Excelsior bicycles


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chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#1
There are lot's of different Excelsior's out there and hopefully I can document some of these different companies and fill in the time lines of the what they built and or sold.

Excelsior Supply Co of Chicago was the founded by George Robie. Here are some clips from a 1903 Motor Magazine article:

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They were exclusive distributors of several products including Continental Tires and Shelby Seamless Tubing

Here are some interior shots from that same 1903 article:

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chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#2
They moved into manufacturing sometime around 1905-06 and were listed as one of the bicycle manufacturers in a tariff hearing in 1908

Here is the 1st ad of the "Original Design" Twinn-Truss in 1906:

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Copy of the Tariff Hearings list of manufacturers in 1908

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chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#3
George Robie's son Fred was the one who pushed to get into manufacturing. They formed the Excelsior Motor & Mfg Co and built a huge plant at 22nd and Union to build engines, motorcycles, bicycles and Franks prototype cycle car.

Fred Robie is the one who contracted Frank Loyd Wright to build his house. This would become to be know as the Robie house. One of the most important of Wrights homes, it was built near the University of Chicago where Franks wife attended and had strong connections.



Here he is in his prototype car:

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chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#4
The plant at 22nd and Union was pretty massive and drained the company dry. The permit to build was done in Sept of 1910 (clip from Tribune):

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Here are some notes from Frank on manufacturing aspect:

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Talewinds

I live for the CABE
Sep 13, 2010
1,897
173
Newton, WI, United States
#5
I'm a big "Wright Style" fan and I never knew there was a connection between the Robie house and Excelsior. Cool! Thanks for the info Chitown!
 

chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#6
The manufacturing drained the company and was turned over to creditors hands in Nov of 1910:

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Not because it did not do enough business but because it did too much the Excelsior Supply Co of Chicago and with it the Excelsior Motor & Mfg Co which helped drain the supply company's resources literally are in the hands of their creditors. The fact that the companies had over reached themselves and had become embarrassed by lack of ready cash has been a matter of trade knowledge for several months but until last week it was hoped that efforts that were making to bridge the gap would prove successful then, however it became apparent that the best interests of all concerned would be served by turning over the business to the creditors who hastily were called into conference. The investigation of the creditors committee showed that during the past year the Excelsior Supply Co had done a business of more than $3,500,000 and that while the assets exceed the liabilities of $1,000,000 by fully $400,000 careful handling would be necessary to conserve and make the most of the situation. The offer of the Excelsior principals to turn over the control and direction of the business to the creditors was therefore accepted the officers of the company placing their resignations at the disposal of the committee. It is evident that this case is a case for extension is the statement subscribed to by a group of the larger creditors whose claims aggregate $650,000 and we recommend to all creditors to join with us in accepting the Excelsior Supply Co s notes for the amount now due with interest at 6 per cent per annual payable January 1, 1912. With this extension there would seem to be no occasion for alarm or concern.

The creditors committee which according to the plan submitted is to take the entire management and control consists of:
John F Alvord of the Standard Co
Excelsior Needle Co and National Needle Co JE Maass
Corn Exchange National Bank of Chicago
G.E. Benson National Tube Co
F.E. Semal Morgan & Wright
G & J Tire Co Hartford Rubber Works Co and Continental Caoutchouc Co
F..L Watters Chicago Handle Bar Co
C.C. Boynton A.R. Mosler & Co W.E. Diehl Corbin Screw Corporation.

The original business of the Excelsior Supply Co was the sale of sewing machine supplies not the machines themselves which attained huge proportions to it were successively added the manufacture of bicycles and motorcycles and the jobbing of bicycle and automobile accessories and in each respective field the company has been a factor to be reckoned with at all times Last year under the style the Excelsior Motor & Mfg Co it took up the manufacture of automobile engines which involved such heavy outlays of cash and such large obligations that the other and firmly established and flourishing departments felt the drain and consequently were crippled.
 
