Columbia History at a Glance

Credited with many first in the bicycle industry:
First American made bicycle First Coaster Brake
First Cushion Tires First Chain-less bicycle
First Pneumatic Tires on a bicycle First Spring Fork
First Diamond Frame First Tandem bicycle
First Twinbar Frame First "Middleweight" sport bicycle

Highlights

In 1877, Col. Albert Pope founded the bicycle industry in the United States. One of the products manufactured was the Columbia Bicycle.
Pope pioneered improvements in drop forging, metal turning, steel hardening, and metal plating.
By 1897, the Pope Manufacturing Co. held over 50 patents. The Columbia Manufacturing facility was opened in Westfield, Ma. producing bicycles and motorbikes.
In the late 1890's Columbia was in the Electric Coach building business.
By 1900, Columbia was the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world.
In the early 1950's Columbia added school furniture to its product line and is the primary product manufactured in the Westfield location today.
In 1991 Columbia re-defined its "Columbia" brand strategy to focus upon adult "infrequent" and "casual" cyclist who are looking for upscale, quality bicycles at prices below specialty bike shops.
Marketing focus for bicycles is on the premium incentive trade and classic reproductions.

Visit vintagecolumbiabikes.com for a more detailed account of the Columbia history.

Columbia Chronology

Although not yet completed, the following is a year by year account of the way things happened. All the information contained in this Chronology is from actual in house documentation or from an outside source that has been verified. The Chronology Department will periodically be adding details to the years listed and those that are not yet listed. No information will be published if it cannot be verified.

1843

Albert Pope's date of birth, May 23rd. He ended up becoming a Captain in the Civil War. Came out of the Civil War looking for a job. Later he was referred to as Col. Pope.

1876

Pope attended the Centennial Exposition where he saw a two wheeled contraption. When he came back he researched and went to Europe.

1877

The Pope Manufacturing Company was organized. First small beginnings in the bicycle business as importers and makers at 45 High St. Boston, Ma. His first wheel cost $313.00 and the factory was not equipped for mass production. He began looking for a vendor.

1878

Larger salesrooms and a Bicycle Riding School at 87 Summer St. Boston, Ma. The first American manufacturer of cycles begun with the Columbia Bicycle at the Weed Sewing Machine Company factory in Hartford, Ct. The first regular trade catalogue was twenty pages long. The first bicycles were the 60" Hi Wheelers and sold for $125.00 when sewing machines sold for $13.00.

1879

Agency systems and a uniform pricing system was established. The model was the "Standard Columbia."

1880

Model's "Special Columbia," "Youth's Columbia," "Mustang," and "Youth's Mustang." The "Columbia Ball Bearing" was introduced. Started the Wheeling Association to fight for better road and cycling clubs. Still around today.

1881

Larger quarters at 597 Washington St. Boston, Ma. The Columbia Warrant or Guarantee was instituted.

1882

A Branch House in New York was established. Model "Expert Columbia" was the first bicycle ridden across the U.S., from Oakland, Ca. to Boston, Ma. - 103 days, 3,700 miles. Then went around the world. "Columbia Enamel" was introduced.

1883

Model's "Columbia Racer" and "Three-track Tricycle."

1884

A Branch House in Chicago was established.

1885

Model's "Columbia Light Roadster" bicycle and "Two-track Tricycle."

1886

Model's "Columbia Safety" (front drive), "Semi-roadster" bicycle, and "Ladies Two-track Tricycle." Records of one mile in 2:29 4/5 seconds and 22 miles in the hour were made on a "Columbia Racer" and stood as World's Records for years to come.

1887

The building at 77 and 79 Franklin St. Boston, Ma. was occupied in January. Model's "Columbia Tandem," "Columbia Racing," and "Light Roadster Tricycles."

1888

Model's "Veloce Columbia" (rear drive Safety), "Volunteer Columbia," and "Surprise Columbia Tricycle."

