Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Everthing Wheeled

Heaton Owsley, my great grandfather, graduated 1877 from Center College, Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky. He then came back home to Chicago, living there in 1878 in the home of his parents and stating his profession to be the manufacturing of large toys.

With his brother, Harry, he became half-owner of the St. Nicholas Toy Company and retired from that enterprise in 1900. The St. Nicholas Toy  Company, located at 790 West Madison Street in Chicago, made the Hibbard, Spencer, and Barlette bicycles, Roller-skates, baby buggies, etc..

Carter Harrison Jr. used the bicycle as his campaign gimmick to help him win election in 1897. "Not the Champion Cyclist, but the Cyclist's Champion." They also built a bicycle built for ten for Carter's Century of Road Club.
In his book, Stormy Years - The Autobiography of Carter H. Harrison (New York: The Bob Merrill Company, 1935, p. 105), Carter Harrison, Jr. with regard to his election campaign writes:
"I now had a brilliant thought why not utilize my cycling record as an offset to the Harlan football boasting? My brother-in-law, Heaton Owsley, with his twin brother, Harry B., were owners of the St. Nicholas Manufacturing Company, makers of the Hibbard bicycle. I had joined the Century Road Club, was entitled to wear its badge with eighteen pendant bars each engraved with the date of the particular run it represented. It made a brave show. Shortly after the nominations I had the Owsley brothers send a brand-new wheel with scorcher handlebars of the "scorchiest" type to the Morrison photograph gallery in West Madison Street, rather famous at the time for its photographs of the theatrical world. I then betook myself to the gallery with my riding togs to be photographed head-on, body bend double over the scorcher bars, an attitude that always gave a fiendish expression even to the mildest of faces! What with the rakish cap, the old gray sweater and the string of eighteen pendant bars, I looked like a professional; a picture which I knew would carry weight with the vast army of Chicago wheelmen."
1887 Pram featured on Postage Stamp
In 1984 the US Postal Service issued the 7.4¢ Baby Buggy Stamp part of the 1880s Coil Transportation Series Stamps. The First Day of Issue was April 7, 1984.  The stamp featured a wicker Pram (baby buggy) which was offered for sale by the St. Nicholas Toy Company in 1887 for the price of $18.50. 
1887 Tricyle on Postage Stamp
May 6, 1984 : 6-cents tricycle stamp in the Transportation Series with the first day in a city with an appropriate name for a cancel, Childs, Md. 21916. The tricycle design is a pen and ink drawing of an Acme tricycle sold by the St. Nicholas Toy Co. of Chicago in its 1887 mail order catalogue.

The "trike" was offered in 11 options, including a choice of wooden, steel or rubber wheels, at prices ranging from $8.50 to $30. The catalogue description was "now too well-known and thoroughly tested to need a description, being unquestionably the best juvenile tricycle ever made."

1895 Ladies Bicycle
1895 St. Nicholas Manufactured by: St. Nicholas Toy Company; Chicago, IL Features: Ladies 28” pneumatic; Wood wheel guards; Wood chain guard; Wood rims;

Heaton and Harry were also inventors and held patents for improvements to the bicycle wheel (1883), the roller-skate wheel (1885) and the bicycle seat (1892).  


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