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chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#7
Before the company was put into creditors hands, Frank may have sold to sundries portion of the business.

This is from a Feb 1909 Bicycling and Motorcycle review in the classified section:

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I wonder who bought out his sundries business... I'm thinking either Mead or Chicago Cycle Supply would be the most likely. I'll have to do more digging to find that one out.
 

chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#9
Ignaz Schwinn bought the motor plant but had no use for the bicycle manufacturing as he had his own huge facility by then. According to the buyout, Schwinn bought ALL the assets and names of Excelsior Manufacturing & Supply. But he may have made a deal to sell the name rights and old jig equipment that he didn't need anyhow.

So starting in Jan of 1912 there are two names and companies that exist in Chicago:

Excelsior Cycle Co (Peter O'Horo, president and general manager who would in 1916 move the company from Chicago to Michigan City Indiana. He also brought 50 families of workers to the Michigan City plant also. It was to leave the troubled labor relations.)

Excelsior Motor & Manufacturing Co (Schwinn bought this portion and stayed there until his new plant was built on Cortland ave in 1914)

From Jan 1912 Bicycling and Motorcycle Review industry news clip:

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Followed in the same issue with this ad to distinguish the new company.

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In 1913 the Schwinn owned factory and office are listed at the 22nd and Union address.

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fat tire trader

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Oct 29, 2010
2,345
677
San Quentin, California
www.fattiretrading.com
#11
They moved into manufacturing sometime around 1905-06 and were listed as one of the bicycle manufacturers in a tariff hearing in 1908

Here is the 1st ad of the "Original Design" Twinn-Truss in 1906:

8422680934_c423f9de67_h-1.jpg
Does anyone have an example of the Twinn Truss model with the crankset shown in the ad? It looks like the cranks that came in a bike that I am trying to identify.
Thanks,
Chris
 

chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#12
Things happened pretty fast with Fred Robie running Excelsior and expanding so quickly. They moved from their 223-227 Randolph st address briefly to this spot (400 w Randolph) right on the river with a dock that would transport directly from the factory down the river at the 22nd st slip. The other side had rail access across from Chicago's main train stations. Not sure what happened to this building or the contents inside but it is almost across the street from where the Mead retail/warehouse would be located.

This is taken from a Cycling and Automobile Trade mag June 1910:

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bricycle

I'm the Wiz, and nobody beats me!
Nov 18, 2009
20,173
4,499
Chicago area west
#13
Wow, love the info!!!! thanks for sharing, you rock! Looks like they may have built cycles for Elgin/Sears?
 

chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#14
I showed these in the Gary Mc thread of the treasure trove of bike links. I had mistakenly referred to them as Schwinn ads (with no objections to the contrary).

So I think these are important ads. The fact that these are not Schwinn is huge! Even more intriguing is the drop-stand on the "Model A" that is so often attributed to the early Chiefs.

1914 ad showing the 1915 line-up:

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This got me thinking... maybe Sears and Mead had a frame builder more local than Dayton, Ohio that they could get moto-bike style frames built quick and cheep by experienced bicycle men. Maybe Sears used the same company for their bicycle frames as they did for their motorcycle frames... Excelsior Cycle Co.
 
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chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#15
Looks like they may have built cycles for Elgin/Sears?
Only thing I see different is Sears/Elgins show the triple plate fork crown which I attribute to Mead (1910-1920's) and later Westfield (1920's forward)

Mead was know for buying stripped down frames. He was also know for importing English components such as the Sturmey Archer 3 speed hubs and 1/2" pitch chains and sprockets.

Excelsior's original business plan was to build frames for people that wanted to assemble bicycles and motorcycles. Seams like a perfect match.

Now here is where I am going to stretch a little and make some more wild theories. Some based on real events.

