The birth of the bicycle industry

The birth of the bicycle industry

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  • Velocipede of the Parisian Company.

    BARENNE Charles

  • The Clément & Compagnie workshops. French manufacturer of velocipedes.


Velocipede of the Parisian Company.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

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Title: The Clément & Compagnie workshops. French manufacturer of velocipedes.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1890

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: National Museum of Car and Tourism website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzisite web

Picture reference: 99-011832 / CMV.1303

The Clément & Compagnie workshops. French manufacturer of velocipedes.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Publication date: July 2011

Historical context

The Parisian Company and Clément et Cie: two pioneering industries

In 1861, the Parisian coachbuilder and wheelwright Pierre Michaux (1813-1885) perfected the balance bike by adding pedals: the “modern” velocipede was born. To respond to the growing popular success and ensure the manufacture of his machines, the inventor founded the "Maison Michaux" in 1865, renamed La Compagnie Parisienne after its takeover by the Olivier brothers in 1869. Dating back to 1869, Velocipede of the Parisian Company represents one of those bikes that came out of the workshops of the Company

ensuring the role of both documentary and "advertising" to make the invention known to a growing audience of curious and amateurish people.

It was on the basis of Michaux's success that Adolphe Clément (1855-1928) founded his own production workshop in Lyon in 1877, cycles Clément SA. He then opened in 1878 a large workshop in Paris (rue Brunel in the 17e borough). Produced in large quantities, the bicycles are now manufactured in an industrial and mechanized manner, as suggested by the drawing executed in 1890, The Clément et Compagnie workshops. French manufacturer of velocipedes.

Image Analysis

The bicycle factory

Sure Velocipede of the Parisian Company, we can see in profile a “Michaux type” (or “michaudine”) velocipede from 1869. Characteristic of the models of the time, it is equipped with pedals and a front wheel with a diameter greater than that of the wheel. rear (innovation dating from 1865). Note the metal frame and the iron-rimmed wooden wheels (the rubber "tire" did not develop until 1890).

The Clément et Compagnie workshops. French manufacturer of velocipedes represents two floors of the establishment located in Paris. In vast, deep rectangular rooms, with wooden floors, walls and pillars, many workers are working. With the center of the upper space open to the engine room (with pulleys connected to the ceiling, and with cranks) located below, it is on the sides that the men are busy at the assembly tables. Below, the aisles are intended for the bodywork (we see workers using hammers) while the center of the room is filled with mechanized stations which extend as far as the eye can see in the depth and whose number seems, of this fact, infinite. Only a frame (in the foreground at the top) discreetly recalls the bicycle.


From the workshop to the factory

In 1869, the workshops of the Parisian Company produced between 100 and 200 velocipedes of the 1869 type per day. If it is no longer a simple craft, then Velocipede of the Parisian Company nevertheless chooses to present and enhance (decor behind the bike) a “unique” and still relatively rare finished product.

Conversely, The Clément et Compagnie workshops. French manufacturer of velocipedes insists more on the industrial power of the place. The bicycle is not, moreover, highlighted (except indirectly by the wheels of the machines) or "individualized", the representation being more attached to testifying to the activity (of men and machines) linked to the new economy. cycle. An activity that seems to always develop, as the artist emphasizes in his use of perspective. More anonymous, the bicycle becomes an object of great consumption and its production appears very modern.

  • factory
  • bike


Pryor DODGE, The great history of cycling, Paris, Flammarion, 1996. Louis FIGUIER, “Velocipede, its origins and its first applications”, The scientific and industrial year of 1868, Paris, 1969, p.127-131.Keizo KOBAYASHI , History of the velocipede from Drais to Michaux, 1871-1876, myths and realities.Bicycle culture center, Tokyo, 1993.Francis ROBIN, Des centraliens at the origin of the cycle industry, in Centraliens n ° 591, Paris, January 2009.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The birth of the bicycle industry"

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