NBHAA Historical Articles


(How the bicycle industry and bicycle people actually led into the creation and continued formation of the automotive industry, automotive technology and a LOT more!!)

By Leon Dixon

Copyright © 1986, 1999, 2005, 200, 2008, 2011, 2013 by NBHAA and Leon Dixon, All rights reserved.

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With the interest in bicycles versus cars and automobiles versus bicycles now being more popular (or controversial) than ever and a topic of discussion of nearly all collectors, we figure that some of you out there might enjoy the following...


We are watching, so you watch your credit line! If you get information here–PLEASE SAY SO. Don't make it look like it came from you–or give lame excuses like "hey, everybody knows blah-blah". Do the right thing and tell people where you got the information.

All photos in this magazine series were from the collection of Leon Dixon. No part of this article or the original article may be sold, reproduced by any means or excerpted without written permission of the author.


This article originally was written for the now-defunct annual Bicycling Reference Magazine and appeared in the 1993 issue of that publication. It was intended to be a personal, historical, and nostalgic account of how the bicycle industry, bicycle technologies and the people who were part of it all led directly into or affected the automotive industry. Aside from previous articles in CLASSIC BICYCLE & WHIZZER NEWS (also written by Dixon) and scattered references, this was the only factual treatise and compendium of the facts on this history–complete with photos published up until this time. Prior to this one, there was no other article that had assembled this much bicycle and car connection information. It was the "6-degrees of separation" saga for these two seemingly divergent industries.

We'll just bet most of you out there didn't know this stuff. Did you know that electric starters on cars were made possible because of bicycle technology and a bicycle man? Did you know that at least two famous brands of automotive engine spark plugs came about because of one bicycle man? Did you know that the first car insurance policy had to do with bicycles? Did you know that many of the car companies sprouted directly or indirectly out of bicycle companies? Did you know that the origin of America's highway system and roadmaps was really originally driven by bicycles and bicycle people? Did you know that the technology of shaft-driven wheels and differential gear rear ends all began in the bicycle industry? Did you ever wonder why the supposed first car actually looks like a tricycle rather than a horse carriage? Did you know that Henry Ford, the Duesenberg brothers, the Dodge Brothers and many other famous car people all started out in the bicycle business? Did you know that the first Packard automobile came about because of an argument with the owner of a bicycle plant? Did you know that the Rambler car got its name and the company got its history from a bicycle? Well... after this article first appeared in the late 1980s, suddenly there was a lot of talk about cars and bicycles. Hmmm. And no one could seem to remember where it got started. These are the original photos and text used in the original article. More on this in our upcoming book on classic bicycles. In the meantime, please read and enjoy the kind of information we have been providing to the hobby for over 30 years... and the kind of information you won't find anywhere else prior to the time it came from us!

Thank you for visiting the NBHAA Historical Articles! 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. We will eventually be posting the entire series of CYCLIST magazine and other articles that were written by your curator in the 1980s and 1990s. We hope you enjoy the photos and information. And stay tuned !


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This page, all design and contents, all photos unless otherwise noted are Copyright © 1985, 1986, 1999, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2013 by Leon Dixon/NBHAA, All rights reserved.
Date of last update to this page: 20 MARCH 2013

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