The Distinguished History of
Schwinn Bicycles is a legend in the bicycle industry. Well known for its quality craftsmanship, the company was started in 1895 as Arnold, Schwinn & Company by mechanical engineer Ignaz Schwinn. Ignaz was born in Hardheim, Baden, Germany in 1860. While there, he tinkered with the ancestors of the modern day bicycle that were circulating through Europe at the time.
In 1891 he immigrated to the United States and 4 years later, with partner Adolf Arnold, started his bicycle company. They were fortunate enough to enter the industry during the biggest bicycle booms in history when an estimated 1 million bicycles were built and sold by 60 bicycle manufacturers. The company quickly rose to become one of the dominant American bicycle manufacturers.
However, Schwinn Bicycles has had its fair share of ups and downs like any company. The bicycle craze subsided and sales dropped dramatically. The company successfully added a line of motorcycles to their business which thrived. However when the stock market crashed and brought about the Great Depression, the motorcycle industry took a nosedive as well. The company was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy and had to discontinue manufacturing motorcycles in 1931. Ignaz Schwinn’s son, Frank Schwinn, took over operation of the company and helped developed a low cost bicycle that was able to sell during the economic downturn and keep the company afloat.
The company began sponsoring a bicycle racing team lead by Emil Wastyn. From that experience, they developed a line of high end bicycles, called Paramount, that were designed for competitive cycling. In the 1950, Frank Schwinn worked to expand the company and moved to sell their bicycles under their own name in department stores rather than have them rebranded. He recruited bicycle retailers to sell Schwinn bicycles exclusively and his hard work paid off as the company’s market share grew. They campaigned to dominate the youth market and by the 1960s had developed a 10speed bicycle that imitated what was being developed in Europe.
The company’s market share dipped during the seventies as they failed to capitalize on a couple of emerging trends such as BMX bicycles and mountain bikes. By the late seventies, the company had been taken over by Edward Schwinn Jr. and began having problems internally which resulted in a loss of market share. Sales continued to spiral downward until the company was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1982.
Eventually Schwinn Bicycles was purchased with GT Bicycle by Pacific Cycle in 2001. Three years later in 2004, Dorel Industries purchased Pacific Cycle. Schwinn sells a line of branded bikes as a subsidiary of Dorel Industries today.
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