1942 Victory Bicycle

1942 Victory Bicycle

Usage conditions apply
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).
Object Name
date made
Huffman Manufacturing Company
used in Norwalk
United States: Connecticut, Norwalk
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
paint (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 40 in x 21 in x 41 in; 101.6 cm x 53.34 cm x 104.14 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Pauline Dudding
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Sports & Leisure
America on the Move
Road Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I recently purchased a Victory Bike from someone in Wisconsin. He said he got it from an older women and it was stored in a barn. It is a 43' ladies Huffman with the red/white and blue paint job. It has tan rims, a black chain ring/hubs and handlebars. These folks were trying to sell it on the internet but people only wanted it for parts. They wouldn't part it out. I swore it would and will stay in my collection. I love this piece of history.
My family had two probably bought in 1942 or 1943. We were living in Lebanon New Hampshire. We had put our car up on blocks due to gas rationing. We could walk or bike to everything we needed. My sister kept one and it was eventually tossed out. I kept the other all the years since and it had been stored in the loft of my garage until recently when it took up to Lebanon and donated it to the Lebanon (NH) Historical Society.
After the war my mom bought a Victory bike probably in 1946. They had just come off rationing. It was a girl's model on which I learned to ride, aged 12. To have a mom of 46 ride a bike was almost unheard of but she was a Danish immigrant and Danes road bike at all ages. Then in 47 I got an English bike and have been riding ever since even at age 85.
A friend of mine recently purchased a Victory bike from an elderly gentleman (who got it from his even older neighbor). It has "Gas & Electric No. X-1" on the top tube and a hat-in-ring logo on a decal on the seat tube. With the painted bars and rims we believe it was used by a meter reader during the war.
"I still have the "Victory bike " my Dad bought in 1943, in Pop Thorn's bike shop, Plainfield, NJ., and still very rideable, only repainted, same mechanically. It has outlasted Dad and me! Years ago I saw the identical bike in the American History Museum, but cannot remember the nameplate. Was it Huffman? It was the same as my original, --Can you (the Museum?) help with that name? Thanks! "
"When I was 13, in 1950, I discovered a skinny old bicycle up in the rafters if our garage. Mom told me it was my Dad's old "victory bike ".I pushed it the six blocks to Rice's Bicycle Shop, and Henry cleaned and oilediked it for me. He ordered a pair of skinny tires for it. My buddies were blown away by how FAST it was.. Wish I still had it..like I wish I still had my '57 Bel Air Chevy...??"
"Soon after we moved to a small village in far south western Minnesota in 1943, my mother bought me a bike she called a Victory bicycle. It fit the description on the website; skinny tires, bare frame, painted handlebars, no chain guard - which caused me no end of torn pants until I learned the roll my pant legs up religiously. It served me well until 1948 when my soon-to-be step-father bought me a new fancy Schwinn. There was one other marked difference between the other kids bikes and mine - the coaster brake assembly. All the other bikes had New Departure brakes; mine had one by Harrow (who ever they were). The New Departure used a series of thin steel disks (maybe 17?) half fixed to the wheel and movable and half fixed to the axle and unmovable. One stopped by squeezing the disks together increasing the friction. The Harrow was a completely different system. It had a cylindrical shoe that was fixed to the axle and could be expanded to press against the cylindrical drum holding the wheel. I took considerable ragging because of the "funny " bike."
"The Victory Bike I had was made of wood. I used it to collect papers, magazines, tin foil etc. for the war effort.Bob Renfro, K4OF. "

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