1942 Victory Bicycle


Soon after the United States entered World War II, the federal government decided that bicycles should be brought under consumer manufacturing guidelines so that they might support conservation efforts, local transportation, and the war production work force. A series of orders reduced bicycle design to bare essentials, limited metal and rubber content, set output quotas, promoted the use of bicycles among adult civilians, allocated bicycles for military use, and suspended production of children's bicycles, which comprised 85 percent of the prewar market. These measures were designed to conserve rubber and metals needed for war materiel and complement gasoline and automobile tire rationing by providing an alternate form of transportation for war production workers and other workers.

In December 1941, the Office of Production Management and leading manufacturers developed specifications for a simplified bicycle dubbed the "Victory bicycle" by government and media. OPM reviewed several prototypes submitted for examination. 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 of steel only, 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, narrower than balloon tires on prewar children's bikes. Production was set at 750,000 Victory bicycles per year by twelve manufacturers, approximately 40 percent of total prewar production but a significant increase in annual production of adult bicycles. The manufacture of all other types of civilian bicycles was halted.

As a prelude to rationing, the federal government imposed a freeze on bicycle sales and allocated almost 10,000 bikes to war production plants for use by workers and messengers. By July 1942 the Office of Price Administration estimated that 150,000 Victory bicycles and 90,000 prewar bikes were available for retail sale. OPA rationed new and prewar men's and women's bicycles. Any adult who was gainfully employed or contributed in some way to the war effort or public welfare could purchase a bicycle if she or he could cite a compelling reason, such as inadequate public transportation, excessive walking, or responsibility for a delivery service. In August 1942 eligibility was further restricted to persons in critical occupations, including physicians, nurses, druggists, ministers, school teachers, mail carriers, firefighters, police officers, construction workers, delivery personnel, public safety officers, and others. By the summer of 1942, American Bicyclist and Motorcyclist reported that thousands of war production workers were riding bicycles to their jobs, and new and used bikes were in great demand. Some companies owned fleets of bicycles for work-related uses such as reading electric meters.

Pauline Anderson of Norwalk, Connecticut was hired as a mathematics teacher at Norwalk High School in the fall of 1942 and purchased a Victory bicycle shortly thereafter. She lived with her parents, George and Flora Anderson, in a residential neighborhood two miles from downtown Norwalk. Pauline married Walter Dudding on November 26, 1942 but continued to live with her parents while her husband was serving in the Coast Guard. Mrs. Dudding rode the bicycle on errands and pleasure trips in the Norwalk area. It was a good form of supplemental transportation, but she didn't commute to work on the bike; she rode a bus or shared a ride with her father, who owned an automotive sales and repair shop in downtown Norwalk. The high school also was located downtown.

Pauline Dudding's bicycle has all the features of a 1942 Victory bicycle. The handlebars have black paint instead of chrome plating, and the wheel rims are painted a tan color. The frame is painted red, white and blue. In keeping with a War Production Board order, there is no nameplate or other brand identification other than the letter "H" (for Huffman) stamped on the bottom of the crankcase beside the serial number. In September 1942 the number of authorized Victory bicycle manufacturers was reduced from twelve to two, and the WPB decided that "no firm left in a business from which others are excluded shall be permitted to spread its name over the land and in foreign countries" (Wall Street Journal, September 3, 1942).

Date Made: 1942

Maker: Huffman Manufacturing Company

Used In Norwalk: United States: Connecticut, Norwalk

See more items in: Work and Industry: Transportation, Road, Military, Bicycling, Sports & Leisure, America on the Move, Transportation, Road Transportation


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Pauline Dudding

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2006.0183.01Accession Number: 2006.0183Catalog Number: 2006.0183.01

Object Name: bicycle

Physical Description: steel (overall material)paint (overall material)rubber (overall material)Measurements: overall: 40 in x 21 in x 41 in; 101.6 cm x 53.34 cm x 104.14 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746ac-21b8-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1313316

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