1915 Dayton Spring-Fork Roadster (with Kelly Adjustable Handlebar)




SPECIFICATION forming part of Letters Patent No. 783,236, dated February 21, 1905.

Application filed November 20th, 1903, serial No. 181,973.

Be it known that I, THOMAS ASHBURN, rnechanical engineer, a subject of the King of Great Britain, residing at 14 Chad St, New Town, Leeds, in the county of York, England, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Bicycles or Tricycles, of which the following is a specification. 

My invention refers to a bicycle or tricycle, and comprises the improved features hereinafter described and claimed whereby in a simple and effective manner a spring-fork is provided for lessening or preventing joltings and vibrations usually felt consequent upon riding. The said spring-fork is in the application of the invention to the steering-wheel built up in combination with the steering mechanism, this being the principal application of the invention. 

By the aid of the accompanying sheets of drawings the improvements will be hereinafter made clear, the same being illustrated applied to an ordinary pattern of cycle or bicycle, and particularly to the fork of the front wheel and in conjunction with the steering mechanism. 

Figure 1 illustrates a vertlcal section through the steering-head. Fig. 2 is a side elevation of a bicycle with the front springfork.

The 1905 British Ashburn patent 783,236 covers the style of trailing link spring-fork found on this 1915 Dayton bicycle, although its fork is engraved with a patent date of 9th January, 1912. Most likely the latter date was an improvement in its design, though it could also have been the date of a separate American patent. What is interesting is that, by this time, the first patents were beginning to appear for motorcycle sprung forks of the types that subsequently became dominant, eg bolt on with rocking arm and telescopic action. This trailing leaf fork was obsolete only a few years after it was patented.



1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 10

1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 12 copy

1915 Dayton Spring-Fork Roadster

22.5″ Frame

28″ Wheels

Adjustable Kelly Handlebars

Trailing Leaf Spring Front Fork (Patented 9 January, 1912)

(Now sold)

1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 04

This WW1 era bicycle built by the Davis Sewing Machine Co features an interesting spring fork that was patented in 1912.

Inventors in Britain and America had been trying out various forms of bicycle suspension since the early 1890s …remember that the early bicycles with solid tyres provided a harder ride than those with pneumatics. By the turn of the century, the potential of motorised transportation led to increased experimentation. Rear ‘cushion’ forks – ‘shock absorbers’ at the top of the seat stays – became popular for a few years, though they sold more as a novelty than actually improving the ride. Spring-frame machines were in vogue for an even shorter time. Some makers offered sprung front forks as an option for their range of bicycles. The trailing leaf spring featured here is a particularly rare style. Leaf springs, also known as cart springs, are actually the oldest form of springing, dating back to medieval times.

The purpose of these innovations around suspension on bicycles was to find ways to improve the ride on motorcycles – it was much easier to design and test the theory on a bicycle first. Davis Sewing Machine Co brought out their own Dayton ‘Motor Bicycle’ in 1915, after buying George H Gorman’s patent for fitting a Smith Motorwheel to the front wheel of a bicycle.

With a patent date of January, 1912, the trailing leaf spring on this machine was probably another patent bought by the company for experimentation, prior to the introduction of the motorised Dayton bicycle in 1915.

1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 06

This example is in very good condition. It was restored many years ago, and has a Monarch saddle and New Departure coaster hub. The strengthened front forks pivot at the top, with the steel mudguard and its heavy duty stay providing a triangular frame.

The Dayton also sports a set of nickelled Kelly adjustable handlebars.

1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 08

1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 12








1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 12 copy


The chainwheel on this machine is incorrect. I’ve purchased a nickelled ‘Dayton’ script chainwheel, as below, which will be fitted prior to sale

dayton chainwheel

1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 12 copy
















1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 12 copy


When it first came out, the Dayton Motor Bicycle was announced as the ‘World’s lowest priced complete motor vehicle – $100.’

It had a widened front fork and a leaf spring over the top half of the wheel, which also provided part of the engine’s mounting framework.

The bicycle featured here is contemporary with the Motor Bicycle, but is a different model.




1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 12 copy












1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 12 copy


The founder of the company, Job A. Davis, began the small scale manufacturing of a sewing machine around 1860 in New York City. In all likeliness, he may have manufactured a sewing machine similar to the New England or Common Sense chain-stitch sewing machines that were popular in the 1860s and early 1870s. This would explain the “Vertical Feed” mechanism used on later Davis machines. 

Although Davis machines created a lockstitch, both styles of machines used a walking foot to feed cloth through the machine. Like the New England and Common Sense machines, Davis sewing machines featured a walking foot, or “Vertical Feed,” which by the 1880s, had become a peculiar feature of the Davis sewing machine. 

Lacking feed dogs, the Davis machine used a kind of “walking foot” to move cloth forward with each stitch made. These machines continued to be manufactured into the 1890s, at which time they were replaced with more conventional models employing feed dogs. 

In 1869, the operation was moved to Watertown, New York, where the Davis Sewing Machine Co. was incorporated and began the large scale manufacture of the Davis Vertical Feed sewing machine from 1871 through 1886. After 1886, the operation was moved once again to Dayton, Ohio where production continued from about 1889 to 1924. 

Beginning in the late 1890s with the introduction of the models featuring feed dogs, most Davis made machines were ‘stenciled’ models manufactured and labeled for retail outlets, catalog houses, and mail order companies. Taking over from the Free, Goodrich, and National sewing machine companies, the Davis company supplied most Minnesota brand sewing machines sold by Sears Roebuck & Co. from 1900 through 1912. 

The first Davis sewing machine sold through Sears was the Burdick, introduced in 1900. This was soon followed by a number of different Minnesota models in the following years. The Minnesota “A” was the best of the models, featuring ball bearing movements and a positive feed mechanism. The models “B” and “C” were lower costing models which did not posses the “A” machine’s various improvements but which nonetheless were a superb deal for the prices they were offered for. 

During this period, the majority of machines being manufactured by Davis were for sale through Sears. In 1910, all sewing machines featured in the Sears catalog were manufactured by Davis. But around 1912, Sears again began to contract with other manufacturers for sewing machines.  

The Franklin, a copy of the Singer Model 27 manufactured by Domestic, as well as a Domestic made Minnesota Model A, were introduced that year. Slowly, the dominance that Davis had held in the Sears sewing machine product line began to decline. By 1919, the last year that Sears carried a Davis model, the only Davis sewing machine featured in the catalog was a Minnesota Model C. 

Because the company had grown to become so dependent on sales through Sears Roebuck & Co. for its sewing machines, when Davis lost its contract with the company in 1919, it was unable to make up the loss in sales and eventually went out of business in 1924.

– extract from The Encyclopedia of Antique Sewing Machines, 3rd Edition

Davis Dewing Machine Co added bicycles to their range of products around 1892.

Histories from the Dayton Daily News indicated that the bicycle manufacturing was so successful that the production of sewing machines was gradually phased out. The Huffman Manufacturing Company was formed as a sales outlet for Davis Sewing Machine company service parts.

In 1924, the Davis Company’s assets were liquidated. At that time, the company employed 1,800 workers.



dayton bicycle

1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 12 copy


1915 Dayton Spring-Fork 12 copy

Davis Sewing Machine Co history – http://ismacs.net/davis/history_repeats_itself_story_of_the_davis_sewing_machine_company.html