NBHAA Gallery


Elgin Bluebirds

Welcome to NBHAA GALLERY! This section will change as time goes on, but will continuously feature rare glimpses at bicycle history, memorabilia and facts you won't find anywhere else. This time, we begin with the second series Elgin Bluebird. We hope you enjoy the photos and information. And stay tuned for more (ever seen a Schwinn Grape Krate? Scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the colored letters leading to NBHAA Gallery 2...) !

EVER SEE A FLOCK OF ELGIN BLUEBIRDS!?

text and photo are Copyright 1997, 2007 by NBHAA and Leon Dixon, All rights reserved.

Bah-lue Bird, Bluebird...in and out my window... Elgin Bluebirds are very, very rare birds... few were sold when new...and even fewer are left today.

Your curator began collecting Bluebirds in the early 1970s and amassed a relatively large number of them over the years. How many? We'll leave that up to others to argue (and we're certain some will), but many of the examples around today were at one time or another in our collection...and here's just a peek at a few from years gone by.

LOOK CLOSELY AND COUNT THEM. And THESE were just a few extras we had at the time! Although most of these very Bluebirds eventually found homes in locations all over North America, here is just a sample of what was part of our collection. Look closely- see what details you can pick out.

We know more about Elgin Bluebirds than anyone. And we had one BEFORE anyone claiming to have expertise on these bicycles today! But if you want to raise YOUR knowledge level, see if you can answer the following questions accurately...!

When and where the first article on the history of Elgin Bluebirds was written?

Where the first historical magazine article was published showing the Bluebird?

How many Elgin Bluebirds are left?

How many series were there of Elgin Bluebirds?

Who made the electric horn(s) for Bluebirds?

Are rear carriers from Bluebird interchangeable with Skylarks?

Which other Elgins used the same kickstand and which years?

Which years of Bluebird used the "pencil" stand? Which didn't?

When this photo was taken, no complete, unbroken ornaments existed in the hands of a collector. Since that time, do you know how many reproduction incarnations there have been?

What are the differences between 1937 and 1936 and 1935 Bluebirds?

  • Left: A 1936 Elgin Bluebird in original optional colors of red and ivory. Bluebirds came that year in two color schemes: standard was French blue with red trim. Optional was the red with ivory trim. This particular Bluebird shown did not have its original saddle installed when the photo was taken (it was replaced later). Instead, it has a Lobdell-Emery Airflex saddle. Now this saddle is most often seen on 1938-39 Shelby Speedline Airflow bicycles, but the same saddle was used on many other bicycles and was actually available as an Elgin accessory and could be substituted on the some years of the Elgin Bluebird (it was shown in the catalogue). However, a special solid mounting stem was required for this saddle to fit a Bluebird. This particular Bird was also equipped with a special New Departure rear hub with a grease fitting instead of the usual oil cap filler (despite what you will see at swap meets and info on DIY web sites and eBay ads, Bluebirds did NOT come this year with Elgin hubs!). The grips, pedals, and all other components of this 'Bird are all original...and yes, it is complete, right down to the speedometer drive mechanism. In fact, inside the tool box door (on top of the tank area) is the original Alemite grease gun and special handlebar wrench included with all 1936 Bluebirds when new. The special Bluebird fender ornament was off at the time being chromed. Did you know that the ornament is actually comprised of two pieces? Do you know what these pieces are?

  • Second from left (foreground): A 1935 Elgin Bluebird awaits a new owner and restoration. Though painted with several layers of black housepaint here, its original color was French Blue with red trim. At the time of this photo, no one wanted these bicycles (all they wanted was SCHWINNS). So Elgin Bluebirds had no value to collectors for many, many years and they sat waiting for buyers who never came (it was at this time we coined the famous phrase heard so much, ...Er...would ya take five bucks??? OR..."do ya got any 'swin fanthumb' parts?"). Anyway, 1935 Bluebirds differed in several ways...do you know the differences?

  • Second from right (rear): A 1937 Elgin Bluebird with original paint in sad shape, ready for restoration. This one was painted in metallic blue with red trim. Sears called this color opalescent blue, but it was actually what we today would call a metallic paint color. With the frame are a pair of repro (fiberglass) fenders which your curator made up back then since no steel fenders were around. We later were aghast when we discovered people were cutting up Elgin Skylark and Robin fenders to make Bluebird fenders. Eeeew! Robins and Skylarks are rare too!!

  • Far right: Another 1936 Elgin Bluebird. This one was pretty complete, except some wise person got happy with a paint brush and what looked like several cans and colors of enamel! Original grips, tear-drop, weighted pedals are still there. Even the seat top is original, although someone took it upon themself to replace the special leaf spring chassis with a conventional deep spring seat chassis. The seat leather was dark brown, not black as some have claimed. Notice no wear button studs on the seat leather. Do you know which Bluebird seats had wear tab studs and which did not?

  • Foreground (on the ground): Bluebird fender ornament and special McCauley "pencil" side stand which was standard equipment on some Bluebirds.

    For a look at another one of our Elgin Bluebirds, click on the Oakland Museum Tour section and scroll to the photo and description of our red 1936 Bluebird.



  • If you own an Elgin Bluebird or know of one, we'd like to hear from you. If nothing else, copy down the serial number and send it to us. We are assembling a roster of all surviving Bluebirds, so we'd love to hear from you!

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    This page, all design and contents, all photos unless otherwise noted are Copyright 1997, 1999, 2007 by Leon Dixon, All rights reserved.
    Date of last update to this page: 23 OCT 2007

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