1897 Geneva Rear-Steering Tandem

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That the tandem form of bicycle is a most fascinating machine few will deny who have had the opportunity of riding one. Compared with the single, however, they are not popular, for as for every tandem thousands of singles are to be seen on the roads, and that is caused byt he increased handiness of the solo mount and the fact that the double type necessitates the partner always being ready to accompany one on rides. There is also the difficulty of storage, as a tandem bicycle is not the most convenient form of machine to stable in a house, and tandem owners usually find it essential to provide accomodation for the steed in an outhouse.

The earliest practical forms of tandem bicycle began to appear on the roads about 1893 or contemporary with the pneumatic tyre. They were, of course, introduced to permit the use of a bicycle by a lady and gentleman, and all early models were designed for the lady to occupy the front saddle. Amongst the firms who were pioneers of this type of machine one remembers the Humber, the Singer, the Rudge, the Raleigh, the Whitworth and the Chater Lea.

By placing the lady in front it was thouight in those days that she must occupy the place of honour, and the fact that she was likely to receive the first brunt of a collision, not to speak of cold winds, was forgotten. Naturally, the mere male was entrusted with the steering and balancing, and to enable these functions to be controlled from the rear handle-bar the two-sets of handles had to be connected by a rod on the off side. This arrangement meants that the front rider had handles to hold but was not expected to do any steering or balancing, or she interfered with her partner’s copntrol of the machine, and by ignoring the instructions might cause a spill at a critical moment.

The early frame designs were rather crude, as might be expected, and consisted of a strengthened dropped front frame attacthed to a rear quadrilateral terminating in the usual rear fork. The rear rider’s pedal crank axle was connected to the front crank axle by a chain, so that the thrust of each rider’s peda;s were communicated to the rear road driven wheel. The frame described above was weakness itself, and much binding of chains and bearings caused the machine to run rather hard.

– The Cycle Industry, Its Origin, History, and Latest Developments

By 1897, tandem design had evolved sufficiently that the machines enjoyed a resurgence of popularity. The ‘rear-steering’ machine (whose earlier manifestation is described above) were known In America as courting bikes. The chap who could afford such a unique contrivance would be able to ride to the house of the lady of the day and collect her for an outing. Bearing in mind the necessity of a chaperone in conservative society, such adventures would undoubtedly have contributed to changing attitudes in Victorian times.

While  rear-steering and ‘lady-back’ tandems were the ideal machine for collecting a lady friend from her house, ‘double gents’ tandems were also used for fast pacing, as a much higher speed could be achieved with two men pedalling. It is vitally important, before setting out with a tandem partner, to agree how to stop: the pedals are connected, so both riders must stop and dismount simultaneously to avoid falling over. This co-ordination among the riders provides a much more sociable element to tandem riding.

In his autobiography It’s Too Late Now, published in 1939, A.A. Milne recorded memories of riding a (rear-steering) tandem tricycle with his brother Ken when he was eight and Ken was ten:

‘We had a tandem tricycle. Ken sat behind, and had the steering, the bell and the brake under his control; I sat in front, and had the accident. Sharing a bed is really nothing compared with sharing a tandem. Bent double against a head-wind or a hill, the one in front feels, with every labouring breath, more and more certain that the one behind is hanging his feet over the handlebars and looking at the scenery; and the one behind (according to Ken) is just as convinced that he is doing all the work himself, and that the one in front is merely going through the motions of an entirely unfounded exhaustion.’

An Uncle promised the boys that if they rode up Limpsfield Hill he would give them sixpence each. ‘So early one morning, after a period of training, we started out to win this great reward. Even today it must be a fairly steep hill, but to us then it seemed almost unscaleable.There were times when we were in danger of going backwards, and Ken had to jam on the brake and give us a moment’s easy; times when we had to stand on the pedals in order to force them round. Slowly we went up, not straight but in serpentine fashion, crossing and re-crossing the road, puffing and blowing, resting again with the brake on (but of course not dismounting), and then putting all of our strength into ‘twenty good ones’, so as to work up a little momentum for the extra steep corner that was coming … And we did it. We lay on the common at the top of the hill, still panting but profoundly happy, and made plans to spend our shilling. A whole shilling; what a day! What an uncle! Luxuriously we coasted back to the house, put the tricycle away, and went into breakfast. ‘We’ve done it!’’

But sadly the boys were disqualified, the Uncle saying the rules did not allow them to rest: ‘suppose it had been a hill-climbing competition for bicycle, then you couldn’t stop and rest.’

1897 Geneva Rear-Steering Tandem

Geneva Cycle Co, Geneva, Ohio, USA

(Now sold)



on youtube




Geneva, Ohio, USA

The Geneva was shown in two tandems and fourteen single machines, enameled in different colors. The wheels were staged jn a good position and showed to good advantage. One of the finest chain adjustments for tandems is that in the front hanger of the Geneva. This will be illustrated and fully described later in these columns. A. Carter was in attendance, representing A. M. Scheftry & Co, the Eastern agents.

– First Annual Exhibition of Bicycles, 2nd Regiment Armory, Philadelphia, 20th-27th February, 1897

Further down the page you can see extracts from the 1900 Geneva catalogue. It appears that the company had by then been taken over by the American Cycle Co.


