1926 Columbia Model 72 Bicycle

1926 Columbia Model 72 Bicycle

edited by David Barth, 6 June 2011.
Courtesy The Forney Museum of Transportation at 4303 Brighton Blvd., Denver, Colorado 80216. Photos were taken in June 2011.

This is a Columbia Model 72 bicycle made by Pope Manufacturing Company which subsequently became the American Bicycle Company.

Columbia Bicycle Company:

In 1877 the Pope Manufacturing Company was founded in Boston Massachusetts by Albert Pope who had been a Captain in the Civil War. After the war, he attended the Centennial Exposition where he saw a two-wheeled contraption called a bicycle.

In January 1878, Pope began importing bicycles from Europe at his offices at 45 High Street, Boston, Massachusetts. The first bicycles he sold cost $313.00. He began designing and building bicycles, but his factory was not equipped for mass production, so in September 1878, he approached the Weed Sewing Machine Company in Hartford, Connecticut about building bicycles for his company. Weed Sewing Machine Company agreed, and in November 1878, Weed delivered the first bicycles manufactured in Hartford. These were copies of an English bicycle, the Bayliss Thomas Duplex Excelsior.

Sales of Weed-built bicycles continuted until March 12, 1896, when the main offices of Pope Manufacturing were burned in a fire, and most records and many bikes were lost.

In 1897, shortly after the fire, H.A. Lozier & Company of Cleveland, Ohio built a new bicycle plant in Westfield, Massachusetts. In 1900, Pope Manufacturing, Lozier, and a host of other bicycle companies joined to form the American Bicycle Company. In 1901 The American Bicycle Company failed, and in 1902 The American Bicycle Company was reorganized as the American Cycle Company. In 1903 The American Cycle Company failed.

In 1904 The Pope Manufacturing Company was reorganized and acquired the assets of most of the bicycle manufacturers that had been part of the previous consortiums.

From 1905 to 1913, Pope gradually consolidated manufacturing to its plant in Westfield Massachusetts, but kept the main offices in Hartford Connecticut until 1914 when the main offices were consolidated with the manufacturing facility in Westfield.

In 1915, the Pope Manufacturing Company filed for bankruptcy, and the following year was reorganized and renamed The Westfield Manufacturing Company. The catalogs stated that the new company was “successors to The Pope Manufacturing Company”.

In 1933, Westfield Manufacturing became a subsidiary of The Torrington Company of Torrington, Connecticut.

In December 1960 Westfield Manufacturing was spun off to form an independent corporation. The next year it was renamed Columbia Manufacturing Company.

In 1967, Columbia Manufacturing Company was merged with MTD.

In 1987 Columbia Manufacturing Company filed for bankruptcy.

In 1988 Columbia was purchased by some of the local management and reorganized as Columbia Manufacturing Company. It was removed from MTD, and it remains to this day (2011) making the tubular school furniture that they began making in 1953. Since 1988 bicycle production in Westfield has been limited, but it continues to sell a Columbia line of imported bicycles. The reproduction of the 1941 Columbia and the blue 125th Anniversary bicycle were made in the Westfield plant.

In 2008 several of the original factory buildings in Westfield were torn down including the main building on Cycle Street and the building that housed the museum. Columbia has been credited with many firsts in the bicycling industry, since its founding in 1877. It pioneered many improvements to bikes, motorbikes, and furniture for nearly 150 years.

Columbia Highlights:

  • 1877
  • The first American manufacturer of cycles, Pope Manufacturing Company, began selling 60-inch "high wheelers," costing $125 and built under contract by Weed Sewing Machine Company. (Weed sewing machines sold for $13.)

  • 1878
  • The company set up a Bicycle Riding School at 87 Summer Street in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • The first catalogue had twenty pages.

  • 1879
  • A uniform pricing system was established.
  • The motto, "Standard Columbia," was introduced.

  • 1880
  • Models being sold: "Special Columbia," "Youth's Columbia," "Mustang," and "Youth's Mustang".
  • The "Columbia Ball Bearing" was introduced.
  • The cmpany started the Wheeling Association to fight for better roads.

  • 1881
  • The Columbia Guarantee was instituted.

  • 1882
  • A Branch Office in New York was established.
  • The Model "Expert Columbia" was the first bicycle ridden across the U.S., from Oakland, California to Boston, Massachusetts. The trip took 103 days, covering 3,700 miles.
  • "Columbia Enamel" was introduced.

