Following the Clues

Recently, the museum received a donation of an old Huffman bicycle. It was well loved and came to the owner second-hand, so there were many questions we needed to answer in order to learn what we had! The bike had few visual clues as many of the stickers had been worn off over time, but after a little cleaning some numbers became clear which allowed us to start researching.

The mystery bike waiting in the storeroom for cleaning and identification.

The mystery bike waiting in the storeroom for cleaning and identification.

The first number found, surprisingly enough, was not the serial number for the bike but for the brakes. They were “Morrow” brand, which was a very popular choice from the beginning of the 1930s until about 1950. To narrow it even further, the number for the breaks began with “K2.” The first letter tells the year they were manufactured; in this case the “K” meant 1941. The number tells the month, “2” is the second month of the year. Therefore, these breaks were made in February of 1941. We had a date! But it was just for the breaks…

Morrow brakes have both their icon on the lever as well as their serial numbers on the drum itself.

Morrow brakes have both their icon on the lever as well as their serial numbers on the drum itself.

There was a serial number on the frame of the bike itself, but it did not match any of the known serial numbers for early Huffman bikes. However, it began with a C and 3, placing it among a few recorded bikes in 1941, confirming the date known for the brakes.  The next step was to research 1941 Huffman ads and records for a model that matched our bicycle. It was difficult to find one that had both the correct year as well as a model that matched, but eventually we learned from an old catalog that it was a Huffman Ladies’ Lightweight Model No. 91. This was great news as the Lightweight Line was an important part in the company’s history.

Huffman was started as the Davis Sewing Machine Company in Dayton, Ohio. It began manufacturing bicycles in 1892 when the owner, George P. Huffman, converted the shop due to the rising popularity of bikes. Business boomed with the Dayton Special Roadster and, later, the Dayton Racer. In 1925, George’s son Horace Huffman sold the sewing business and formed the Huffman Manufacturing Company, focusing only on bicycles. The company survived decreased sales during the Great Depression; by 1941, the company had developed a bike assembly line that greatly increased production. The Lightweight Line was created during that time and boosted the company’s sales enough that they could afford to manufacture bicycles for civilians, as well as assist the U.S. Government during World War II. They managed to send around 4,000 bikes to aid the war effort. After the war, the Huffman Manufacturing Company changed its name to the current world recognizable name, Huffy.

This 1941 Huffman Lightweight bicycle has a connection to World War II, Huffy, and even Dayton, Ohio. However, we never would have known how important it was without a little detective work. Do you have anything in your attic or basement that could be a hidden treasure? Find out! Serial numbers are a great place to start; the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a helpful search tool on their website to help you start your search.

Jessica Sells, Registrar Intern

Sources:

BMX Museum. “Huffy History.” Bikes. Last modified July 5, 2014. Accessed July 17, 2014. http://bmxmuseum.com/bikes/info/152/?pg=3.

Huffman. “The Lightweight Line.” Huffman Bicycle Catalog, 1941.

Huffy Corporation. “Company History.” About Huffy. Last modified 2013. Accessed July 17, 2014. http://www.huffybikes.com/About/History.aspx.

Miller, Jeffrey. “Morrow Hub Dating.” Morrow Artifacts. Accessed July 17, 2014. http://www.strandcruisers.com/morrow/morrow_hub_dating.htm.

Scott [37fleetwood]. “Huffman Serial Number Project” The Cabe, July 20, 2007. Accessed July 17, 2014. http://thecabe.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?1162-Huffman-serial-number-project&p=4329#post4329.

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One Response to Following the Clues

  1. Joan Jones says:

    Nice history!

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