Pope Manufacturing Company

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Pope Manufacturing Company
Type Bicycle and Automobile Manufacturing
Founded 1878
Founders Albert Augustus Pope
Headquarters Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Area served United States
Products Bicycles, Motorcycles, Automobiles
Automotive parts
Columbia Model 40 Mens Safety Bicycle, 1895
Columbia Model 41 Ladies Safety Bicycle, 1895

Pope Manufacturing Company was founded by Albert Augustus Pope in 1877 in Boston, Massachusetts.[1] Manufacturing began in 1878 in Hartford, Connecticut, at the Weed Sewing Machine Company factory.[1] Pope manufactured bicycles, under the Columbia brand, motorcycles, and automobiles. It ceased automobile production in 1915, and ceased motorcycle production in 1918, but bicycles are still available under the Columbia brand.


The company began with the introduction of the "Columbia High Wheeler" bicycle in 1878.[2] After the introduction of the high wheeler, Pope bought Pierre Lallement's original patent for the bicycle, and aggressively bought all other bicycle patents he could find, amassing a fortune by restricting the types of bicycles other American manufacturers could make and charging them royalties.[2] He used the latest technologies in his bicycles—inventions such as ball bearings in all moving parts, and hollow steel tubes for the frame, and he spent a great deal of money promoting bicycle clubs, journals, and races.[2]

Pope Manufacturing was an innovator in the use of stamping for the production of metal parts. Until 1896, the company was the leading US producer of bicycles. In 1914, the main offices of Pope were moved to Westfield, Massachusetts. However, in 1915, the Pope Manufacturing Company filed for bankruptcy. In 1916 Pope was reorganized and renamed The Westfield Manufacturing Company. The catalogs stating that they are “successors to The Pope Manufacturing Company”. In 1933, Westfield Manufacturing became a subsidiary of The Torrington Company of Torrington, Connecticut. In December 1960 and independent corporation was formed, and in 1961 was renamed Columbia Manufacturing Company. In 1967, Columbia Mfg. Co. merged with MTD. In 1987, Columbia Mfg. filed for bankruptcy. In 1988, Columbia was purchased by some of the local management and reorganized as Columbia Manufacturing Company and was no longer part of MTD. Bicycle production remains limited to this day, but import and sale of foreign bicycles continue.


Further information: Pope Model L
1914 Pope motorcycle

Pope began manufacturing motorized bicycles in 1902 and continued with motorcycles until 1918.[3]


1978 Columbia moped

Columbia mopeds were the first mopeds ever assembled in the United States, even though the motor and some other parts were not made there. The tubular frames, seats, fenders, wheels, hubs, brakes, front fork assembly, headlight, and wiring harnesses were made in the United States.[4]

The majority of Columbia mopeds were powered with a 47cc Sachs 505/1A, though some were powered by a Solo motor. Even though the Sachs 505/1A motor is designed for rear coaster-brakes, Columbia chose to use a Magura hand lever and cable for the rear brake.

  • There are 2 models that are the most abundant frame types for Columbia, both of which went by the same name of Columbia Commuter. The pressed steel frame was Sachs powered only, while the tube frame model had either the Sachs or the Solo motor.
  • The top-tank Columbia Medallion, also known as the Western Flyer, is a very unique design for Columbia mopeds. Essentially, the frame of the bike is identical to the tube frame Commuter, but it has a plastic gas tank that reaches from the seat to the steering column.
  • The "Western Flyer" name came on all frame types, and is not specific to any model. These bikes were sold under the name "Western Flyer" instead of Columbia.

In the late 1980s, Columbia sold the rights and design of their mopeds to a company, KKM Enterprises, Inc. that produced identical mopeds under the name Mopet into the mid-1990s. This company produced the tubular frames, long seats, fenders, wheels, hubs, brakes, front fork assembly, headlight, and wiring harnesses in the United States.


  • Columbia "Commuter"
  • Columbia "Imperial"
  • Columbia "Medallion 2271"
  • Columbia "Medallion 2281"
  • Columbia "Model 57062"
  • Columbia "Model 2251"
  • Columbia "Model 2241"
  • Columbia "Motrek"
  • Columbia "Western Flyer"


1907 Pope Toledo

In 1897, Pope Manufacturing began production of an electric automobile.[5] By 1899, the company had produced over 500 vehicles. Hiram Percy Maxim was head engineer of the Motor Vehicle Department. The Electric Vehicle division was spun off that year as the independent company Columbia Automobile Company but it was acquired by the Electric Vehicle Company by the end of the year.[5]

Pope tried to re-enter the automobile manufacturing market in 1901 by acquiring a number of small firms, but the process was expensive and competition in the industry was heating up.

Between the years 1903 and 1915, the company operated a number of automobile companies including Pope-Hartford (1903-1914), Pope-Robinson, Pope-Toledo (1903-1909), Pope-Tribune (1904-1907) and Pope-Waverley.[6]

Pope declared bankruptcy in 1907[5] and died in August 1909.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Columbia History". Columbia Manufacturing Inc. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  2. ^ a b c Herlihy, David V. (2004). Bicycle, The History. Yale University Press. pp. 184–192. ISBN 0-300-10418-9. 
  3. ^ "Pope Motor Bikes & Motorcycles". MrColumbia. Retrieved 2012-01-16. 
  4. ^ "Columbia - MopedWiki". MopedArmy. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  5. ^ a b c David Corrigan. "The Columbia Cars Are Born". Hog River Journal - Exploring CT History. Retrieved 2012-01-16. 
  6. ^ "American Automobiles - Manufacturers". Farber and Associates, LLC - 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  7. ^ Daniel Vaughan (Aug 2005). "1911 Pope-Hartford Model W news, pictures, and information". Conceptcarz.com. 
Preceded by
Flat twin
Fastest production motorcycle
Succeeded by
Cyclone V-twin

Further reading[edit]

  • "Bicycle-Making: Where and How Bicycles are Made." Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly v.12 no.5, November 1881.
  • "Pope Manufacturing Company." Moses King, ed. King's handbook of New York city: an outline history and description of the American metropolis. 1892
  • "The Progress of a great industry." Outing (Advertising Supplement), v.19, no.6, 1892
  • "Pope Bicycle building burned; only the walls remain of the handsome Boston headquarters of the Columbia Wheel." New York Times, March 13, 1896
  • David A. Hounshell. From the American system to mass production, 1800-1932. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1984
  • Bruce Epperson. Failed Colossus: Strategic Error at the Pope Manufacturing Company, 1878-1900." Technology and Culture, Vol. 41, No. 2 (Apr., 2000), pp. 300–320

External links[edit]