Hiawatha was the leading brand name of Gambles Department Store from the 1930s until the 1970s. They sold a wide range of cycling items, from ride-on toys, velocipede tricycles and pedal cars, up to adult bicycles.
1948 Hiawatha ‘Scooter Bike’
Sold by Gambles Department Store
This very unusual machine, part scooter and part velocipede style bicycle, was made for a few years after World War Two. It was a contemporary of the Doodle Bug, also made for Gambles. Although very little is known about this Scooter Bike, it’s likely that there was a connection between it and the Doodle Bug, possibly both being made by the same metal fabricating company. Unfortunately, it does not appear to have been one of Gambles most popular lines, so there are not many survivors today. Like many such items introduced postwar – often designed by soldiers during the war – it was too intricate to be made cheaply.
Although there was a good market for children’s toys at this time in America, there was also a lot of competition, and it was usually the mass-produced well-advertised items that sold best. What would you have preferred under the Xmas tree if you were a child in 1950? A Hiawatha Scooter Bike? Or a Hopalong Cassidy bicycle or tricycle with matching pistol and holster, promoted by Hoppy himself on TV?
…still, 65 years later, built-in obsolescence is what appeals to grown-up vintage-bike-collecting kids: Though Hoppy always appeals, I’d probably vote for an original Hiawatha Scooter Bike under my tree for Xmas 2015 🙂
1948 GAMBLES CATALOGUE
The seat is removable to convert it into a fully-fledged scooter.
Born at the end of the 19th century, Bertin Gamble and Philip Skogmo were boyhood friends in Arthur, North Dakota (30 miles northwest of Fargo). As young men, they each came separately to Minnesota and worked in a variety of jobs. In 1920, they pooled their resources, borrowed some money and bought an auto dealership in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Soon they discovered the sale of auto parts and accessories was the most profitable part of their car dealership. In March 1925, they opened the first Gamble Auto Supply store in St Cloud, Minnesota. In 1928, they moved their headquarters to Minneapolis. By 1929, the chain consisted of 55 stores in five states. Eventually, Gamble stores were franchised, and by 1939 there were 1,500 Gamble dealers and 300 corporate stores in 24 states. In 1947, Gamble-Skogmo went public with its first offering of common stock. Philip Skogmo died in 1949.
From the mid-1940s to the end of the 1970s, Gamble and Skogmo diversified their businesses into many new endeavors, including a discount division, financial services, real estate, and retail businesses such as Aldens mail order company, Womans World Shops, Red Owl Grocery and Snyder Drug stores. At the end of this period of growth, Gamble-Skogmo was the 15th largest retailer in the United States with 4,300 stores and 26,000 employees in 39 states and Canada. In 1977, Bert Gamble retired from the company.