Arthur John Butt, of 21 Monmouth Road, Bishopston, Bristol (1871-1930), dressed as Buffalo Bill for an early cycle promotion, c. 1910. He won cycle races in his early years, and was later well known in the Bristol area as a cycle-race referee. He ran a cycle shop near Bristol University, with his two sons Harold and Joe. *
Cycle racing in Victorian times, and into the first decade of the 20th century, was as popular a sport as football is now. Leading figures campaigned in cycle races around the world, and were the celebrities of the era.
Youngsters were encouraged to take up cycling, though in the early days bicycles were expensive so the hobby was still a preserve of the well-to-do. With the formation of the Boy Scout movement in 1910, the popularity of bicycles surged even higher among the young, with manufacturers rising to meet the demand for machines of all sizes, and at more affordable prices. In the photograph above, the crowd appears to be mostly children and, as you can see, the twin top tube bicycle on the left is a youth’s size machine, probably with 24″ wheels. As well as reading the regular cycling press, youngsters could keep track of the latest cycling novelties in their own magazines, in particular ‘The Boy’s Own Paper’, which carried regular reviews of both new adult and youth’s models (1910 extract below).
c1910 F. Hopper Boy’s Little Giant Racing Bicycle
Sloping Top Tube: 2.5″ drop
16″ Frame, 16″ Wheels
1″ Pitch chainwheel, Fixed wheel
WIDTH (Handlebar) 18″
Standover Height: 23″ / 20.5″
This track racer would be interesting if it were adult size, but is even more fascinating because of its small size. It’s a fully functional racing bicycle, with sloping top tube, proportionally large inch pitch chainwheel, fixed wheel, pull-up brake, 18″ wide drop handlebar, but scaled down to a 16″ frame, suitable for a boy around eight years of age.
Although F. Hopper built some of their standard ‘Little Giant’ boy’s bicycles with a sloping top tube, this example, as an exact miniature version of its adult racers, may have been a display model for exhibitions. Alternatively, it could have been built to order, perhaps for the son of a famous racer of the day. For example, Italian racing champion Maurice Garin, winner of the first Tour de France in 1903 on a a La Francaise Diamant, had a small machine built for his son (below). The chainwheel on Garin’s La Francaise Diamond is similar to that on the bicycle featured here, but this was a common design; as you can see from Hopper’s wholesale catalogue extracts reproduced here, the company offered a wide variety of chainwheel styles and head transfers.
1907 HOPPER CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
THE BOY’S OWN PAPER: 1901
THE BOY’S OWN PAPER: 1902
Buffalo Bill photo with thanks to – https://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/10364593816