Peoria County, Illinois Genealogy Trails

Bicycle Manufacturing Industries

“A Brief History of Peoria” by Democratic State Central Committee? 1896.
Transcribed by Genealogy Trails Staff

by H. G. Rouse


    From the earliest days of the sport. Peoria has occupied a prominent position in the history of cycling.  Geo. W. Rouse & Son (now Rouse, Hazard & Co.) were among the first firms in the United States
with sufficient confidence in the future of the bicycle business to enter it. in-what was then considered an extensive manner. In '79 this firm began the business which has since become so extensive. They were the first firm in the United States to sell bicycles upon easy payments without extra charge. So popular was this inovation [sic] that they soon found themselves shipping bicycles to all parts of the United States and Canada. By judicious advertising in nearly all the principal publications of large circulation in the United States, they extended their business until they were known everywhere.

    As the business grew, increased facilities had to be provided. In the early days of bicycling the majority of the machines ridden in America were imported from England. Rouse, Hazard & Co. did a
large export business, controlling then well-known English makes for the entire United States and Canada. As American bicycle manufacturing industries increased, Rouse, Hazard & Co. made arrangements with some of the now leading makers, whereby their wheels were built for them to their specifications, and under their name by contract.

    They were frequently urged to establish a factory of their own, but realizing that it would take a very large capital, and that it would very largely increase their already heavy responsibilities, they hesitated to put in their own plant for manufacturing, although their long experience in designing their bicycles, and inspecting their manufacture in other factories rendered them eminently well-equipped to do so.

    In 1894, however, their business had increased to an extent such that although they were having three large factories build as many machines for them as they could procure, still they were far from able to supply their increasing trade. They, therefore, made arrangements whereby a complete factory with its superintendents employes and machinery was removed to Peoria, and in 1895 something more than 4,000 machines were turned out from this factory.  In 1895 their present factory with a capacity of 20,000 machines per annum, equipped with the most modern and expensive machinery, was put into operation, and is now engaged night and day in supplying their rapidly increasing trade on Sylphs and Overland Cycles. This factory employs between 300 and 400 expert mechanics, the majority of whom draw the highest salaries.

    In the meantime the F. F. Ide Mfg. Co., had taken the old Peoria Watch Factory, and had begun manufacturing bicycles in 1893 under contract for Rouse. Hazard & Co. After the first year, however, they began the manufacture of the now famous Ide high art bicycles, which are now known throughout the United States and in many foreign countries. This factory during the past year has doubled its capacity, and now employs 225 men.
    In 1895, through the efforts of Mr. Chas. E- Duryea, the well, known inventor of the Duryea Motocycle [sic], the Duryea tire, the Duryea bicycle saddle, etc., etc., Mr. Monroe Sieberling. then of Kokomo, Ind., was interested in Peoria, and in that year built and equipped the Peoria Rubber & Manufacturing Company's plant, which, together with the Rouse, Hazard »!v Co. factories, now stand at Peoria Heights. This factory, which is making the Patee bicycle, has a capacity of 20,000 bicycles per annum, and in addition thereto, a capacity of 50,000 pairs of rubber tires. It employs between 400
and 500 men, the majority of whom are expert mechanics drawing large wages. A large proportion of the employes in this, as in the other factories, were brought to Peoria with their families from other cities, and hence have very largely increased the population of our beautiful city.

    Early in the present year Messrs. Luthy & Co., for many years extensive jobbers of farm machinery and carriages, and jobbers in a small way of bicycles, became convinced of the permanency of the bicycle business, and established a factory which is now producing the "Luthy " bicycle. Their start was so late, however, that they are turning out but a limited number of machines this year, intending to largely increase their plant for 1897.

    All four of the Peoria factories are turning out strictly first-class bicycles, and their fame and reputation are now world wide. Rouse. Hazard A Co., have for several years past done a lare [sic] export business, sending their goods regularly to South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The Ide factory is, also, doing the same, and the two newer industries will, doubtless, develop along the same lines.

    The Peoria Rubber & Manufacturing Co., is already planning a large addition to its already extensive works. Rouse, Hazard & Co., are at present installing a large quantity of additional machinery of the finest make, and will be in position to largely increase their output for 1897.


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