Craigslist find. Vintage Columbia tandem bike. Made by America’s oldest bicycle company, this two-seater has distant brass era auto cousins.

Many early bicycle companies became car companies. The Jeffries Rambler for instance was a bicycle before it was a car. Same with the Rover. Columbia was the biggest name in bicycles in the U.S. (indeed in the pre-WWI era Columbia was the biggest name in bicycles period) prior to the rise of Schwinn. So it would be natural that it had automobile relatives.

Colonel Augustus Pope who founded Columbia also tried his hand at automobiles and was involved at one point or another in several different companies. The first, naturally enough was the Columbia, which was an electric. He went on to involvement in several brands, probably the most well known of which were the Pope-Toledo and the Pope-Hartford.

Advertisement

Unfortunately the man who brought the bicycle to America didn’t have lasting success in the automobile field. He died bankrupt and penniless in 1909. The last Pope-Hartford was made in 1914.

The bicycle company went through a succession of owners, Torrington, MTD, and finally independent in 1988 they exited the bicycle business in the 1990s and now make school furniture. Sadly, in 2008 the victorian era factory in Westfield, MA which had made bicycles (including my tandem above) for nearly a century was torn down.

Advertisement

Here’s a video from the Fountainhead Museum in Fairbanks, Alaska showing off their Pope-Toledo: