A Bicycle and Automobile Pioneer Passes Away

April 2, 1910

Thomas Buckland Jeffery, a pioneering manufacturer of bicycles and automobiles, died at the age of 65 while vacationing in Pompeii, Italy. Jeffery was born in Stoke, England, in 1845. He immigrated to the United States when he was 18 and settled in Chicago.

Jeffery went into the bicycle business several years later. In 1879, he and R. Philip Gormully established Gormully & Jeffery (G&J) Manufacturing Company in Chicago and started producing a type of bicycle known as the Rambler. By 1900, the company was the second largest manufacturer of bicycles in the United States.

One of Jeffery’s major contributions to the bicycle industry involved inventing the clincher pneumatic tire. Previous bicycle tires were similar to garden hoses. Those tires were affixed to the bicycle rims by glue. The idea was that air pressure would hold the tires tightly against the rims, but unfortunately that type of tire sometimes fell off the rims instead. Jeffery’s clincher pneumatic tire was safer since it had a wire — embedded in the rubber of the tire – that could be tightened onto the rim and kept in place.

As the 19th century approached its close, Jeffery’s interests steadily gravitated to another mode of transportation. He built his first automobile, a Rambler motor car, in 1897. The vehicle was a single-cylinder automobile with bicycle wheels. Jeffery subsequently sold his stake in G&J so that he could devote all of his time and energies to manufacturing automobiles. He founded the Thomas B. Jeffery Company for this purpose and bought a one-time bicycle factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to build more Rambler motor cars. Jeffery’s new enterprise proved to be highly successful, and by 1902 he was second only to Ransom Olds in the mass production of automobiles.

Jeffery’s estimable reputation extended beyond the world of transportation. “Mr. Jeffery was a well-known philanthropist,” reported Automobile Topics magazine a few days after he died in Italy. “He had accumulated large wealth in both the bicycle and automobile manufacturing business and he had always given liberally to both private and public charities.”

For more information on Thomas B. Jeffery, please check out https://www.hemmings.com/blog/article/thomas-b-jeffery/.

Additional information on the Thomas B. Jeffery Company is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_B._Jeffery_Company.

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