Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bicycle Marketing, 1896 Style


A full-page ad in the Cycling Life issue of August 13, 1896, has a standard description of the advantages of Columbia bicycles along with "extracts taken from letters to the Pope Manufacturing Company." Several of these "extracts" (quotes) surprise me.

Perhaps most of all is the quote, "I have had rare delight from my Columbia bicycle. It is matchless." - so says Sarah Bernhardt! Apparently she was not considered too bohemian to use in this capacity as celebrity endorser.

Sturdiness and low-cost maintenance are clear themes - two separate "extracts" combine the two in similar ways.
"I estimate I have ridden my Columbia bicycle 2,400 miles. It has given no trouble and has not cost me one cent for repairs. My weight is 200 to 205 pounds."— I. N. Knapp, Omaha, Neb.
"I have ridden a Columbia for two years with but twenty-five cents for repairs. I weigh 207 pounds." Allen H. Taylor, Cleveland, Ohio.
A bike able to withstand a rider of over 200 pounds was apparently regarded as exceptionally sturdy. One wonders what maintenance could be performed for 25 cents. . .


  1. Given that in the 1930's when by Dad was a boy labor was often a $1 a day (12 hrs), I would thing we are looking at over three hours of work.

  2. I just had a 32 spoke wheel rebuilt and each spoke was more than a dollar, so it's hard to imagine getting much done for 25 cents (including parts and labor), but of course $ did go further. (The labor for a rebuilt wheel was 60 dollars, which I think is the my LBS' way of saying they aren't very exciting with rebuilding wheels, but if you insist . . . they will take your money.)