Schwinn and Mead form a bank in 1915.
Excelsior Cycle show large jump in stock valuation in 1915 *
Excelsior Cycle Co no longer making motorcycles
Excelsior Cycle Co makes plans to move to Michigan City and just build bicycles, no more motorcycles... (Sounds like Mead and Schwinn bought them out... or bullied them out of town)
1916 Arrow Cycle Co shows up with Mead, Schwinn and Sears Chief features


* June 1915 Chicago Tribune
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chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#16
http://archive.org/stream/bicyclingworldmo00leag#page/n807/mode/2up

This is a great couple of pages that lists all the parts manufacturers and jobbers etc.

Going back to the unique drop-stands on the '15 Excelsior Cycle Co, they are listed as stand suppliers in 1914:

STANDS
Aera Mfg. Co., 410 Siegel St., Chicago, 111.
Adams & Co., Henrv T., 6823 So. Chicago Ave., Chicago, 111.
Ero Mfg. Co., Chicago, III.
EXCELSIOR CYCLE CO., 166 N. Sangamon St., Chicago. 111.
International Stamping Co., 1852 W. Austin Ave., Chicago. III.
JOHNSON'S ARMS & CYCLE WORKS, IVER, Fitchburg, Mass.
Maiestic Mfg. Co., Worcester. Mass.
Wald Mfg. Co., Sheboygan, Wis.
 

chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#19
Thanks guys for the compliments. The web of manufacturers, jobbers and retailers is a crazy one in those times. I think it's important to say that Sears bought frames and bikes from many sources over the years. They even bought some from Colonel Pope's American Bicycle Company sometime around 1902-3 (contract was for 20,000 bicycles with an option for 20,000 more). This came out when Pope had his law suits for bottom bracket patent infringement against Schwinn that included Sears, Wards and tons of hardware branded machines. Sears then counter sued Pope for not delivering the additional 20,000 that was optioned in their contract. This must have been embarrassing for Pope as he was so harsh in his criticism of the mail order business, yet was selling to them at the same time. Pope countered back and said they never requested the additional 20,000 so they weren't delivered.

I will be posting on one of the Davis threads to show how it may have been Sears that helped get Davis Sewing Machine back into bike manufacturing after 1909-11 range. They were absent from the Tariff hearings as listed in 1908. Not sure if this was due to their relationship with a mail order house such a Sears or that they weren't a large producer at the time.

Sears had used Minneapolis Motor Co for some of their 1st motorcycles, after that it was Thor and then possibly Greyhound motors too. So Excelsior wasn't an exclusive supplier for Sears as far as motorcycles. I would assume that is true for bicycles as well. I'm more focused on those early motobike Sears models like the Chief and Napoleon. I'm sticking with my theory that Sears used Mead to assemble or at least source for the forks, chains, and other English goodies equipped on the Sears models of the teens.
 
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chitown

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 21, 2010
2,918
706
Prospect Heights, United States
#20
Turning focus back to pre-buyout and liquidation in Dec 1911

Excelsior's English connections. George Robie was the first person to import the James Safety bicycle and continued to import bicycles from Coventry England (Home to English built Excelsior and Triumph bicycles and later motorcycles until tariffs in early part of 1900's made it less profitable). And to add some crosstown connections with Mead Cycle, James Mead was setting up his connections in England around 1900-1905 and had advertisements for selling Coventry bicycles for below factory cost.

Here are the American built Excelsiors and Triumphs advertised in 1908:

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In July 1907 it became public that they were entering into the Motorcycle market.

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Their first offering was the "Triumph" This is described as a very "foreign looking machine." And it does share some features with it's English cousin. The motor mounting directly to the frame instead of a loop frame that was used by others. The other is the motor (De Dion copy by Thor and the same as Indian first used to build their engines and several other makers used that year). Robie surprised the 1908 New York trade show by debuting the Excelsior with a Motor built in house! Another key feature was the double truss design to house the fuel tanks. This would become the industry standard... as would the low-far-back saddle placement.

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