For the season of 1912 we offer as usual a complete Columbia line; wherein either man, woman or child may find a bicycle suitable for every purpose of business or recreation.
Particular attention is here directed to the ‘Pope Daily Service,’ continued for this season in all its strength of construction and beauty of design, finish and equipment. This model is intended to supply the ever increasing demand for a bicycle of exceptional quality for use in any hard, practical service. It possesses greater strength and durability than the ordinary pleasure bicycle.
– Extract from the 1912 Columbia Bicycle Catalogue
With increased competition from motorcycles and automobiles in the 1910s, American cycle manufacturers were forced to find new markets for their products. The Pope Manufacturing Co introduced a range of commercial bicycles – known in Great Britain as ‘tradesmen’s bicycles’ – which were beefed-up versions of their normal range, and fitted with a front carrier. This ‘Pope Daily Service’ model was ideal for local shop deliveries, and contined, with minor changes, through the 1910s.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that the commercial or tradesmen’s bicycle really took off in Great Britain. Various commercial bicycles and tricycles were used extensively before then, but their popularity boomed when companies such as John Warrick of Reading introduced a comprehensive service for small businesses around the country, which included leasing of the bikes, and instant replacment or repairs by Warricks whenever needed. Simplicity and standardisation of the British ‘tradesmen’s bike’ design in the 1920s allowed cheap manufacture and a ready supply.
However, America by this time had imposed prohibitive import tariffs in order to protect their own cycle industry (because of its restrictive practices using outdated wooden wheels and tubular tyres on all American bicycles). So the use of commercial bicycles in the USA was not as widespread as in Great Britain. It was not until the late 1930s, when Schwinn had introduced a cheap and practical ‘Cycle Truck’ with 26″ metal wheels and normal pneumatic tyres, that small American businesses started buying them in any quantity.
An early example such as this Pope Daily Service is therefore very rare today.
1918 Pope Daily Service Commercial Bicycle
1912 COLUMBIA CATALOGUE
EARLY AMERICAN COMMERCIAL BICYCLES
Some early American designs for commercial bicycles are interesting, though rather complicated affairs (see illustration and 1897 Sanders Package Carrying Bicycle patent drawings below).