1899/1900 Crescent Bevel-Gear Chainless

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The absence of the chain and the great cleanliness of the chainless make it in every way desirable… Each year since the introduction of the Bevel Gear Chainless type …the demand is still very rapidly increasing.

– Crescent Sales Brochure, 1901

When chainless bicycles were first considered, in the early 1890s, they appeared to be a viable alternative the the chain-driven bicycle. However, it took many years to perfect the gears, with factory machinery required to cut the gears absolutely precisely. By the time, a successful chainless model was launched in the USA, in 1898, the American cycle industry was collapsing due to over-production. The chainless was more than double the price of a chain-driven bicycle. The freewheel had just been introduced, and chains had much improved: instead of the old block chains, smaller chains were now in use. By 1900, the chain-driven bicycle had evolved into a design that would essentially remain unchagned for the next five decades. It was only due the tenacity of Colonel Pope, of Columbia bicycles, that the chainless model continued to be manufactured.

 

 

1899/1900 Crescent Bevel-Gear Chainless

Manufactured by Western Wheel Works, Chicago

24″ Frame

28″ Wheels with Tubeless Tyres 

Adjustable Handlebar

Matching Quill Pedals

(Now sold)

This Crescent Chainless came to me from a good friend in Switzerland; he had shipped it there ssome years ago from the USA. My assessment of the machine is as follows:

It appears to be an older restoration. If you look closely you can see that the paintwork is scratched, but the overall appearance is good.

The saddle is a British Brooks, using a US seat clamp to fit to the smaller diameter US seat post.

The headbadge says Model 51. This does not tally with the 1900 Crescent catalogue, which shows the Model 51 to be a chain-driven men’s bicycle. Crescent’s chainless models were ‘Model 1’ in 1898, or ‘Model 43’ in 1900. 1899/1900 was a time of flux for Crescent, as the parent company Western Wheel Works went out of business at this time. Either a previous owner has fitted the wrong badge (common enough with American bicycles) or the model designation changed when this bicycle was sold. I did observe that Columbia’s similar chainless bicycle was named ‘Model 51’.

The handlebar grips are original, though one of them is too weak to be used. I have a replacement set, so the original set could be used for shows while the reproduction set can be used for riding.

Apart from the minor discrepancies above, it’s in good original condition and in good working order.

The wooden wheels appear to be new. The ‘chain tread’ tubeless tyres are in excellent condition. The matching quill pedals are delightful.

The handlebar is adjustable; it takes less than one minute to remove the front nut and adjust it between dropped and upright positions.

From what I’ve read in the Crescent Chainless catalogue description, it appears that brakes were optional. This example is a fixed wheel machine with no brakes. However, I have a front plunger brake that could be fitted.

To summarize, this is an excellent chainless machine in good working order, ready to ride, and with the option of a front brake if required.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WESTERN WHEEL WORKS

Western Wheel Works, makers of Crescent bicycles, started life as the Western Toy Co. Owner Adolph Schoeninger was bankrupted when the Chicago Fire destroyed his toy factory in 1871. But he managed to re-open his business and, by 1889, his toy company had become a bicycle company. By the mid-1890s Western Wheel Works was one of America’s largest cycle manufacturers:

‘The factories of this company contain 25,000 square feet of floor space and employ one thousand men. No less than 25,000 safety bicycles were made and sold in 1891. The facilities of the establishment have been doubled. Among the most popular bicycles manufactured here are the Blackhawk, Crescent No. 2, Escort, Crescent No. 1, Juno, Rob Roy No. 3, Rob Roy No. 2, Rob Roy No. 1. Here are also manufactured the Cinch, Combination Junior, Boy’s Junior and Pet. These machines have a market in every part of the world, and owing to their popularity the export trade is constantly increasing. They are everywhere considered among the most reliable and popular. Some of the makes mentioned have been ridden by champions in prize contests throughout the country.’

Western Wheels Works introduced their bevel gear chainless model to the market in 1898.

 

Along with other American cycle manufacturers, by 1899 the company was in trouble because of US over-production. Their claim in the magazine advertisement shown below, of 101,000 machines sold, does not tell the whole story: many of those bicycles were exported or sold internationally, the company having established factories abroad. In fact, Crescent became one of Sweden’s leading brands over the following decades.

In 1900, the company was merged into the American Bicycle Co, and their Chicago factory was sold to Dr William Scholl to manufacture shoes.

 

OPTIONAL FRONT PLUNGER BRAKE

This brake can be fitted to the handlebars either in the upright or dropped position. A fitting must be made at the top of the fork to support it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1900 CRESCENT CATALOGUE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEVEL-GEAR CHAINLESS

 Crescent info thanks to – http://chicagology.com/goldenage/goldenage091/