Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 125,184 pages of information and 195,063 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

American Star

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56" American Star.
c1985 at the Dutch International rally, Valkenswaard.

George W. Pressey first registered patented No.233640 on 26th October 1880 for this design. One month later, November 23rd he improved the design and registered the improved machine Patent No.234722.

The bicycle was manufactured by H. B. Smith Machine Co, Smithville, New Jersey, U.S.A.

By 1884 the machine had become part of the American Cycling culture, often raced against the High Wheel Ordinary bicycle (Penny-Farthing) when upon leaving the start line it shot away like a ‘rocket’ due to rider being able to press down at the same time on both treadles. Once moving the action could then be varied according to the machines speed.

Drive was via a pair of independent treadle mechanisms/clutches instead of a crank and drive was transferred to the rear wheel by a leather strap linked with the ratchet mechanism.

A spring attached to the ratchet rewound the strap and the treadle arm when the foot was raised. A real unique feature of the period was that the attachment point of the leather strap could be moved to provide multiple gear ratios and this together with the fact that both treadles could pressed simultaneously, individually or alternate made it a sort after machine with enthusiasts then and now.

Towards the end of the machines popularity the pneumatic tyre had been re-developed and several machines survive fitted with such tyres.

In 1885 as a publicity stunt, a Star machine was ridden down the steps of the USA Capitol Building, a photo of this event being well published around the world then and since.

1895, Copeland fitted a steam engine to a Star machine thus creating an Early motorcycle.[1]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. By A. H. C. Pickering