In 1877 Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Augustus Pope founded the Pope Manufacturing Co. in Boston, Massachusetts.
In January of the next year, Pope Manufacturing began importing bicycles from England with the first advertising efforts being made during March of the same year.
Later that year Pope approached the Weed Sewing Machine Co. about building bicycles and only a few months later the first bicycles, a replica of an English bicycle, began production in Hartford, Connecticut.
By 1894, the main offices are consolidated in Hartford and on March 12th of that year, a massive fire destroys the old offices, warehouses and a riding school at Pope Manufacturing Co. in Boston.
While most of the records and many of the bikes are lost to the fire, Pope manages to rebuild new, bigger facilities in Boston.
Between the years of 1897 and 1904 Pope Manufacturing Co. and a host of other bicycles manufacturers come together to form American Bicycle Company which ultimately fails, followed by a series of reorganizing and buying out of the other bicycle companies.
From 1905 to 1913, the Pope Manufacturing Co. consolidates its manufacturing to the plant in Westfield, Massachusetts while the main offices remain in Hartford, Connecticut.
In the year 1909, Colonel Albert Augustus Pope, the founder of Pope Manufacturing Co., dies at the age of 66 years.
In 1914, the main office of Pope Manufacturing are relocated to Westfield and in 1915 the Pope Manufacturing Co. files for bankruptcy. The company is reorganized once again and renamed, The Westfield Manufacturing Company, the “successors to the Pope Manufacturing Company.”
– extract from http://columbiabicycles.com/heritage
The Chainless – or Shaft-Drive – bicycle started out as a study in engineering that would assist in the development of powered vehicles. For a while in its early years it might have been a feasible alternative to chain-driven machines. But, by the turn of the century, chain design became standardised and the Chainless became more of a novelty. It still is a novelty a century later, interest having grown again in recent years, with prices of good Chainless bicycles rising accordingly.
The Columbia Chainless and the Belgian FN (Fabrique Nationale) Cardan became the market leaders in America and Europe respectively, each with top build quality and higher production figures than any other manufacturer.
Although more expensive to build than a conventional bicycle, the price of the Columbia Chainless was subsidised by Colonel Pope and the model was aggressively marketed to try and turn it into a mainstream bicycle. By 1924 it was no longer listed in the Columbia catalogue.
Even John D. Rockefeller was photographed (in 1913) alongside his Columbia Chainless bicycle…
1915 Columbia Men’s Chainless ‘Model 504’
‘Columbia’ named saddle
‘Pope’ named pedals
Frame No G35147
Columbia’s GOOD FOR A LIFETIME claim would appear to be true …this example is still going strong more than a century after leaving the factory. It has been in England for the past few decades; a plaque attached to it declare it as No 53 in Trimble’s Bicycle Collection, presumably a reference to Brent Trimble, the American bicycle designer who made his name in the 1980s.
The paintwork would appear to be original, as its seat tube transfer (decal) is intact. It is rare to find this particular decal, as this (and also the headbadge) show the company name and location as Pope Mfg Co, Westfield, Mass.
Previous Columbia badges show the location of Pope Mfg Co as Hartford, Conn (see the advertisement at the top of the page). And, as you can see in the 1916 catalogue further down the page, by that year the company name had changed to Westfield Mfg Co. In fact, 1914-1915 is the only time that Columbia bicycles were badged using the Pope Mfg Co name with the Westfield address.
This Columbia Chainless is fitted with a reproduction Columbia saddle showing the company name. The original pedals have the ‘Pope’ name imprinted on the sides (though faded). The headbadge has a crack in it, and the coaster brake, while functional (see video of it being ridden), is not sharp. The original wooden wheels have been replaced with metal rims. The machine is in excellent preserved condition and is ready to ride.
SHORT VIDEO of 1915 COLUMBIA CHAINLESS
1915 COLUMBIA CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
1916 COLUMBIA CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
Catalogue extracts with thanks to – http://columbiabicycles.com