1891 Matthew Smith ‘Earl’ Truss-Tube Safety
30″ Wheels with Solid Tyres
with Centre Steering,
35″ Standover height (ie from crossbar to ground)
Pershore, Worcs, England
According to Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia, Matthew Smith was a small builder who made the ‘Countess’ and ‘Earl’ in Pershore, Worcestershire, before 1892, and continued to produce ‘Earl’ cycles after this at Dudley. Nothing more is known about the company.
In the safety bicycle’s first decade, various innovations were attempted in order to strengthen a bicycle’s frame. There was pressure to reduce the weight of the bicycle: remember that these machines had to be pushed up hills! So frame tubing became lighter each year and potentially weaker too. The diamond frame therefore predominated over the earlier crossframe design, and a popular idea around 1890 was the Split Seat-Tube design, also known as a Truss-Tube. It did provide a stronger machine but, unfortunately, this extra bracing also added weight to the bicycle so it was a short-lived concept that only lasted a few years, from 1889 too 1892.
There were a number of variations in design, some bicycles – such as the 1889 Humber, illustrated below – having split tubing for the seat tube and the down tube too.
Photo below: 1890 New Phoenix
Photo below: 1890 Brookes Diamond Frame (with patent concealed brake)
Photo below: 1890 Jackson Fleet
Photo below: 1890 North Road Cycles ‘Design B’
Photo below: Some bicycles, such as the 1890 Reynolds Double Tube ‘Diamond Sprite,’ had twin tubing all round
Photo below: 1890 Guest & Barrow Girder. You can see how this double-tubing design also led to ‘girder’ framed machines, influencing cross-frame design at the turn of the century.
Photo below: 1891 Norton & Sons
Photo below: 1891 Stanley Goodwin
Photo below: 1892 Halliwell of Brighton. The twin tubed down tube design also gave rise to centrally-located chainwheels, an idea imported from earlier tricycle design.
Photo below: 1892 Mecredy Energetic
Photo below: 1892 Starley Bros ‘Psycho’
You can see some later truss-tube designs at the