MACY’S DEPARTMENT STORE WINDOW, 1907
…Of course a store which carries such a large line of stock as Macy’s can afford to have some special designs, and that is exactly what has been done. It is safe to predict that every person who visits the toy department in that store will pay a visit to the automobile department, and that memory of the diminutive machines will be indelibly stamped.
– Playthings magazine, 1904
‘Tiller & Treadle’ tricycles made by the Fay/Worthington/Colson companies, often under the ‘Fairy’ name, had a distinctive feature that makes them easy to identify: the seat is attached to the tricycle chassis by a central support post.
1907 R.H Macy’s ‘Triumph’ Tricycle
(A Re-badged Worthington Mfg Co ‘Fairy’ Tricycle)
REAR WHEELS: 17.75″
FRONT WHEEL: 10″
The main identifying feature of this Macy’s ‘Triumph’ tricycle – called a ‘ball bearing tricycle’ in the catalogue extract – is the seat support. Instead of the traditional style with supports on either side, it has a normal bicycle/tricycle seat tube style of fitting. This was not a common feature at the time, and it appears to have been made by the Worthington Mfg Co (precursor to Colson Mfg Co). It has many features similar to their well-known ‘Fairy’ tricycle, originally designed by Winslow L Fay, and allows either the customary large seat to be fitted, or a normal bicycle type of saddle. The large seat would be more suitable for a younger child and the bicycle saddle could be fitted as the child grew older. It is an interesting innovation, which was in keeping with Macy’s policy of stocking upmarket toys made by top manufacturers.
The Worthington/Colson company that made this tricycle (as the ‘Fairy’) had various changes of ownership and name. The owner between 1891 and 1897 was Arthur L Garford, America’s most successful saddle maker and patentee of the first padded bicycle saddle. So it’s possible that this style of seat tube was as a result of his involvement.
1885: FAY MFG Co & 1897: WORTHINGTON MFG Co
Elyria, Ohio, USA
W. L. FAY of OF Elyria, Ohio. TRICYCLE. Witnesses Inventor- UNITED STATES v PATENT OFFICE
SPECIFICATION forming part of Letters Patent No. 397,348, dated February 5, 1889.
Application file June 11, 1888. Serial No. 276,756- (No model.)
To all whom it may concern- Be it known that I, Winslow L Fay, a citizen of the United States, residing at Elyria, in the county of Lorain and State of Ohio, have invented a new and useful Improvement in Tricyclcs, of which the following is a specification. My invention relates to improvements in the springs and construction of the frame to tricycles in which the steering or guiding wheel runs in a line midway between the main wheels.
Winslow Fay, a cart maker, established his company in 1885, patented various improvements to tricycles and also manufactured tricycles adapted to suit invalids. Other products included a dirt scraper used to smooth the roads for cycling, as well an adult tricycle that he had designed marketed under the ‘Fairy’ name. He subsequently made a children’s Fairy tricycle too, of the tiller & treadle style. The ‘Fairy’ name was adopted for a variety of children’s bicycles and tricycles made by Colson in America and Lines Bros/Tri-ang in Great Britain over the following eighty years, and also became a generic term for the ‘sidewalk’ bicycle in the 1920s.
Arthur L Garford became interested in bicycles in 1885 and, noticing a shortfall in the design of saddles for the bicycles of the time (the ‘ordinary’ or ‘penny farthing’), the following year he patented a bicycle saddle with leather top and springs. It was a good design, and he was first to register it, but he was unsuccessful when he tried to sell the patent. So, in 1889, he decided to enter the saddle making business himself, and set up Garford Mfg Co with Fred N Smith and Herbert Follansbee (who was working at the time for Winslow Fay). Unfortunately, Garford’s saddle design became obsolete within a year, as the new safety bicycle now replaced the high wheeler ‘ordinary’ bicycle as the top selling machine.
Garford bought Fay’s business in 1891, absorbing it into his own company. Fay’s products were still made, but Garford also adapted his saddle design to suit the new safety bicycle and, by the late 1890s, the company was making over a million seats a year. His padded leather saddle helped to popularise the bicycle as much as pneumatic tyres. The company was sold again, in 1897, this time changing its name to the Worthington Mfg Co, with George C Worthington as president. Vice President was Fred Colson. Worthington left the company in 1903 and Colson took over.
In 1917, Colson persuaded stockholders to merge the Worthington Company and another division of the Fay company to form the Colson Company. As president, Colson created a line of children’s bicycles, scooters and tricycles which were sold to hardware and department stores such as Sears Roebuck & Co under the ‘Fairy’ name. By the 1920s, Colson also operated a chain of stores in 17 American cities.
The 1907 catalogue extract, below, calls the tricycle featured here the ‘Ball Bearing Tricycle.’ Compare it, with its single seat support, with the ‘Regular Seat Tricycle’ (with two supports) illustrated above it.
VICTORIAN R.H MACY’S TRADE CARDS
Trade cards were an early form of advertising, originating in England in the eighteenth century. Small manufacturers used to show their products at local and national exhibitions, where they could meet buyers from larger concerns, distributors and other companies in the same line of business. The advent of lithography in the 1870s made it possible to mass-produce colour trade cards, leading to a golden age from 1876 to the early 1900s, when halftone printed newspaper and magazine adverts became more economical.
SIEGFRIED BETTMANN & TRIUMPH BICYCLE MUSEUM
If you hadn’t already guessed, my interest in this tricycle is primarily to do with the fact that RH Macy’s rebadged this Worthington ‘Fairy’ tricycle as a ‘Triumph.’
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