TELEGRAM CYCLE MFG CO & BICYCLE MESSENGER SERVICES
The company was originally the Sercombe-Bolte Cycle Co, who marketed a front-driver named the ‘Telegram.’ The only known survivor of the 1892 Telegram front-driver, pictured above, was sold in a 2012 auction for over $23,000, and is now at the Bicycle Museum of America, in New York.
Sercombe-Bolte Cycle Co went out of business in 1893, to become the Telegram Cycle Mfg Co. Located on E. Water St, Milwaukee, Telegram was one of Wisconsin’s main cycle suppliers until its demise in August 1896.
In 1895 the company secured a contract with the local branch of Western Union to supply thirteen bicycles for messenger duties. ‘The Pneumatic’ magazine reports:
‘The Telegram people have closed a deal with the Milwaukee branch of the Western Union Telegraph Company for supplying thirteen of the messenger boys with Telegram wheels. The force of messengers will be reduced about one third as soon as the riding season opens. It is expected that the postal service will inaugurate the same system if this proves successful.’
Western Union messenger bicycles became a regular fixture in American life throughout the first half of the twentieth century, and it’s interesting to discover that this company pre-empted the initial demand for a bicycle courier service through their company name.
1895 Ladies’ Telegram
(Telegram Cycle Mfg Co)
It’s no longer easy to find bicycles over 120 years old in such lovely preserved condition. The wheels seem reasonable, though the tyres need replacing. The original unrestored paintwork is faded. The leather toolbag (with the ‘Telegram’ name on one side) has loose stitching at the top. The saddle, likewise with the ‘Telegram’ name on it, is cracked and needs a new top. This would make a wonderful museum display piece, or would take little work to put on the road.
‘THE PNEUMATIC’ MAGAZINE
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN, USA: MARCH, 1895
BOER WAR: BOVRIL’S WAR MESSENGERS
A little-known aspect of the bicycle history relating tot he Boer War – the first conflict to feature military bicycles – was Bovril’s creation and sponsorship of a cycle messenger service in London:
Many of us have noticed very picturesque bicycle riders flying through the London streets by day during the excitement of the war times we are going through. These bicyclists, dressed in khaki uniform, with a red sash bearing the words ‘Bovril War Cables,’ are despatched from hour to hour to shops in various parts of London and the suburbs by the Bovril Company whenever any special news arrives.
It is claimed that by this method the relief of Ladysmith was received quite half an hour in advance of that of any other source, both at Norwood, Hammersmith, and indeed throughout all the important London suburbs.
The same company had the enterprise to wire the news of the relief of Ladysmith to the head masters of the principal schools in the United Kingdom, and in a large number of cases a half-holiday followed the receipt of the telegram. These boys will certainly grow up with immense faith in the advertiser’s art.
PENNSYLVANIA RUBBER CO