Cycles Brillant was not the biggest cycle manufacturer in France at the turn of the century. However, they were expert when it came to organizing advertising campaigns. French artists were enlisted by cycle companies to design their posters and, in due course, Brillant posters became more famous and sought-after than the bicycles advertised on them. This very rare bicycle was exhibited by Cycles Brillant at the 1900 Paris World Fair (‘Exposition Universelle de 1900’) and immortalised in the Henri Gray illustration below (and also the Adolphe Mouron Cassandre print further down the page).
Machine ‘Brillant’ No 1 Modele 1903
with Dursley-Pedersen 3-speed Gear
Inch-pitch (Skiptooth) Sprockets & Chain
Compare the bicycle with the Cycles Brillant catalogue illustration, below, for the 1907 model…
In 1903, perhaps as a result of sales generated as a result of its appearance at the Exposition and advertising from the poster, the Brilliant was offered with the latest three-speed gears, supplied by Dursley-Pedersen.
Dursley-Pedersen’s hub was, of course, normally supplied with 40 spoke holes, suitable for the rear wheels used on British bicycles. But, to try and capture the export market, the company had to provide a hub suitable for 36 spoke continental wheels. Although early Dursley Pedersen three-speed hubs are still to be found, I’ve never come across an example of their export model before.
It’s interesting to recall that, in 1903, when their hub first went on the market, the Sturmey-Archer three-speed had only just been introduced. Two-speed hubs, such as the Fagan, sold by Eadie, had been available since 1902, but a three-speed gear was the latest technological advance, and I have a feeling that this machine fitted with such a beautiful rear hub, would have been used for shows and exhibitions.
Actually, despite its interesting appearance, the Dursley Pedersen three-speed did not turn out to be a popular option. Within a year, the Sturmey-Archer three speed was in plentiful supply, and was also a superior hub, with less working parts to wear out, and a much more efficient worldwide back-up service for spare parts and repairs.
CYCLES BRILLANT POSTERS
I believe that the military series of Brillant posters are from 1905.
The famous poster below was designed for Cycles Brillant by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre in 1923. A fusion of cubism and surrealism, an original lithograph from 1925 sold at Christie’s in November 2010 for £23,750.
These days, Brillant posters are better known than the bicycles!
DURSLEY PEDERSEN THREE-SPEED GEAR
1907 CYCLES BRILLANT CATALOGUE
1900 PARIS EXPOSITION UNIVERSELLE/ PARIS WORLD FAIR
The Exposition Universelle of 1900 was held in Paris between 15 April and 12 November 1900, to celebrate the achievements of the past century and to accelerate development into the next. New inventions featured at the fair included escalators, Ferris Wheels, Rudolf Diesel’s new diesel engine (which ran on peanut oil), bicycles, talking films and the Telegraphone, which evolved into sound-recording. The Eiffel Tower also made its debut. Much of the architecture at the fair, in particular the Porte Monumentale entrance, below, featured Art Nouveau styling.
The ‘Moving Sidewalk’ (below) was designed by American engineers Schmidt and Silsbee. One level was stationary, the next moved at 4 km per hour, and the third at 9 km per hour. The fun of getting on and off this electric three-tiered sidewalk made it one of the fair’s greatest amusements.