  • 1883
  • Models "Columbia Racer" bicycle and "Three-track Tricycle" were introduced.

  • 1884
  • A Branch Office was opened in Chicago.

  • 1885
  • Models "Columbia Light Roadster" bicycle and "Two-track Tricycle" were introduced.

  • 1886
  • Models "Columbia Safety" (front-wheel drive), "Semi-roadster" bicycle, and "Ladies Two-track Tricycle" were introduced.
  • The "Columbia Racer" set the World's bicycle speed record which stood for many years.

  • 1887
  • The building at 77 and 79 Franklin Street in Boston, Massachusetts was occupied in January.
  • Models "Columbia Tandem," "Columbia Racing," and "Light Roadster Tricycles" were introduced.

  • 1888
  • Models "Veloce Columbia" (rear-wheel drive), "Volunteer Columbia", and "Surprise Columbia Tricycle" were introduced.

  • 1889
  • Models "Columbia Light Roadster" and "Tandem Safeties" were introduced.

  • 1890
  • Models "Columbia Ladies Safety" and "Racing Safety" were brought out.
  • Columbia "Cushion Tires" were introduced.
  • Final control of the Weed Sewing Machine Company took place.
  • The company's stock price rose from $5.80 to $75.50 per share.
  • Pope bought the company for $15.60 per share and started the Pope Manufacturing Company.
  • Pope was presented the "Father of Good Roads" award.
  • Pope was instrumental in getting Congress to award $10,000 for road construction.
  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) started four courses in road engineering.

  • 1891
  • Models "Columbia Light Roadster Safety" and "Pneumatic Racing Safety" were introduced.
  • A new building was ericted for the headquarters at 221 Columbus Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts.

  • 1892
  • Models 30 (Relay) and Century Columbia were brought out.
  • Columbia Pneumatic Tire was developed.
  • The company expanded through the acquisition of Hartford Rubber Works, a steel company, the largest nickel plating factory in the world, tube mills, an automobile factory, a bicycle factory.
  • More than 1 million were sold in 1892 at $200.00, each.
  • Columbia bicycles were sold throughout the world.
  • Columbia Ball Bearings introduced.

  • 1893
  • Models 31, 32, 33 were introduced.
  • Columbia's Pneumatic Tires were first successfully applied to road carriages.
  • The Tube Mill was completed and put into operation.
  • A new East wing was added to the factory.

  • 1894
  • Models 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39 were brought out.
  • A new office building was built in Hartford, Connecticut.

  • 1895
  • Models 40, 41, 42, 43, and 44 were introduced.
  • Acquired Hartford Cycle Company's product line.
  • Purchased competition (over 75 companies) and put them under the "American Bicycle Company" name.
  • Pope put together other companies for the automobile.
  • Formed "Electric Company" to manufacture electric cars.

  • 1896
  • A new Tube Mill was completed.
  • The Mark I Phaeton Electric Car was introduced.
  • Hiram Maxim, an engineer, astonished everyone with operating a gasoline carriage (auto) on the streets of Hartford, Ct. Col.
  • Pope purchased the rights to build Hiram Maxim's gasoline car.
  • On August 5th company acquired rights to build Cleveland Bicycles.

  • 1897
  • New tube mill went into operation.
  • Five percent nickel steel tubing was introduced as a new Columbia feature.
  • Total floor space was now 17 acres under one roof. The plant extended a mile along the New York - New Haven - Hartford Railway.
  • The company employed nearly 10,000 people.
  • Pope produced the "Pope Hartford" automobile.
  • The company introduced the Mark III automobile. In May, ten vehicles were sold for $3,000 each.
  • A gasoline-powered Tricycle was available.
  • A rental business of Columbia Electric automobiles for hire was established.

  • 1898
  • The company introduced the shaft-drive, chain-less bicycle, removing the biggest problem with bicycles: the chain.
  • The Mark VIII automobile was introduced.

  • 1899
  • The Columbia Electric Coach (an electric automobile) was introduced for the New York City Transit to be used to ferry dignitaries from the railroad station to the city offices. A number of units were also used to provide a taxi service in the city from 1899 to 1906. In 1906, City Transit changed to gas powered units.
  • Charles Murphy "Mile-A-Minute Murphy" rode a Columbia Tribune one mile in 57 4/5 seconds in Long Island, New York behind a train.

  • The Exhibit number is 160.

    1926 Columbia Model 72 Bicycle

    1926 Columbia Model 72 Bicycle