Monday, May 3, 2021

Bike Shops Advertise Motorcycles during Bicycle Week in 1921

Probably margins were higher on motorcycles than bicycles, and clearly there was coop advertising available for motorcycles also, but it is interesting nonetheless that for National Bicycle Week in 1921, the Salem bike shops didn't run any promotions, and focused on the motorcycle trade instead.

April 30th, 1921

No ad in Salem this year
The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer
Bridgeport, CT
April 30th, 1921

Scott's had been selling both motorcycles and bicycles during the 19-teens for several years, so it was not some new line of business. But the emphasis was new.

March 19th, 1921

Later in the summer they did run a big subscription drive and contest for a Harley bicycle with the morning paper.

Ran all summer, July 9th, 1921

Two seasons previous they had specifically advertised Harley bicycles for girls.

November 8th, 1919

The Harley brand was a little different back then, and it is interesting to see both lines, bicycles and motorcycles, at Scott's.

Later in the month: for kids (note scouts tie-in)
May 29th, 1921

The erosion of bicycling and its image as a kids toy was gradual, and there may not be any cusp or stair step when things really pivoted with steep declines in sales and use.

But this choice to advertise motorcycles instead of bicycles may be a kind of milestone in the decline. We have already seen Otto J. Wilson talking in 1902 about a revival, a different subscription drive with a bike prize in 1915, and Scott's advertising in 1920 to "buy a bicycle for your boy" and using nostalgia in the pitch, so the shift from adult transportation to kids toy was already well underway.

This choice not to advertise bicycles is an intensification of an existing trend then, not some new thing. But the othering of bikes and their riders, something we still do now, is increasingly dominant. Earlier in the month the auto section had a note about gearing and placed bikes genially, but firmly, as something from "the earlier days," no longer current or esteemed. They are talking about single-speed models:

We used to look with tolerant amusement on the owner of a low geared bicycle, whose feet seemed to fly around while the bicycle itself was hardly moving, and we used to look with a great amount of respect on the man whose bicycle went over the ground at a high rate of speed while his feet seemed to be barely In motion.

April 2nd, 1921

Even so, society beauties might be pictured, a little awkwardly, having "adopted the bicycling fad." The elite at leisure might trifle with them. Already we have the complex image of the elite bicyclist at leisure, kids biking at play, and the poor having no car.

February 25th, 1921

Previously, Bike Weeks in 1918, 1919, and 1920.

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