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Geared Front Driver 1894

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oldspoke

Finally riding a big boys bike
Hello friends of the wheel. I thought folks might enjoy seeing a weird 19th Century contraption, the Ives G.F.D. Hope everyone has a great 2023 and you find some cool bikes and "stuff".

The Geared Front Driver, Geared Ordinary, and Bantam were unusual offerings available from 1892 - 1899. They employed a front hub equipped with a planetary gear that effectively "geared up" the front wheel to a larger size. Most used the popular Crypto Gear of I.W. Boothrod of the U.K. These were pneumatic tired bikes and were sold to compete against the diamond frame "safety" bicycle. The Geared Ordinary and Geared Front Driver were marketed to riders that had a fondness for the riding position of the goood old highwheel bicycle.

Pictured here is an unusual American Geared Front Driver with a mechanism that was patented by Charles Acton Ives of Newport Rhode Island in 1894. C.A. Ives was a prominent member of Newport society during the Gilded Age. He was an attorney and active in local politics. The bike would have had pneumatic tires but is now fitted with Amish rubber. The only marking is a small stamp that reads "patent" on the mechanism. The bike may be a prototype and is most likely a one off.

I've included an image of C.A. Ives patent, US 516,054, as well as an image of his patent application to the United Kingdom. Perhaps Ives thought that his invention could compete with the popular Crypto Gear.
Interestingly, I also came across a patent issued to E.R. Corbett, US 501,056, that bears a striking resemblance to the Ives patent. Both patents depict a cycle using a rear drive. The patents are for the hub mechanism not the complete bike, hence Ive's application of his patent to the front hub and his bike as a Front Driver. I've included an image of Corbett's patent for comparison.

If you care to do a Google Patent search you can read the full description of the mechanisms. The front wheel of the bike actually floats or can rock back and forth providing the rider with a variable wheelbase. Strange - that it didn't catch on :>}

I have been told that this cycle may have been built for Ives by the Ames Manufacturing Co. of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. It uses what appears to be a Rudge rear hub and Bown's Aeolus front bearings. Most of the other components are English including the cool swooped handlebars.

During my research I came across the obituary of C.A. Ives. I've included a link to it on newspapers.com. An interesting twist to the story of an unusual bike. At least Mr. Ives was doing something he loved - riding his beloved bicycle.

C.A. Ives obit of May 17, 1899
newspapers.com/clip/4612302/charles-acton-ives-obit/
And May 20, 1899
https://www.newspapers.com/.../charles-acton-ives-obit/

www.velocipedegallery.com

GFD 2.jpg


GFD 3.jpg


GFD 9.jpg


GFD 10.jpg


GFD 7.jpg


Ives 1.jpg


Ives 2.jpg


Corbett .jpg


Ives 3.jpg
 

Andrew Gorman

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
I'd like to hear the noise it makes going down the road! From some casual reading it seems like there was a lot of nostalgia for a front drive machine after the safeties came along. After riding my crude velocipede, there IS something different about them.
 

locomotion

Cruisin' on my 1897 Comet
Great bike! Impressive engineering.
What size are the front and rear wheels?
Are they all wood rims?

What does it say on the "crank axle bearings"?

nice.jpg


Also love the handlebars.

BTW. Any markings on that seat?
can you post more pics of the seat? expecially the underneath of the frame
 
Last edited:

oldspoke

Finally riding a big boys bike
Great bike! Impressive engineering.
What size are the front and rear wheels?
Are they all wood rims?

What does it say on the "crank axle bearings"?

View attachment 1759640

Also love the handlebars.

BTW. Any markings on that seat?
can you post more pics of the seat? expecially the underneath of the frame
Hello,
Rims are wood as this bike is from the States. Front is 40 inches and the rear is 20 inches. The hub bearing is Bown's "Aeolus". The saddle is marked but very hard to read. The bike is in storage and hard to get to. Here are a couple of pics of the saddle. One poor shot of the underside of the saddle.
Glenn

GFD 17.jpg


GFD 19.jpg


GFD 20.jpg
 
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