As cycling becomes more and more popular, (especially in a tourist destination such as ours that offers beautiful cycling routes) I thought I would talk a little about the bicycles in our Collection.
The bicycle has a long and important history, and we are proud to have not only one of the earliest representations of the bicycle, the Penny Farthing, but two very rare bicycles with extreme local significance.
Many years ago, Dad became friends with a fellow antique collector by the name of Burritt Kerr who was a bit of a local legend and historian. He and Burt would spend hours talking about their interests, and their “finds”. On one of these visits Burt showed Dad a pair of bicycles he had clandestinely removed from the neighbour’s garbage, in original condition. He was aware of the origins of both the ” 1895 Red Bird” and the ” 1897 E & D” and of their importance to local history. It is presumed that both bicycles were sold by the C. Moore company in Bobcaygeon, an 1898 advertisement shows that C. Moore was an agent for Brantford’s Red Bird bicycles in Bobcaygeon. We’re not sure if there is a direct connection to the Moore carriage shop which stood for many years at the present site of the CIBC bank.
Burt knew that the Red Bird had been owned by the first Lock Master of Lock 32 in Bobcaygeon. Lock 32 was the first set of locks to be built in the Trent Severn Waterway in 1883. Thus the Red Bird is forever linked to significant local and Canadian History!
The “E & D” bicycle also belonged to a prominent community member of that time, the Post Master , and may have been purchased from the same agent in Bobcaygeon as the Red Bird.
Burt may not have been aware of their importance to Canada’s industrial history, or of their extreme rarity at that time, but he proudly shared the story with whomever showed an interest. He even went so far as to allow them to stand on display at the Horseless Carriage Museum for a year to further educate the public.
Very sadly, Burt passed away in November 2011 at age 87. His wife Millie, after months of tough contemplation, decided to auction off Burt’s collection, as they had no children to carry on with it.
Civic Holiday Monday (July 2, 2012) was the estate auction of Burritt Kerr of Bobcaygeon presided by Kevin Barker. The highlight or feature of the auction was expected to be Burritt’s two prized bicycles, the Red Bird and the E&D. Of course Dad had every intention of bidding on the Bikes, both for their historical as well as sentimental value. His stiffest competition would be bidders from Pennsylvania, Brantford and Windsor, all private collectors or Museum representative.
Burt’s collection was very large, 300 + cookie tins (Danish Butter cookies, Burt’s favourite) of small trinkets alone!! Thus it was well into the afternoon when the bicycles came up for bid.
At the risk of sounding cliched, the bids came fast and furious, and the price soon climbed higher than anticipated. Dad was holding the higest bid at $5100…..SOLD. The auctioneer said it was by choice, “Pick one or take ‘em both”. Dad’s first choice was the Red Bird, ( for reasons that will be discussed in a later blog) but knew that if he didn’t speak up, the E&D would likely end up in the US, and that would be shameful! So, to the crowds utter surprise, he said he wanted them both….at $5100 EACH!
Many collectors and bicycle enthusiasts crowded ’round as the bikes were loaded for home, trying to get pictures of the unique features possessed by the rare bikes and their “head badges”. This piqued Dad’s curiosity. He had bought the bikes for their local historical significance and general rarity, but he was soon to discover their true Canadian historical importance!!
To be continued………….