February 12, 2007

Schwinn

And the man behind the brand is...
Ignaz Schwinn

Ignaz Schwinn was born in 1860 in the little town of Hardheim in the province of Baden, Germany. His father, the owner of a thriving piano factory, died when Ignaz was eleven, curtailing his formal schooling. He apprenticed to a machinist where he turned out to be a gifted mechanic.

Like most young men of the age Schwinn was fascinated with the “wonder of the age,” the high wheel bicycle. Seeking work he moved from town to town working on bicycles and bicycle parts whenever he could find the opportunity.
In northern Germany he studied the new “Safety” bicycles imported from England.

Technology was advancing rapidly with the new bicycles and many people, conservative villagers, were slow to respond to the “Safety” bicycles. Schwinn was enthusiastic, however, and purchased a drawing board where he could work out his own bicycle designs at night after his regular job. He showed his designs to Heinrich Kleyer, a bicycle maker and customer of Schwinn’s machine shop.
Kleyer was impressed and hired Schwinn to design and manufacture bicycles. These were some of the very first “Safety” bicycles produced in Germany.

Desiring to participate in the fast-moving technological advances occurring in America Schwinn scraped together the funds to come to Chicago and the great World’s Fair in the early 1890s. He worked around town designing bicycles and planning bicycle factories when he teamed with Adolf Arnold in 1895 to form Arnold, Schwinn & Company.

Schwinn designed the product and the tools to make it, selected machinery
and equipment, engaged the personnel and set up the factory. Annual production estimates at the time were set at approximately 25,000 units. Schwinn’s bicycles proved exceedingly popular and Arnold’s superior business ability gave the business a solid foundation.

In 1908, after several expansions, Schwinn bought the interests of his partner and became sole owner. Schwinn consistently brought design innovations to the bicycle industry. He sponsored bicycle racing which accelerated the development of high performance parts that provided increasing value to consumer bikes.

During World War II Schwinn, then in his eighties, devoted all his time,
energy and resources to the production of war materials, as he had in 1917.
For his efforts Schwinn & Company was awarded the Army and Navy “E” for excellence of its war production performance. Devoted, as always, to the production of his bicycles Schwinn visited the plant every day until his death in 1948.

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