1890 J H Ellis ‘Rhoda’ Safety. No 3, Solid Tyres

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The Stanley Show of Bicycles, Tricycles, and the accessories belonging to the sport, was originated in 1873 by the Stanley Bicycle Club, the first Exhibition being held at the Athemeum, Camden Road, and consisted of about 60 machines, all Bicycles, and it has since steadily grown to its present proportions, there being this year no fewer than 189 exhibitors and about 1100 machines of various types on view. Since 1878 it has been held at various places: in 1879 at the Foresters’ Hall, Clerkenwell; the two following years at the Holborn Town Hall; in 1882 at the Agricultural Hall; then at the Albert Hall, Floral Hall, and in 1885 in a huge tent erected on the Embankment (The Wheeleries); and in 1886 it was transferred to the Royal Aquarium, Westminster, the suitability of the site again leading the Show Committee to make it the venue of 1887 and 1888. This year it was early apparent that the Aquarium would not be large enough, and, accordingly, it was decided to hold it in the Crystal Palace. A more suitable place could not have been selected. There is ample space, and all the exhibits are on the one floor, so that the makers are, as nearly as possible, on an equality.

…Safeties have been much improved in detail. The Cross Frame pattern is better stayed, and a great number of makers are copying the” Humber” Diamond Frame, in some cases, a diagonal or perpendicular strut being fitted, thus making a frame of the utmost strength and rigidity. The triangular frame introduced by Messrs. Singer is also largely used, and in many cases stayed in the most thorough and effectual manner.

 …Spoon brakes have been vastly improved. In most cases the spoon is affixed to a hackle, and when put on presses against the rubber equallly along its whole length, and is most effectual. In fact, for a Safety a brake of this description will be found on the whole more satisfactory than the band. The chain adjustments are better than last year, and we noted in a good many cases that the rear wheel bearings were brought well outside the hubs, a change calculated to diminish wear and friction.

In 1889, ‘Bicycling News’ published a series of sketches reviewing the exhibits at the Stanley Show, which was taking place at London’s Crystal Palace. Below is an elargement of the sketch of the Rhoda at the centre of their 23 March instalment. It has several features typical of that era, but only used for a short time.

CHAIN ADJUSTMENT: In the drawing below, you can see that the Rhoda’s ‘solid bottom bracket’ has quite basic chain adjustment: essentially a slider above the bottom bracket with a vertical bolt to hold it in place. Leading cycle manufacturers used a more effective arrangement, with a horizontally mounted bolt at the front of the bottom bracket allowing the chain stays to be adjusted. And later that year the first chain adjusters at the rear dropout were patented; by 1892, they had been adopted by most of the cycle industry. However, both would have required patent duty to be paid. Slider chain adjusters are more often seen on tricycles. In my opinion, it was a budget option, used to reduce production costs.

OPEN DIAMOND FRAME: While the crossframe was the dominant safety design after its introducion by Premier in 1886, Rover’s open frame style with curved tubes was copied and used by various companies here (see the Swift in the illustration above) and in the USA. The ‘open diamond frame’ with straight tubes could be considered a simplified version. The open frame ran for only a short time because of its inherent weakness: within a year, an extra tube from the seat to the bottom bracket was added to provide extra strength (see the Juno, also in the illustration above).

By the time J.H Ellis put this model into production, some modifications had been made. Open steering was used instead of a ball head (which required patent duties); a brake and lamp bracket were added (the illustration shows a racing model); a curved seat post with sprung saddle was substituted for the basic saddle and post shown in the sketch.



1890 John H Ellis ‘Rhoda’ Safety

Model No 3 with solid tyres

Open diamond frame

Solid bottom bracket, bolted at the top, with slider chain adjustment

(Interchangeable left or right drive)

24″ Frame

30″ Wheels

Brooks ‘Release’ Saddle

I don’t have an 1890 Ellis Rhoda illustration to compare with the model featured here. It actually incorporates various features from both the 1889 sketch and the illustration in the 1891 Ellis catalogue below – by then it was using the new rear dropout chain adjusters instead of the earlier bolt and slider, and a seat tube had also been added.

Both 1889 and 1891 illustrations show the drive on the left – the slider chain adjuster allows for the entire chainset to be dropped by removing the top bolt, and fitted to either the left or right side.

The 1891 catalogue picture below shows a shorter frame than the machine featured here.


































With a conventional bottom bracket, a chainwheel can not always be switched from left to right because, in order to line up the chain, the two sides may not always be equally spaced. However, with this arrangement (see below) the entire unit drops down when the top bolt is released. The chain stays are equally spaced, so the rear wheel can be reversed and the drive side changed.

By the time the 1891 catalogue was published, J.H Ellis was using the new rear dropout chain adjusters. But, as you can see below, the ends of the chainstays on this 1890 example are closed so the rear hub is fixed firmly in place.


















The range of ‘Rhoda’ and ‘Sloper’ safeties was priced from £8 to £24 in March 1891. It claimed a notable feature of their machines was a ‘solid’ bottom bracket. The firm of J. H. Ellis & Co. was reconstructed in September 1891 and amalgamated with the Crypto Cycle Co. Ltd by mutual consent, with J. H. Ellis as principal. Prior to the reconstruction and amalgamation there were showrooms at 117 Oxford Street, London, and 131 (previously 40) Charing Cross Road, London, and works in Romford. W. Passingham was the firm’s manager. The ‘Rhoda’ and ‘Sloper’ safeties continued to be made and a branch was opened in Paris at 70 Avenue de la Grande Armée.








All the illustrations on this page come from the Veteran Cycle Club’s online archive

Information from Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia

Both of these resources are availble by joining the Veteran Cycle Club