In 1890 there were estimated to be 150 000 cyclists in the USA. A bicycle cost the average worker roughly half of his or her annual salary. By 1895, this cost had shrunk to a few week’s wages, and there were a million new cyclists each year! Bicycle manufacturing emerged from its roots as a cottage industry to become Big Business.
Bicycles were manufactured on assembly lines for the first time, and bicycle related innovations accounted for one-third of all US patents during the 1890s. The bicycle even had its own dedicated patent building in Washington, DC.
At the 1895 Stanley bicycle show in London, 200 firms displayed 3 000 models. In 1896, 1.2 million bicycles were produced in America, with Columbia’s 2000 employees producing a bicycle a minute.