1939 Colson ‘Looptail’ Double Bar Juvenile Model 03200
The ‘looptail’ design was introduced in 1938 and featured on top-of-the-range adult Elgin and Colson bicycles. Streamlining for all types of vehicles was in its prime, and top designers were being used by all the leading cycle manufacturers to style their machines. The looptail was very well received by the public, so Colson brought out junior models with the same dynamic styling to capitalise on its popularity. Unfortunately all these fabulous styling exercises were interrupted by World War 2. It’s interesting to note that the looptail concept was reintroduced in the 1970s for BMX bicycles, with the T-6 designed by Wake Wakefield.
Walter Dorwin Teague. Raymond Loewy. Norman Bel Geddes. Wilbur Henry Adams? No history of American industrial design would be considered complete without exploring those first three names. Yet Erie, Pennsylvania native Wilbur Henry Adams (1906–1958) had the education, training and career to match any of them, and many of his ideas predate the other moderns. Adams was a gifted fine artist who transformed himself from the son of a small town roofer to a Jazz Age architect to a modernist bon vivant in the span of a decade.
At just twenty six, Adams was ready to strike out on his own, opening a studio in Cleveland and working with his wife, Arleen, a talented artist and interior designer. Adams found instant success with his 1934 transition to the burgeoning field of industrial design, and the couple returned to Erie, settling in the country on Wolf Road where Adams worked from a studio in the barn on the old Metcalf estate.
Erie was a hub of industrial activity and an important part of the industrial corridor bridging the Midwest and the Northeast—Adams’ clients readily followed him to this now seemingly removed location. Adams designed, styled, and streamlined everything from toilets to tractors to the SkyWay Drive-In, all while raising prize chickens, four children and living the life of a country gentleman.
Adams developed a relationship with Mayo Roe, owner of the Colson Company, of Elyria, Ohio, sometime in the early 1930s. Colson was a well-known manufacturer of wheeled vehicles, particularly wheelchairs, auto coasters and tricycles. The greater Cleveland area—geographically close to Akron, home of both Goodyear and Firestone—was a hub for the burgeoning bicycle industry. Advances in pneumatic rubber tires, which made riding human powered vehicles a far more enticing pastime than their earlier wooden or metal rimmed counterparts, the so-called “boneshakers had, was one of many reasons for the fantastic domestic growth in the demand for bicycles of all kinds.
Adams held nearly two dozen design patents for a range of Colson products, including wheelchairs, magazine racks, and laundry carts. It was his bicycle designs, however, where his eye for streamlined style most closely matched the engineering needs of the product along with the consumers’ desire for a functional yet modern vehicle. He took over design of the entire Colson bicycle line following the success of his 1936 Commander two-wheeler and Cadet tricycle. Colson also produced bicycles for other companies such as Goodyear, and Adams’ likeness and industrial design credentials were often touted as a selling feature.
Like most manufacturing concerns, Colson was retooled for the production of war matériel from 1942–1945. Although Colson and Adams attempted to circumvent the curtailment of domestic use of metal and rubber through the creation of a wooden tricycle, there was not enough demand for this version and very few were produced. Adams also designed products to satisfy the growing need for wheelchairs and other hospital equipment for war casualties. The Evans Corporation bought out Colson in the early 1950s, and while Adams’ relationship with the company ceased, they continued his designs well into the 1950s.
- Wilbur Henry Adams info with thanks to – http://erieartmuseum.org/exhibits/exhibits2014/WilburHenryAdams/WilburHenryAdams.html
1970s BMX T-6 ‘LOOPTAIL’
BMX info with thanks to – http://www.bmxsociety.com/topic/43792-looptail-design-origins/