Victory Bicycle Prototype

Description
Soon after the United States entered World War II, the federal government decided that bicycle manufacturing should be brought under new guidelines so that bicycles might contribute to materials conservation efforts, provide local transportation for individuals in critical occupations, and support war production at factories that made armaments and aircraft. A series of orders reduced designs to bare essentials, limited metal and rubber content, set output quotas, and promoted the use of bicycles among adult civilians. Production of children’s bicycles, which comprised 85 percent of the prewar market, was suspended. These measures were designed to conserve rubber and metals needed for war materiel and complement gasoline and automobile tire rationing by providing a new, alternate form of transportation for war production workers and other priority purposes. In December 1941, the Office of Production Management (OPM) and leading manufacturers developed specifications for a simplified bicycle dubbed the “Victory bicycle” by government and media. OPM reviewed prototypes submitted for examination, including this 1941 Iver Johnson prototype. A standard design, based in part on the Iver Johnson, was adopted. Regulations finalized in March 1942 specified that bicycles would be lightweight – not more than 31 pounds, about two-thirds the weight of prewar bicycles – and they would be made only of steel, with no copper or nickel parts. Chrome plating was limited to a few small pieces of hardware. Handlebars and wheel rims would be painted instead of chrome plated, and most accessories (chain guard, basket, luggage rack, bell, whitewall tires) were eliminated. Tire size was limited to a width of 1.375 inches, much narrower than balloon tires on prewar children’s bikes. Production goals were set at 750,000 Victory bicycles per year by twelve manufacturers, approximately 40 percent of total prewar production but representing a significant increase in the number of adult bicycles. Robert Berner, an OPM official who reviewed the prototypes, was permitted to keep this Iver Johnson bicycle, and he rode it near his home in Alexandria, Virginia. He donated it to the National Museum of American History in 1995.
Object Name
bicycle prototype
date made
1941
maker
Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works
Measurements
overall: 39 in x 18 in x 69 in; 99.06 cm x 45.72 cm x 175.26 cm
place made
United States: Massachusetts
ID Number
1995.0307.01
accession number
1995.0307
catalog number
1995.0307.01
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Bicycling
Transportation
Road Transportation
Exhibition
Exhibit:
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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