Vintage Toronto Ads: A Two-Wheeled Nest Egg

Originally published on Torontoist on May 27, 2008.

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The Globe, April 8, 1908.

This week marks the official start of Bike Month in Toronto, which provides an opportunity to look at how cycles were marketed a century ago.

For a decade on either side of the turn of the 20th century, bicycle manufacturers maintained an advertising presence in city newspapers similar to current automakers. Pitches ranged from elegant vehicle styling to thrift, as this attack on tossing your money away on money-grubbing public transit systems demonstrates. The tone is familiar to those caught in the argument over renting versus buying a condo/home.

A century later, Mr. Holdup would take his victim’s bicycle and quickly turn it over to a shady dealer in exchange for more cash than a run-of-the-mill stick-up might net. Whether he would show more decorum in flashing the crime weapon is debatable.

Canada Cycle & Motor Company was formed in September 1899 as an amalgamation of several bicycle makers, including a branch of the Massey-Harris manufacturing empire. A glut of bicycles on the market at the time led to the demise of many smaller makers, quickly placing CCM in a dominant position.

By 1905, with the bicycle market still at saturation point, CCM entered into two side businesses. While their foray into the automobile market with the Russell lasted a decade, ice skates would prove far more lucrative.

A new plant for bicycle production was built in Weston in 1912, and remained in operation until the combination of a strike and bankruptcy saw the last model roll off the line 70 years later. The bicycle and hockey lines were split between different buyers from Quebec and all production shifted east.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

A week later (June 3, 2008) this follow-up Vintage Ad post was published.

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Toronto Star, May 13, 1899.

Further proof of the modesty employed in late 19th century advertising. Call this a prequel to last week’s featured ad, as Welland Vale was one of the bicycle manufacturers whose line was amalgamated into CCM later on in the year this was published. Originally a manufacturer of wagon wheels when the company started in the 1860s, Welland Vale also produced hand tools and farm implements. After divesting its bicycle line and the wagon wheel market dried up with the rise of automated transportation, Welland Vale moved into the automotive rubber-coated fabric business, evolving into Cambridge-based Canadian General-Tower Ltd.