1889

Model's "Columbia Light Roadster" and "Tandem Safeties."

1890

Model's "Columbia Ladies Safety" and "Racing Safety." Columbia "Cushion Tires" were introduced. Final control and absorption of the Weed Sewing Machine Company took place. Stock went from $5.80 to $75.50. Colonel Pope bought the company for $15.60 and started the Pope Manufacturing Company. "Father of Good Roads" awarded. Instrumental of Congress awarding $10,000 needed for good road construction. M.I.T. started four courses in road engineering.

1891

Model's "Columbia Light Roadster Safety" and "Pneumatic Racing Safety."
Great enlargement of the factory. Erection of a new building for the headquarters at 221 Columbus Ave. Boston, Ma.

1892

Model #30 (Relay). Century Columbia. Columbia Pneumatic Tire. Started a big growth period. Purchase and enlargement of Hartford Rubber Works, a steel company, the largest nickel plating factory in the world, tube mills, motor carriage factory (auto), bicycle factory - over 1 million per year sold - $200.00 ea. sold in every civilized country of the world. "Trotting" transformed by the application of Columbia Pneumatic Tires and Ball Bearings.

1893

Model's #31, 32, 33. Columbia's Pneumatic Tires were first successfully applied to road carriages. The Tube Mill was completed and put into operation. A new East wing was added to the factory.

1894

Model's #34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39.
Erection of a new office building at Hartford, Ct.

1895

Model's #40, 41, 42, 43, and 44. Concentration of all interest at Hartford, Ct. Sale of Hartford Cycle Company's product taken. Started purchasing all competition (over 75 companies) and put them under the "American Bicycle Company" that he owned. Pope put together other companies for the automobile. Built factories, formed "Electric Company."

1896

Large additions to Columbia plant. New Tube Mill Completed. Experimental work was done on auto's. The Mark I Phaeton Electric Car was completed. Hiram Maxim, an engineer, astonished everyone with operating a gasoline carriage (auto) on the streets of Hartford, Ct. Col. Pope purchased all the rights to the car. Beginning of the Westfield Plant: Lozier Manufacturing Company of Cleveland Ohio is building a factory division in Westfield, Ma. Land was donated by the Noble family, 10 acres on Silver St. and $10,000 to cover a shortage in the subscription. Subscription raised $75,000. August 5th, contract signed, company to build Cleveland Bicycles.

1897

Westfield Plant was completed in less than a year. On February 3rd it was expected that the factory will be operating by February 15th. New Tube Mill in operation. Five percent nickel steel tubing a new Columbia Feature. A new building was added to the Columbia plant. Total floor space, 17 1/100 acres under one roof and extended over a mile along the New York - New Haven - Hartford Railway, employed nearly 10,000 people. Col. Pope produced the "Pope Hartford" and was running from New York to Boston, Ma. The Mark III auto was developed. In May ten vehicles were exhibited, sold for $3,000 ea. Gasoline powered Tricycle available. Rental business of Columbia Electric Carriers on a for hire service established.

1898

The GREATEST contribution to cycling and auto's! They produced the chain-less bicycle. It was shaft driven with bevel gears (another new patent). Chain was the biggest problem with cycles. Men attempted to break them for sport. Major variations in automobiles could not gain speed with chains. The Mark VIII is available. It is comparable in design to modern cars with regards to the chassis and engine position.

1899

Columbia Electric Coach (electric automobile). The Coach was built by Columbia for the New York City Transit and was used to ferry dignitaries from the railroad station to the city offices. A number of units were also to provide a taxi service in the city from 1899 to 1906, when they changed to gas powered units. Charles Murphy "Mile A Minute Murphy" rode a Columbia Tribune one mile in 57 4/5 seconds in Long Island, NY. behind a train.
The facts will periodically be updated for previous years and added for the later years. Your interest is what has been keeping us going since 1877 - Thank You.