Sunday, December 9, 2012

We Are Having A Heavenly Time: Columbia Bicycles of Westfield

Here are two vintage Columbia bikes parked in front of The Antique Center of Northampton. Did you know that Columbia Bicycles has local roots In Westfield?  Colonel Albert Pope, a captain in the Civil War, founded Pope Manufacturing in Boston in 1877 and sold bicycles imported from England. In 1878 he joined forces with the Weed Sewing Machine Co. and started manufacturing bicycles in Hartford.  Pope died in 1909 at the age of 66  and in 1914 the main offices were moved to Westfield as The Pope Manufacturing Company.  In 1916  the company reorganized and renamed The Westfield Manufacturing Company. The catalogs stated that they were “successors to The Pope Manufacturing Company”.  In 1961 the company was renamed Columbia Manufacturing Company. It remains to this day making the tubular school furniture that they began making in 1953. Since 1988 bicycle production in Westfield has been limited. The reproduction 1941 and the blue 125th Anniversary bike were made in the Westfield plant. They continue to sell a Columbia line of imported bicycles. In 2008  several of the original factory buildings in Westfield were torn down including the main building on Cycle St. and the building that housed the museum.
 Salesmen in front of the Hartford offices with Chainless bikes.

The Westfield factory in 1948, above

The Famous Westfield Pope Smokestack

In 2008 several of the original factory buildings were torn down including the main building on Cycle St. and the building that housed the museum.

Judging by his resemblance to my friend Mike Huntoon, I'm guessing Richard B. Huntoon, Comptroller, pictured above, is Mike's dad! Mike was in early '80s W. Mass punk band The Vandalz among other assorted combos.

From 1876 to 1906 American engraver Frank Leslie published “Popular Monthly” magazine. In the November 1881 issue he ran an article titled “Bicycle-Making Where and how bicycles are made. This involved an extensive tour of the Hartford Connecticut factories of The Pope Mfg Co. and their offices in Boston Massachusetts. Presented here (click the Popular Monthly mast-head.) is that article including the illustrations.

A whimsical ad for Columbia, above. Caption reads: "WE ARE HAVING A HEAVENLY TIME !" Note the Pope Manufacturing name on the sign. This image was used for an R.E.M T-shirt in the 80s, below.

Mr. Columbia: A Website run by a Columbia Bicycles buff.

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