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News from the Trade

Bicycle catalogues can provide valuable information about the industry.

The Museum’s entire collection of trade catalogues has been indexed and is now accessible on microfiche from the Library. They range from the 1871 Pamphlet and Price List of the Phantom Wheel Company, to catalogues by major British and American manufacturers. An extensive selection of C.C.M. catalogues has also been preserved.

These are an important resource for researchers because, from their earliest appearance, bicycle catalogues served a dual purpose: to provide information on the latest models and prices and to promote cycling and cycle sales by attracting new riders.

C.C.M. catalogue, 1920s

As a result, researchers will often find detailed discussions and drawings of specific bicycle components or design features as well as descriptions of manufacturing and assembling processes. At the same time, these publications may include essays aimed at novices with advice about proper cycling form, clothing, clubs, and how to buy the right bicycle.

From the 1890s, the catalogues also document the growth of credit and easy payment terms as a means of encouraging consumption. Many cycle catalogues, in particular those of the companies, Eclipse and Pope Manufacturing, were known for their fine production values and high quality graphic design, an example later followed by manufacturers of other consumer goods.