Somewhere along the line in my collecting of vintage bicycle ephemera, I got interested in Morgan & Wright, a Chicago company that, at one point during the bicycle boom at the end of the 19th century, was the world's largest manufacturer of bicycle tires. As usual with the things that I end up specifically collecting, something about the aesthetic of their ad design or somesuch attracted me originally, and it went from there. Morgan & Wright was founded in 1891 by Fred Morgan and Rufus Wright, while the pneumatic safety bicycle was still fairly young, and the bicycle boom was just coming into flower. besides tires, they also produced other tire-related items (pumps, patch kits, tire repair accessories...) and other bicycle products (pedal rubbers, rubber toe clips, chain lubricant), and distributed a variety of other bicycle-related sundries through their catalogue. With the advent of the 20th century, the company gradually turned to the early automobile rubber market, moved to Detroit around 1906, and was bought by the U.S.Rubber Company around 1911 (a 1912 supply catalogue i have refers to M & W tires now being marked as U.S. tire), and later became Uniroyal. For the purposes of these pages, I'm concerned with their tenure in Chicago and time in Detroit up until the purchase by U.S. Tire, while they were still focussed at least primarily (if not exclusively) on bicycle products.
One of M & W's most important developments in the world of bike tires was their quick-repair tire, which they patented 09 oct 1894. It allowed for on-the-road repairs by having a loose flap of rubber running through the entire length of the innertube, which would serve as a patch when glue was injected through the puncture hole with a special injector The cement injector was patented 09 apr 1895, and tubes were made available through the catalogue in that year, though tires fitted with the quick-repair tubes were not available until 1896.
These pages are one part documentation of items listed in Morgan & Wright catalogues and advertisements during their 20-year history, and one part images of Morgan & Wright items in my personal collection, with gaps filled in by images from other sources. The intention is to give an idea of what's out there. eventually i will get off my butt and research some of this stuff a bit more, in order to make this page a better research tool, but all in due time. As time passes, I'll be researching the history of Morgan & Wright in the bicycle industry more as well.
Photographs marked with an asterisk (*) are of items not from my collection. Drawings are taken from M & W catalogues.
Anyone with further information to add should certainly contact me!
M & W commonly sponsored both racers and racing events. While not actually "sponsored" by M & W, one of the most notable of these (though not truly a "race") was the 1894 Washington DC - Denver relay organized by the Illinois Division of the League of American Wheelmen, which was designed to demonstrate the viability of the bicycle as a means of urgent delivery over any distance. 469 riders composed the relay effort, and completed the route in just over 6.5 days, proving the bicycle's effectiveness as a means of urgent long distance transport, and providing M & W with plenty of ad copy, as fully one-third of the riders involved were using their tires.
Just like manufacturers in today's bicycle industry, the yearly bike shows attracted all the major vendors of bicycles and components, and the extravagant booths and flashy gimmicks found in many of them make it obvious that very little has changed in the bike industry in the past 100 years... M & W's booth at the 1895 Chicago show, one of the biggest trade shows of the day, is no exception.
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