Monday, June 6, 2011

The Newspaper's Wooden-Wheeled Bicycles

Want to take a spin around town in 1892 Ypsilanti, but can't afford to buy a new bike? No worries: just pop down to the Ypsilanti Commercial offices at 316 North Huron (between Emmet and Cross) and rent one for a mere 15 cents per hour (about $3.60 today).

Not only did the paper rent bikes, they also sold them. At least, they sold the Elliott Hickory Bicycle, a model sporting two wooden wheels with tires that were "fastened" on. "Yes, FASTENED on," says the ad below. "They are not pasted on nor glued on, but so fastened that if worn to shreds the shreds would still be fast to wheel." Dusty D is not sure why riding on shreds is being advertised as a feature, as opposed to a nice soft tire, but I'm not a bigtime newspaper editor-slash-bicycle purveyor, and as such--clearly wiser minds than mine have made this ad.

The paper at this time was headed by Henry Coe, assisted by his brother Fred. Henry's twin career of newspaper editor and bicycle seller and livery manager seems to have been a short one. The Commercial continued for another eight years, but mentions of the bike livery vanish in short order from the paper. Perhaps it wasn't much of a loss; the livery had consisted of a fleet of only two bikes. The onetime cobblestones on many downtown streets might have made short order of those four wooden wheels (mounted to frames without shock absorbers), whether festooned with tenacious shreds or no.

Yet another brief flash of the onetime plethora of oddball business ventures in our town.

1 comment :

Dusty D said...

Ad is from May 13, 1892 Ypsilanti Commercial. It was a big one, too, soaking up two whole columns on page 5. Coe apparently had high hopes for his arboraceous bikes.