My invention relates to velocipedes, to provide a convertible velocipede which can be used either as a bicycle or a tricycle. To these ends my invention consists of a velocipede having three rear wheels arranged transversely side by side connected with the frame of the machine so that the two outside wheels can be used to the exclusion of the intermediate wheel, or the intermediate wheel may be used to the exclusion of the two outside wheels, so that it can be readily converted from a bicycle into a tricycle and vice versa.
– John W Gallo patent application for convertible tricycle, 1934
ONE OF THE DIONNE QUINTUPLETS RIDING a 1940 TRIBIKE AS FEATURED HERE
1940 Tribike Tricycle
Made by the Tribike Co, Mineola NY
Front Wheel 20″
Rear Wheels 12.5″ (Middle Rear Wheel 9.5″)
Supplied to the Dionne Quintuplets in 1940
This Tribike is inscribed with the name of the Dionne Quins across the rear frame member, suggesting it is one of the original tricycles supplied to the Dionne family, as shown in period photographs. It’s the only survivor that has come to light.
At first it seems a strange design: why would a tricycle need an extra wheel? However, when you look at it more closely, it becomes apparent that the idea is to provide the equivalent of a bicycle with two stabiliser wheels …cunningly disguised as a tricycle. So a child can use it as a tricycle and then, before progressing to a proper bicycle, can use it with the central rear wheel extended to get used to the idea of two wheels.
This example has a slightly smaller central wheel, making it a tricycle; but the Tribike in the publicity photo with a boy riding it has a larger central wheel which creates the effect described above, i.e. a stabilised bicycle. If you look closely at the photo below you can see two bolts on the inside of the central wheel’s frame tubes. These release the central rear frame tubing so that the middle wheel can be extended.
THE DIONNE QUINS TRIBIKE
As the Tribike has an original transfer (decal) on the rear that says ‘Dionne Quins Tribike’ it would appear that the company supplied the Dionne Quintuplets with these tricycles.
The Dionne Quintuplets, born May 28, 1934, were the first quintuplets known to have survived their infancy. The identical sisters were born in Canada, just outside Callander, Ontario, near the village of Corbeil. All five survived to adulthood.
The Dionne girls were born two months premature. After four months with their family, they were made Wards of the King for the next nine years under the Dionne Quintuplets’ Guardianship Act, 1935. This was a very poor area of Canada, and the government and those around them began to profit by making them a significant tourist attraction in Ontario. The Dionne girls starred in three feature films, which were essentially fictionalised versions of their story.
In November 1943, the Dionne parents won back custody of the sisters, but their home life was far from happy. The quintuplets left the family home upon turning 18 years old in 1952 and had little contact with their parents afterwards. Three went on to marry and have children: Marie had two daughters, Annette three sons, and Cécile five children, including one who died in infancy and twins Bruno and Bertrand. Émilie devoted her brief life to becoming a nun. Yvonne finished nursing school before turning to sculpting, then later becoming a librarian.
In 1998, the sisters reached a $2.8 million settlement with the Ontario government as compensation for their exploitation.
The photo above shows the quins at around age one or two with a tricycle. The postcard below appears to be dated 1937, so they’d be three years old. The tricycles are slightly larger than the one above.
Below, they are seen on junior tricycles, though from their position on the trikes I’m not sure they are actually able to ride them.
The Tribike picture below is dated 1940, so that confirms the age of this Tribike. The airplane pedal car pictured next to the Tribike is one of various similar models that were brought out to celebrate the Lindbergh flight.
With the amount of advertising and promotional work that the quins did when they were in the care of the government, I assume that companies such as tricycle manufacturers tendered offers to the Ontario authorities for their products to be provided to the quins and thus promoted.
The postcard below was written and posted 1940:
“Dear Mother and Dad, I have seen the quints and they look like this picture.”
UNDERNEATH THE TRIBIKE
1934/1935 JOHN W GALLO PATENT: CONVERTIBLE TRICYCLE
Apart from the configuration of the three rear wheels, the essential point that ties this patent to the Tribike is the two bolts that allow the central rear wheel to expand downward, clearly shown in the illustration below (ref nos 30 & 26). Inventor John W Gallo was either instrumental in the creation or making of the Tribike, partner in the company, sold the patent to Tribike, or was paid patent fees by Tribike’s manufacturer, Walter Ray Bunch.
The post-war Anthony Brothers aluminium ‘Convert-O Bike’ employed a much simpler principle for converting a tricycle to a bicycle. I have seen a photo of one example of the Convert-O Bike inscribed with the Tribike name. Research reveals that around 1949 Walter Ray Bunch walked into Anthony Bros refrigeration repair business and offered them the opportunity to buy the rights to the Tribike. The Anthony Bros Convert-O Bike subsequently became a very successful venture.
1949 VELO-BIKE CONVERTIBLE TRICYCLE
John W Gallo Jr and MJ Gallo also patented another variation of convertible bicycle-tricycle, below, which became the ‘Velo Bike’ and the Levermatic (both made by the Levermatic Corp of Boston, MA).
I have four convertible tricycles. As well as the Dion Tribike, there’s a Velobike, a Levermatic and another Tribike (above and below).
Newspaper clipping at the top of the page with thanks to – Quints Museum:
Quints museum – http://northbaychamber.com/tourism/museum/
More of the quints history – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/fts/wichita_200803A12.html