The Wright Van Cleve Bicycle



 Wright-made bicycles, sold between 1896 and 1900, cost from $30 to $65, depending on the model purchased (the equivalent of roughly $650-$1,400 in 2002).In their best year, 1897, they made $1500 each in times when $500 per year was a good income in the U.S. They introduced several innovations, including sealed bearings, and bicycle pedals that were left or right threaded so that pedaling tended to tighten the pedals rather than loosen them. This technology is still in use today on bicycles Wright models included the Van Cleve, named for one of their ancestral families; the St. Clair, named for Revolutionary general, first governor of the Northwest Territory and founder of Dayton, Arthur St. Clair (1734-1818); and the Wright Special. Five known Wright bicycles exist today; all are owned by museums and are priceless.



Gary Boulanger, owner of Cycles Gaansari, designed two replicas of the 1896 Wright Van Cleve bicycle.

This company is now gone and if you ask me this design missed it’s mark on replicating the Van Cleve. The space between the handle bars and fork in the frame looks off? If they had just made an exact copy with coaster breaks instead of the fix gear would have been the bike I would love to own.


4 Responses to “The Wright Van Cleve Bicycle”

  1. December 17, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    great looking bike! great reading!

  2. 2 Gary
    May 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Hey, I’m a Van Cleve and I gotta have one of those awesome posters: “Van Cleves get there first!” How can I find that? The bike is great and I like the “replica”–it’s more of an homage which I totally respect. I would be interested to know the connection between the Wright family and the Van Cleve family.

    • 3 Hank Davis
      December 24, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      From the Wright State University biography of the Wrights:
      Perhaps the most interesting pioneer of all in the Wright brothers’ ancestry was Catharine (Benham) Van Cleve, the first white woman to set foot in Dayton. Her husband, John Van Cleve, whom she had married in New Jersey, was a descendant of a Van Cleve who had come from Holland to Long Island before 1650. When he proposed, a few years after their marriage, that they should settle in the almost unexplored virgin forest region of Ohio, she liked the adventurous idea. They migrated to Cincinnati – then called Losantiville – in 1790. Within two years after their arrival, John Van Cleve was killed by Indians. His widow married Samuel Thompson and, in April, 1796, they decided to try their luck at a settlement about to be established, fifty miles to the north. The place had just been named in honor of Jonathan Dayton, a Revolutionary soldier. Three groups of people arranged to make the trip at about the same time. So unsettled was the country, and so nearly non-existent were the wagon trails, that the party which included Catharine Van Cleve Thompson preferred to travel in a flat-bottomed boat on the Miami River. The others went by land. Though the boat trip took about ten days, that group was the first to arrive. Among those in the boat were some of the Van Cleve children; another of them was in one of the overland parties. A Van Cleve son, Benjamin, became the first postmaster at Dayton, the first school teacher, and also the first county clerk. His marriage at Dayton in August, 1800, to Mary Whitten, was the first recorded in Montgomery County.

      Margaret Van Cleve, a sister of Benjamin, had stayed in Cincinnati, because she was about to be married – to George Reeder, later an innkeeper. They had a daughter, Catharine, who became the wife of Dan Wright (not named Daniel, but plain Dan, as was also his father), who had come to Centerville, Ohio, near Dayton, in 1811. It was of this union that Milton Wright, father of Wilbur and Orville, was born – in a log cabin in Rush County, Indiana, November 17, 1828.

      • 4 artvan
        December 25, 2012 at 9:44 am

        Mr. Davis, thanks for that fascinating account. There is a park here in Minneapolis called Van Cleve park, named after civil war general Horatio P. Van Cleve. His house is an historic site in northeast Minneapolis. He buried his horse in his yard.

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