Saturday, January 31, 2009

Racycle Production Years

When were Racycles built? It’s a valid question given how long they have been out of production, the dearth of Racycle information, and the confusing later introduction by Westfield of normal-looking bicycles with a Racycle head badge.
Racycles were built by the Miami Cycle Company of Middleton, Ohio. The company identified 1896 as the first year of Racycle production. That much is certain and is consistent in a variety of the factory’s own publications.
But determining when Racycle production stopped is more difficult. I have seen Racycles and Racycle catalogs from 1913, so it is safe to say that they were in production that late. But the trail would seem to go cold at the end of 1913.
Enter Fred Fisk, who wrote a brief history of the Miami Cycle Co for the May 1989 issue of “The Wheelmen.” For his history, Mr. Fisk’s research included the resources of the Middletown Public Library, at least one collection of ephemera, as well as information from a Middletown historian who had written about the town's industrial history and the Miami Cycle Co. in particular. Mr. Fisk’s article included a photograph of catalogs from Miami and Racycle for 1916 and 1918, so maybe production continued through 1918 and perhaps even later. Mr. Fisk concluded that Racycle production ceased in 1924, but he did not cite his source for this conclusion.
Even if there is some uncertainty about how late the Miami Cycle Co. produced the Racyle, what is certain is that they had given up by 1925. In that year, Westfield Manufacturing Co., makers of Columbia bicycles, published a catalog advertizing “Racycle” bicycles built in their Springfield, Massachusetts, factory. The Racycles in Westfield’s catalog illustrations look like standard bicycles without the large sprockets and widely-spaced crank-hanger bearings that had characterized the Ohio-built Racycles. I will leave it to others to research and report on the Westfield-built Racycles, but various sources suggest that Westfield used the Racycle name periodically from 1925 into the 1950s.
If I had to keep it short, and it pains me to do that, I’d say that Racycles were built from 1896 to about the early 1920s, perhaps as late as 1924. By 1925, it appears that Westfield Manufacturing had bought the Racycle name and was using it to sell their products, which had no obvious connection to the original Racycles built by the Miami Cycle Co. in Ohio. These conclusions are subject to change as more information becomes available. Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment