Schwinn Bicycles – 1895
Spring has arrived and that means one thing: it’s time to get out the Schwinn and go for a spin! Today’s Throwback Thursday takes a ride down memory lane and looks at the history of Schwinn bicycles. The Arnold, Schwinn & Company was founded in Chicago in 1895 by a German immigrant named Ignaz Schwinn. Prior to immigrating to America, Schwinn had worked on draisines, foot-operated railroad vehicles used to bring maintenance crews to trains requiring service. The draisine’s design was an early predecessor of the bicycle.
The first safety bicycles became popular in the mid 1880’s. Unlike the high wheeled bicycles, which had been used previously, the safety bicycle was low enough so riders’ feet could touch the ground; thus making stopping much easier. Safety bicycles also implemented a new chain design instead of having pedals attached directly to the wheels.
During the late 1890’s there were over thirty factories in Chicago producing bicycles. This came to be known as the golden age of the bicycle craze. Schwinn received backing from German-American Adolph Fredrick William Arnold and together they opened a factory. This bicycle golden ages passed quickly and by the early 1900’s the popularity of bicycles waned with affordable motorized motor bikes and automobiles now available. Many of the Chicago bicycle manufacturers went bankrupt. Schwinn chose to buy out many of the smaller companies and was able to position his company as the leading American bicycle manufacturer.
Schwinn developed a cruising-style bicycle in 1934 called the aero cycle. This bike featured balloon-style tires that were more durable and could withstand rough terrain. Theses sturdier bikes were targeted to younger riders. The heavy frame design, modeled after an airplane fuselage, was much more durable and a faux gas tank and battery powered light completed the look.
In 1938 Schwinn introduced the Paramount; a lightweight track race and touring bike for adult enthusiasts. During the 1960’s Schwinn developed muscle, lowrider chopper-style bicycles with banana seats and ape hanger handle bars. Recreational mountain and geared racing bicycles were developed in the 1970’s and once again targeted adult riders.
In 2001, The Schwinn Company and brand name was sold to Pacific Cycle; then, in 2004, Dorel Industries acquired Pacific Cycle. Schwinn brand name bicycles are now made in China and are not the quality of original Schwinn bicycles. The Past Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has several vintage Schwinn bicycles available among other vintage bicycle brands. Visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.
Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!