French Riders & American Company
Top riders from the early days of racing – Gaston Rivierre, Constant Huret, and August Stephane – are shown on the flag of this stunning poster for the French chainless bicycle brand Acatène. The poster reveals an American connection with the American tire brand G.J. Vital. What is not visible but certainly fascinating is Acatene, an American-owned company.
Gaston Rivierre – In addition to his commanding victory at Bol d’Or in 1896, Rivierre won the Paris-Brussels classic three consecutive times from 1896-1989. While there was a small handful of riders who won the race three times spread out over several years, it took nearly 60 years for his threepeat to be equaled by Bernard Gauthier from 1954-1957. Rivierre was an avid user of cycling’s new and evolving technologies.
Constant Huret – Huret was a monster of a long-distance rider, both on the track and the road. He won Bol d’Or four times, the 1894 French National Stayer Champion, 1900 World Stayer Champion, 1899 Bordeaux-Paris winner, and holder of an astonishing 9 world records, most of which came from beating his own records. Connecting to posters, it is Huret who is depicted in Toulouse-Lautrec’s famous cycling poster, La Chaine Simpson.
August Stephane – Stéphane competed as a pro between 1891 and 1898. In 1892, he won the second edition of Bordeaux-Paris. In 1894, he won Paris-Spa and placed 2nd in the third edition of Paris-Roubaix in 1898.
The American Company
[In America] …the chainless had a checkered history that is still largely undocumented. The bevel-gear version was invented twice, in 1893 in France by the Metropole firm and in 1892 in Springfield, Massachusetts, by S.A Grant. Grant assigned his patent rights to a new firm organized by a group of investors in Hartford, the League Cycle Co, who had their bicycle on the market by 1893. The bevel gears had to be machined to exacting tolerances, and it appears that League could not do the job in-house, contracting the job to the Leland & Faulconer machine shop in Detroit, at that time acclaimed as the best precision machinists in the nation. (Henry M Leland would go on to found the Cadillac Motor Co). It seems that League could not afford Leland & Faulconer’s work, and the firm folded in late 1894 or early 1895 and was bought up by Pope, who kept the Grant patents and threw away the rest.
Industry insiders apparently believed that the Colonel would re-introduce League’s chainless as soon as the bankruptcy paperwork was settled. [But a] …subsequent two-year delay seems to have resulted from both design and fabrication problems. Norman Clarke, who was president and owner of Pope’s successor firm, the Columbia Manufacturing firm, had several Columbia shaft-drives and noted that hey “always got out of adjustment” …The Metropole L’Acatene did not appear to share this problem.
In late June 1897, the Pope firms slashed the prices of all their bicycles, with the flagship models cut from $100 to $75 …Three weeks after the big announcement, Albert Pope and A.G Spalding sailed off to Europe. George Day, Harry Pope, Henry Souther, and Hayden Eames were already there looking over automobiles, but the fact that the Colonel and Spalding were taking William Redding, Pope’s patent lawyer, raised a few eyebrows. “It is not the habit of either Colonel Pope or Mr. Spalding to start away on an expedition accompanied by an expert in patent matters,” one New York newspaper noted. “Some move is to be made which will have direct bearing upon the cycle business throughout the world.” The trip did not move the world, but Pope did buy the rights to the French Metropole company’s L’Acatene (chainless) bevel gear system, which he combined with the League shaft-drive system he acquired in 1895. On the same trip, he purchased an alternative to the bevel gear system using angled roller bearings from a British concern …Pope introduced his Columbia chainless bicycle in the fall. It cost $125, fifty dollars more than his best chain-drive bicycle.
– Peddling Bicycles to America: The Rise of an Industry, by Bruce D. Epperson, pages 167/8
This poster is an original first printing, not a reproduction.
This poster has been archivally and professionally linen backed. Virtually all original vintage posters of this era were viewed as temporary advertising and were printed on very thin paper. While expensive, linen backing is a conservation method used to mount, stabilize, preserve, and protect vintage posters so they can be displayed or framed without compromising value.
Size: 91.5 x 127.5 cm (36 x 50.2 inches)
This is a one of a kind item; please review the photos carefully to determine the condition.