Happy are the owners of Fairy Bikes – Velocipedes, Scooters, Tricycles, Coasters – each ride so gracefully, speedily and safely. Only Fairy Bikes are made exactly like you want them and last the way your parents hope they will.
Playtime is always joytime on a Fairy. What fun you can have! Out in the glorious sun, riding here and there in the fresh air, building strong, healthy bodies.
Tell Dad and Mother to get you a Fairy because a Fairy costs no more and is so much stronger and better than ordinary bikes, rides so smoothly and looks so bright and gay.
– Fairy Cycle Advert
The Fairy ‘Sidewalk’ Bicycle was a popular child’s bike in the twenties. It was marketed extensively both in America and Great Britain. For many folks of a certain age it provided the first means of wheeled propulsion.
Bicycle manufacturers targeted the full-size two wheel bicycle to teenagers while younger children were provided with tricycles and scooters. However, during the 1920s and early 1930s, in a bid to attract younger riders, small two wheel bicycles were developed for children aged five to ten years. They were advertised as ‘sidewalk’ bicycles and, with their small wheels and low construction, were relatively safe.
The ‘Famous Genuine Fairy Ball Bearing Speed Bikes’ were advertised in the Spring & Summer 1931 catalogue of Sears, Roebuck and Co, Philadelphia, USA. Two models were available, the Fairy De Luxe with New Departure coaster brake, enamelled in ‘Willow green’ with red striping at a cost of US $15.47; and the Fairy Speed Bike without coaster brake finished in enamelled red with black striping for $11.48. It remains unclear how popular these small two-wheelers were though their cost would have been prohibitive as large rubber-tyred tricycles varied in cost from $2.69 to $4.39 and scooters $3.85.
They were marketed in Great Britain by Lines Bros Ltd of London as The Fairycycle.
Lines Bros created the famous ‘Tri-ang’ brand name after WW1. The Fairy Cycle was advertised on the side of the Tri-ang toy bus.
1922 ‘Fairy’ Tricycle
Lines Bros Ltd, Old Kent Rd, London
Wheel diameter: 12.5″ with tyre; 11.75″ without tyre
I’ve not yet found any reference to this tricycle in any Lines Bros catalogues. But, as you can see, it’s similar to the ‘Fairycycle & Sidecar’ seen below, in the 1922 Lines Bros catalogue: it has identical wheels and chainwheel, and the seat tube is upright.
The seat tube slants in the 1923 Lines Bros catalogue, so I have assumed this type of vertical seat tube to be a means of dating Lines Bros bicycles and tricycles as either pre- or post 1922.
1922 LINES BROS LTD (TRIANGTOIS) CATALOGUE
While the seat tube is upright on the Fairycycle in the 1922 Lines Bros catalogue (above), the 1923 catalogue extract, below, illustrates a slanting seat tube on the Faircycle.
1923 LINES BROS CATALOGUE PAGE
1885: FAY MFG Co & 1897: WORTHINGTON MFG Co
Elyria, Ohio, USA
W. L. FAY of OF Elyria, Ohio. TRICYCLE. Witnesses Inventor- UNITED STATES v PATENT OFFICE
SPECIFICATION forming part of Letters Patent No. 397,348, dated February 5, 1889.
Application file June 11, 1888. Serial No. 276,756- (No model.)
To all whom it may concern- Be it known that I, Winslow L Fay, a citizen of the United States, residing at Elyria, in the county of Lorain and State of Ohio, have invented a new and useful Improvement in Tricyclcs, of which the following is a specification. My invention relates to improvements in the springs and construction of the frame to tricycles in which the steering or guiding wheel runs in a line midway between the main wheels.
Winslow Fay, a cart maker, established his company in 1885, patented various improvements to tricycles and also manufactured tricycles adapted to suit invalids. Other products included a dirt scraper used to smooth the roads for cycling, as well an adult tricycle that he had designed marketed under the ‘Fairy’ name. He subsequently made a children’s Fairy tricycle too.
Arthur L Garford became interested in bicycles in 1885 and, noticing a shortfall in the design of saddles for the bicycles of the time (the ‘ordinary’ or ‘penny farthing’), the following year he patented a bicycle saddle with leather top and springs. It was a good design, and he was first to register it, but he was unsuccessful when he tried to sell the patent. So, in 1889, he decided to enter the saddle making business himself, and set up Garford Mfg Co with Fred N Smith and Herbert Follansbee (who was working at the time for Winslow Fay). Unfortunately, Garford’s saddle design became obsolete within a year, as the new safety bicycle now replaced the high wheeler ‘ordinary’ bicycle as the top selling machine.
Garford bought Fay’s business in 1891, absorbing it into his own company. Fay’s products were still made, but Garford also adapted his saddle design to suit the new safety bicycle and, by the late 1890s, the company was making over a million seats a year. His padded leather saddle helped to popularise the bicycle as much as pneumatic tyres. The company was sold again, in 1897, this time changing its name to the Worthington Mfg Co, with George C Worthington as president. Vice President was Fred Colson. Worthington left the company in 1903 and Colson took over.
In 1917, Colson persuaded stockholders to merge the Worthington Company and another division of the Fay company to form the Colson Company. As president, Colson created a line of children’s bicycles, scooters and tricycles which were sold to hardware and department stores such as Sears Roebuck & Co under the ‘Fairy’ name. By the 1920s, Colson also operated a chain of stores in 17 American cities.
FAIRY CYCLE ADVERTS
1930 Fairy Catalogue below.
Come on you chaps! Look at this Fairycycle! With balloon pneumatic tyres, powerful brakes and glittering handlebars – what a bike! What a proud machine to ride! Fancy going out to tea on it! Fancy turning up at school on it! Fancy other chaps crawling round! Yes, you must wangle a Fairycycle.
The Mickey Mouse ‘Velocipede’ illustrated below was made in the 1940s. Exhibitions were held at Hotel McAlpin, New York City. These were trade fairs that showcased Colson products, as well as other companies with a tie-up with Disney. You can see the list of exhibitors further down the page.
Here’s the most unexpected good news wheel goods buyers have ever received. The Colson Company has not only linked the world’s most loved character to a nationally famous velocipede …but in so doing has successfully injected into the design – ACTION! When the youngsters of America see this – your sales are going to climb to unheard of levels.