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thomas B. Janney started Janney, Brooks & Eastman as a general hardware store, in 1875. In 1884 the business became Janney, Semple & Co. The name changing finally halted with Janney, Semple, Hill & Co in 1898. In the early 20th century, Janney was the largest wholesale hardware in the northwestern United States.

– A Half Century of Minneapolis, Edited by Horace B. Hudson, Minneapolis, The Hudson Publishing Company, 1908

As the agents badge on the headstock of this Geneva tandem shows the name Janney, Semple & Co, this suggests that this machine was manufactured in 1897 rather than 1898.



Like many such hardware stores, this company was an agent for various cycle manufacturers, though they did badge their own machines too. Below you can see a Janney headbadge (from a 1950s Evans Colson made for the company).

The Gladstone Bag you see fitted to the rear of this tandem was an accessory designed by leather shop owner J. G. Beard of Westminster. He was a keen supporter of prime minister of the day William Gladstone, who served as PM four separate times: 1868–1874, 1880–1885, February–July 1886 and 1892–1894.


Going back to 1866 on a bright day in June, the settlement of Geneva became an incorporated village with Dennis Thorp the first mayor. The first newspaper was established in 1866 with H.H. Thorp as proprietor and Warren P. Spencer as editor. In 1868 the community felt there was a need for advanced education, a tax levy was proposed and passed making it possible for the building of the Geneva Normal School. A school that offered Normal and Commercial courses along with classes in Music.

In the year of 1874, Geneva purchased their first fire engine, a number four steamer fire engine and there were twenty-five members on the fire fighting force.

In 1896 the town had a population of three thousand. They had five churches, two railroads running through the town. In addition to the aforementioned businesses there was a bicycle factory, a piano factory, a Metal Wheel Works. Two banks, two groceries, one dry goods store, two clothing establishments, two hardware stores, three jewelers, two bakeries, two meat markets, two drug stores, a flour mill, a laundry, a firm of funeral directors, the telephone system, the electric light company and the Walter Main Circus Headquarters, that noted showman who made his winter quarters in Geneva.

In 1900’s Geneva became known for its automobile industry. The first car to be manufactured here was the “Geneva Steamer” in 1901. It was a steam driven horseless carriage, one of which is still on display at the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan. This company also made a racing model, named the “Turtle.” Three years later the company sold out to the Colonial Brass Co. The second attempt at automobile manufacturing in Geneva began in 1908. E.L. Ewing began production of the Ewing Taxi with a plant crew of fifty men. This company was in business just two years and sold out to General Motors who moved the business to Flint, Michigan.




Sunday, 19th September, 2011



Steve takes the GENEVAfor a spin


Then Ian joins him…



The trade authorities predict that 1898 will be a banner year for tandem riding, and there are a number of very good reasons in support of this view, the leading one being the question of price, prices now ranging from $75 to $100 and $125 for the best makes, prices which certainly cannot be called prohibitory for a tandem, because it was only a few years ago that the makers asked $125 and $150 for the best makes of single bikes. About sixty or more of the best known makers in the country are this season making tandems, both in diamond and combination styles.

– The modern Bicycle and its Accessories, by Alex Schwalbach and Julies Wilcox, 1898






Bad roads and slow transportation had helped Brighton remain exclusive in the early nineteenth century. French tourist Le Garde describes his carriage overturning no less than seven times from London to Brighton. But, in 1844, the opening of the London to Brighton railway made the journey cheap and easy. It also brought a massive influx of tourists from a very different social background from traditional high society. The new tourists were middle or lower-class trippers from south London. In 1845, Princess Victoria left the Royal Pavilion, disgusted with the dissipation and debauchery of her surroundings. Half a century of royal patronage in the area ceased. Victoria did not return for twenty years.

Thomas Kemp’s brainchild itself was completed in 1855. Sussex Square is larger than Grosvenor Square in London. It is the biggest crescent in Britain with a diameter two hundred feet greater than Bath Royal Crescent. Kemp’s original estate remains probably the finest example of Regency architecture in the country  (though Busby and Wilde produced a similarly grand seafront development with the Brunswick Estate in Hove).



It displays an abundance of stuccoed facades and classical inflection. Ironically, the completion of such a grand project coincided with the beginning of a general decline of the entire Brighton area throughout the late nineteenth century. Sloth, drunkenness and Brighton became synonymous. Many of the larger houses on the Kemptown estate progressively emptied because of huge overheads and a dwindling economy and, in 1903, Lord Rendell pioneered the trend of buying large houses and converting them into flats.

The square naturally became the residence of the rich and famous. Perhaps most famous was Rev Charles Dodgson, better known as the author Lewis Carroll, who lived at no.11 from 1874 until 1887. The rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland was apparently inspired by a private tunnel only known to the residents of the Square, which led from the ‘enclosure’ in the Square down to the beach.



The Bruce Herald, New Zealand, 1897

The Bruce Herald was published at Milton, New Zealand, from 1864 to 1971. It was one of New Zealand’s longest running country newspapers.

Info on Geneva, Ohio – http://www.genevaohio.com/history.html

Janney Semple Hill & Co history – http://www.re-cycle.com/History/Janney.aspx

Info on Sussex Square – http://www.kemptown.net/history.htm