1912 James Tricycle: ‘Gentleman’s Model No 25’

Comparing the rear axle on this tricycle with the catalogue description above, you can see that this machine is fitted with the ‘Special Back Axle’ patented by James Cycle Co in 1907.

A ‘De Luxe’ axle, with external contracting band brakes at the inner ends of the half-axles, was introduced in 1914.


1912 James Gentleman’s ‘Model 25’ Tricycle

James Patent ‘Special’ Axle with Internal Expanding Drum Brakes

24″ Frame
26″ Wheels
Frame No 52618
(Now sold)

British cycle companies were renowned for the consistent high standard of their workmanship and this Gentleman’s tricycle would have been the most expensive pedal-operated machine in the James Cycle Co catalogue. Tricycles were favoured by professional gentlemen and aristocrats, at a time when even a normal bicycle was an expensive acquisition.

Every now and then you may spot the occasional vintage ladies tricycle for sale, as more of them were made. But a pre-WW1 gentleman’s tricycle is a rare item. This example basks in the glory of its excellent unrestored cosmetic condition, with its original transfers (decals) intact. It’s ready for the season’s riding or vintage displays and is sure to earn the appreciation and admiration of all who see it.









The company was registered on 22 May 1897 and took over the cycle business of Harry James (1860-1905). He had founded it as as Harry James and Co. Ltd in the 1880s at 121 Constitution Hill, Birmingham. By 1890 he had moved to larger premises in Sampson Road North, Sparkbrook. He made ‘James’ high-wheelers from c.1884-89 renowned for being the lightest racing machines with one at under 12 lb for a 52 in. Also the ‘Bounder’ before 1892. A dust-proof, oil-retaining, hub for straight-pull tangent spokes was patented (1893/2516) and sold. By 1897 James was a sick man and retired as Managing Director in 1898. During March 1899, C A Hyde (previously with BSA) took over as managing director. He experimented with free wheels producing the James Free Wheel (patent 1899/16,337) in 1899 which was subsequently licensed in 1900 to the Eadie Mfg Co. Standard models were advertised at ten guineas in 1901, while Special models were fifteen guineas, and the Modèle de lux Quality was nineteen guineas. In February 1902 premises were taken at 68 Caroline Street, Birmingham and the company started producing ‘Hyde’ cycles. By 1903 the registered office was at Norwich Union Chambers, Congreve Street, and there were also premises at 9 Broad Street Corner. By 1913 the head office was at Gough Road, Greet, Birmingham. The company also had showrooms in Glasgow, Liverpool, and 140 Southampton Row, London and was known for its tricycles.

Bicycles were made with a sun and planet two-speed bracket gear from 1904. The ‘James’ Modele de Luxe, fitted with two-speed bracket gear, was offered at sixteen guineas in 1905. In 1908, after Harry James’s death, the Company built new works at Greet and was awarded the gold medal for excellence of production at the Franco-British exhibition. A front luggage carrier was patented in 1909 with F. A. Kimberley (1909/2316). The head transfer was coloured red, white, black and gold with the ribbon below giving the model name. The firm was taken over by the AMC Co. by 1955 and ran until 1966. [Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia]










































Definitive information on James tricycles can be difficult to obtain; the James factory was almost completely destroyed in an air raid during World War Two and, along with it, went all the company records. Information on pre-war James machines has, therefore, been pieced together, mainly from old catalogues.


You can see a range of James products in this sample from the 1928 catalogue. The company also manufactured commercial tricycles and tradesmen’s bikes, which evolved into the motorized three-wheeler ‘Samson Handyvan’ of 1929.