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Sample Article No 3 from the Jan - Feb 2012 MASCOT

A Significant Acquisition - from John Taylor

With a ‘little help’ in the form of a loan from Friends of the Museum, and a grant from PRISM - the fund for the Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material, which supports the acquisition and/or conservation of any object or group of objects illustrating the history of any branch of science, industry or technology - the Museum has just purchased an
1886 Singer ‘Courier’ Bicycle.

Museum Curator Steve Bagley writes:

“This bicycle is probably the only one of its type known to exist.  Historically important, it’s part of the development of the safety machine that was taking place in Coventry during the 1880s, and therefore has local, regional, national and international significance.  Cycle historians didn’t know the Courier existed, and until this one came to light, the only way we could establish that it had been manufactured was through a Singer Sales brochure of 1886 and various other contemporary  publications.  How grateful we are for the help of Friends in raising the money.”

Friends’ Chairman John Viggars writes:  “This announcement is great news, but it does not tell of the excitement and tensions of the past few weeks or, in respect of our donation, what happens next.  The story began in September when the Museum learned that what was believed to be a complete and original  Singer ‘Courier’ cycle had been discovered.  By mid-October the machine had been authenticated and the Museum was given an option to purchase up to the end of November, after which it would be put up for auction with a considerably higher reserve than the price offered to the Museum, and would probably leave the country.”

Singer’s “Courier“ Safety was patented by Frederick Warner Jones, and has some technological features we would recognise on a modern cycle, especially the steering directly to the front wheel.  This innovation is important, as it illustrates the debate manufacturers were having over the type of steering we now accept as the basic principle for all today’s bicycles.  The double chain drive is also notable, but more because it is a step backwards to a previous machine, ‘The Kangaroo’ made by Hillman and Herbert, and further illustrates how manufacturers struggled to find the right combination of features.        John.

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