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Pierce bicycle, about 1900

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Pierce bicycle, about 1900
Smithsonian Institution, Negative #: 47-959


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Bicycle Collection — The collection 1896-1927

Pierce bicycle
Catalog #: 309,386, Accession #: 100,045
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

This bicycle was donated to the Smithsonian in 1928. It was built by the George N. Pierce Company of Buffalo, New York, who also made early Pierce Motorette automobiles. In time, the Pierce automobile became known as the Pierce-Arrow, while the Pierce bicycles and Pierce 1- and 4-cylinder motorcycles were built by the Pierce Cycle Co., a subsidiary of the original company. The Pierce Cycle Co. was headed by Percy Pierce, son of George, when receivers were appointed for it in 1910.

Physical Description

Artifact. This bicycle has a shaft-and-gear drive, with a pair of bevel gears at each end of the shaft, in place of the usual chain drive of the period. The drive shaft is contained in the right member of the lower rear fork. The elimination of sprockets and chain protected the rider's clothing from grease and damage, while the enclosing of the gears protected the mechanism from dirt.

The rear hub is equipped with a New Departure coaster brake, a feature that began to be introduced on various cycles about 1898. The wooden rims, 24 inches in diameter, mount single-tube, pneumatic tires. The front wheel contains 32 tangentially laced wire spokes, and the rear wheel contains 36. An oil hole with a sliding cover is provided in the rear hub. The nonadjustable pedal throw is 7 inches. The rear wheel is turned approximately three revolutions for each turn of the pedals. The frame is sprung, both front and rear, for easier riding. Each side of the front fork is composed of several spring leaves, while the upper end of the upper rear fork incorporates a telescopic section containing a coil spring. The housing of the spring is marked "Pierce hygienic cushion frame, licensed by Hygienic Wheel Co.," and bears patent dates ranging from 21 July 1896 to 31 January 1899.

The curved, tubular, nonadjustable handlebars are fitted with grips which appear to be of leather. The saddle is a "Christy No. 3" and bears patent dates ranging from 15 January 1895 to 21 June 1898. On the steering head of the frame appears a nameplate marked "The Geo. N. Pierce Co., Makers, Buffalo, N.Y., U. S. A.-Tried and True." The name "Pierce" also appears, backed by the design of an arrow. Patent dates on the plate range from 28 April 1895 to 10 May 1898.

In 1961 this bicycle was restored, at which time the tires were replaced and the present black finish applied.

Date Made:
about 1900
New York
Gift of Barton A. Bean

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