Monday, May 21, 2012

John D. Rockefeller and His Shaft Drive Bicycle

John D Rockefeller with Bike
A fellow who supplied oil for the automobile society with an exotic bicycle

Title: [John D. Rockefeller, full-length portrait, standing with a bicycle]
Date Created/Published: 1913.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Library of Congress
Link to full record

An amusing photo from the Library of Congress - John D. Rockefeller with a bicycle. And not just any bicycle, but a shaft drive bike. Yet another example of a shaft drive bike, an early attempt to provide a superior alternative to using a bicycle chain. The shaft drive approach has the advantage of a clean design look to it, but the mechanical efficiency is lower than a traditional chain and the cost is higher, so the shaft drive approach has never caught on. (I have looked at the subject of shaft drive bikes before, here and here for example.)

Mr. Rockefeller does not have the most expensive model "chainless" bicycle available. This is pretty clearly the Columbia basic shaft drive bike, looking at the Columbia 1912 catalog.

Columbia Basic 1912 Shaft Drive Bicycle

This is the basic Columbia "chainless" bike for 1912

The basic Columbia shaft drive bike was only 75 dollars, having come down from $100 in 1900. You can see the "headbadge" (the company logo, under the handlebars on the headset of the bike) shown in the catalog matches what is shown in the photograph of Rockefeller.

Columbia 1912 Two Speed Shaft Drive Bike
By 1912, this bike was available in this two-speed model and a "spring fork"

The price of this more deluxe model that includes "hygenic cushion frame" (whatever that means) was $100.

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