1881 Columbia Bicycle

This is a Standard Columbia bicycle made by The Pope Manufacturing Company of Boston, Massachusetts around 1881. The Standard Columbia was available in models with front-wheel diameters ranging from 42 to 58 inches. This particular Standard Columbia has a 54- inch wheel and sold for $95. Mr. Frank E. Waring used this in the Washington, D.C., area.
In the 1870s Albert A. Pope founded the Pope Manufacturing Company, the first company to manufacture bicycles on American soil. Pope had previously sold bicycles exported from England, but began building bicycles under the trade name "Columbia" in the Weed Sewing Machine Company's factory in Hartford Connecticut in 1879. By 1890, the company was so successful it had bought the factory from Weed because it needed all the space.
This Standard Columbia has a 54-inch front wheel with 44 radial spokes, and an 18-inch rear wheel with 18 radial spokes, weighing 49 pounds. The 1881 catalog states that this model came in two colors . On the left side of the backbone, under the seat, is a brass manufacturer's nameplate. At the upper end of the forged-steel front fork is the open steering head containing the long steering spindle, which can be adjusted by means of a bolt passing through the top of the head. Straight handlebars carry pear- shaped grips of Siamese buffalo horn and a brake lever on the right side that operates the spoon brake on the front tire. The front-wheel bearings are adjustable double cones, fitting into hardened boxes in the hubs. They are adjusted for wear by an eccentric in the bottom of the fork. The adjustable pedal cranks allow the throw to vary from 5 to 6 inches.
Currently not on view
date made
Pope Manufacturing Company
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Associated Place
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
front wheel: 54 in; x 137.16 cm
rear wheel: 18 in; x 45.72 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Paul E. Waring
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
America on the Move
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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