Just as it says on the packet, some of the cartoons that made the pioneers chuckle, or maybe wince.Also unearthed are some illustrations that have more to do with whimsy than humour and others that are simply lovely sketches. In any case, like the poems, they offer an insight into those early days on the road. You’ll also find cigarette cards, badges and (including postcards , thanks to my chum Francois, some French cards that are tres joli). Enjoy.
When riders were on tour they wanted to send postcards home, particularly if the postcards had bikes on.
Another whimsical bike, circa 1909. The period caption ran: “What speed could it attain with this seven-cylinder rotary engine?”
Ride the bike, fly the bike…
It’s-a-long-shot-but-it-might-just-work dept: “The Post Office are setting a lead in the commercial use of the motor-bicycle, and motorcycling postal services are proving very efficient. Knowing the great speed capacity of the modern machine, may we not one day see a motor-bicycle non-stop postal service? Our artist’s suggestion provides for taking up petrol and post without stopping.”
This rub tickler also dates from 1909: “I hear poor Scorcher ran into a wall and broke his jaw. How’s he getting on?” “Oh! he cannot complain.” Go on, laugh.
As the caption writer put it in 1910: “The joy of the open road! What can compare with the pleasure of the motor cyclist when weather is fine and engine runs well.”
“Pixby, after earnest entreaty from Mrs P, has purchased a twin two-speed machine with sidecar at the show (instead of the high-power single-cylinder solo he had in view) and wonders whether the placard is applicable.” Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, innit?
1910 caption…She: “Do motor cyclists often lose their lives?” He: “Not more than once.” Yes, this joke is THAT old.
Here’s the politically incorrect caption… Mick: “Goodness, Pat, and phwat is that?” Pat: “Shure now, and the wicked motor cyclist must have run over a perambulator and can’t get disentangled at all, at all.”
Published in the Green ‘Un, in 1911, captioned “Far from the madding crowd”.
Inspired by Brooklands circa 1908…
Inspired by Brooklands circa 1913: “The racing sidecar becomes more an object of interest every day: our artist who attended the last Brooklands meeting has put on paper his impressions of existing conditions, and ideas of possible future developments in racing sidecar design.”
From the Christmas 1911 edition of the Blue ‘Un.
Trials were getting tougher by the year; this whimsy dates from 1913.
From 1914, and rather charming…
Here’s a charming trio of postcards from La Belle France. The caption they each carry tells the story: “We often need someone smaller than ourselves”
The sentiment on this card, depicting a French DR and his best girl, will strike a chord with many of us whose first romance was sparked by our first motor cycle: “And to see this gaze that bewitched me sooner, I’ll burn along the road.”
This one (and the illustration that follows it) are by Georges Mouton who was a highly regarded French illustrator. They appear here courtesy of my chum Francois. Merci, mon ami.
Judging by the next two images, bulls were a recurring nightmare for French motorists…
As shown by the following series of six illustrations, the Italians have a style all their own:
Here are a couple that are clearly English…
Meanwhile, de l’autre côté de La Manche…
“Locomotion across the ages: The petrol tricycle—the bane of pedestrians who are too slow to get out of its way—is one of the most distasteful means of locomotion. Its unpleasant smell, the nervous fatigue suffered by the rider, have done much to slow down the vogue of the petrol tricycle, which is gradually being replaced by light carts or automobiles powered by electricity or mineral spirits.”
“Here is the fast but noisy petrol tricycle. It passes by, with a pace that is too often haphazard, crushing here and there the legs of dogs that are too indiscreet, jostling the passer-by who does not park quickly enough, raising a whirlwind of dust that fills the air-and our smells-with the unpleasant fumes of its oil. When it is stopped, it is there blowing, spitting, panting, shaking, like an apocalyptic monster, a fantastic animal that one finds hard to believe was born by progress. But the petrol tricycle is fading away, gradually replaced by the light carts or the automobiles, the powerful motors, powered by electricity or mineral spirits. Judging by the improvements which these last vehicles are receiving at every moment, the petroleum tricycle, with its nervous exhaustion for those who ride it, will soon have passed away and will be relegated to the pages of history, in the same way as the ancient wooden velocipede or the penny-farthing.”
“The motor cycle is very common today and matches the speeds reached by cars, with low consumption and great manoeuvrability. With internal combustion engines of 2, 3 or 5hp they easily carry two people, at 40-50km/h; they are often fitted with a third wheel, a light body equipped with a comfortable seat. This is the sidecar.”
“The motor cyclist has lost his monkey wrench. Can you see it?”
“The motor cycle has become very popular since it has been turned into a real sports machine. A rear seat allows to take a passenger, which also increases the stability of the vehicle, the motor cycle is very manoeuvrable and the cost of its maintenance is extremely low.”
Just arrived, the latest batch of illustrations from the seemingly bottomless archive of my buddy Fanfan. I enjoyed them, I think you will too.
This one is clearly an illustration from a humorous yarn but its well worth a look in its own right.
Yes, time was when bike thieves wore a suit and tie. But a scumbag is still a scumbag.
Not every badge tells a story, but this one does. In 1917, when this badge was made, the Henderson marque passed into the hands of Ignaz Schwinn, who owned Excelsior. The Excelsior name was already used in England and Germany so export models were marketed as the American-X.
These two badges are Excelsior too, but the proper Excelsior, made in Brummagen.
Another badge with a story. When AJS went into voluntary liquidation in 1931the Stevens brothers set up a shoestring operation and, over the next seven years, produced about 1,000 excellent 250, 350 and 500cc singles under the Stevens marque. This is their badge.
No story here; but this (probably 1950s) Panther badge is rather fine.
New Imperial was one of the great pioneer manufacturers, and they made a pretty badge too.
You wouldn’t think the reatreat from Moscow would be an obvious subject for a French oil ad…”A motorised Grande Armee such as the emperor would undoubtedly have created if he had known about motorcycle and the new Kervoline”.