold many other American bicycles such as Stearns, Dayton, Eagle and Rambler, and fielded a major display at the ‘Salon de l’Automobile’ in December, 1903.
1899 Fairy King
Luthy & Co, Peoria, Illinois, USA
Exported to France, and sold by Felix Fournier & Knopf, of Paris
The American cycle industry was already suffering from over-production by the late 1890s. When the department stores, with their comprehensive catalogues, entered the bicycle market, bicycle sale prices in America were forced down still further. Nevertheless, the Luthy Cycle Co refused to budge on price and, in 1899, the Fairy King remained at double the cost of other machines. It is a well-made bicycle, and was obviously more expensive to produce than most other bicycles. The ornate headbadge alone is testimony to the quality of its manufacture.
The frame is varnished bare metal, and it’s fitted with a retro metal wheelset with coaster hub, adjustable handlebars, and period American brown leather saddle. It’s a handsome lightweight machine that rides very well.
LUTHY & CO
Peoria, Ill, USA
Produced the ‘Luthy’ model in Peoria, Illinois, in c1892-98. The ‘Luthy’ was an expensive machine. In 1898 it cost about double the equivalent machine from other manufacturers, $110 compared to $55. The most notable feature of the ‘Luthy’ was its frame construction, of outside lap joints, with tapered reinforcements. The tapered reinforcements extended along the fork blades, the top and down tubes, and from the bracket along the seat tube and chainstays. It also had cotterless curved cranks. The curvature of the cranks were supposed to overcome the top dead centre though this was just a delusion.
The handlebar are easily raised for an upright riding position
SPORTING LIFE, 15th May, 1897
Luthy article: top right column
ARTHUR RACKHAM: MEETING OF OBERON & TITANIA
The heyday of fairies was the late Victorian era. Arthur Rackham was a leading illustrator, and his picture (above) of ‘The Meeting of Oberon and Titania’ from A Midsummer’s Night Dream (1905) is one of his best-known works. So the name ‘Fairy King’ was quite topical, though perhaps more so in Europe than in America.
In the ultra-conservative society of the day, fairies embodied everything that was forbidden to Victorian women. They wore diaphanous, loose and flowing robes instead of whalebone corsets. They ran free and wild. Adult fairy tales featuring fairy femme fatales proliferated, expressing male anxieties about female power and fantasies of destructive female sexuality.
The general public were not just fascinated by the subject – many people actually had an absolute belief in fairies. The Folklore Society was founded in 1878 to study the rich heritage of British folk and fairy mythology, employing ‘scientific’ methods in their research, and composers wrote harp music on fairy subjects to satisfy the demand of the new middle classes. The public appetite for the esoteric continued unabated through the Edwardian era, until the harsh realities of the Great War forced the end of such romantic notions. From then on, fairies’ erotic and occult aspects were expurgated and they moved into the nursery.
Many late 19th century cycle catalogues featured fairies. Bicycles, like fairies, represented freedom. The 1898 Sunbeam catalogue, below, shows a fairy on its cover, bathed in a sunbeam.
Fairy info with thanks to – http://www.fairyharp.com/fairy-article.html