Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We Need a Tourist Attraction--Let's Go Buy It!

In 1895, a thirty-five year old German immigrant, Ignaz Schwinn, incorporated the Schwinn Bicycle Company in Chicago. The company quickly became an innovator in the industry, introducing such innovations as a two inch wider tire than earlier bikes and a larger spring-supported seat, both of which provided a much more comfortable ride. As a kid I always rode a Schwinn and dreamt of riding the new String-Ray model when it was introduced in 1963.

Our first major industrial project was building a new bicycle plant and it always fascinated me to see how a new bicycle was built in my many visits to that plant when it was in operation. A dozen years ago I visited the Schwinn Bicycle Museum, near Chicago’s Navy Pier, but problems at the company still owned by the Schwinn family resulted in that museum closing its doors. I didn’t realize that the famous Schwinn family bicycle collection was still virtually complete until I visited New Bremen, OH earlier this month. It was great fun to see the wonderful collection still intact in New Bremen!

The Bicycle Museum of America, as it is now known, was bought by James Dicke II, in 1997 when he traveled to Chicago, buying 162 of the 178 different lots offered at the dispersal auction of the Schwinn family collection. In all Dicke spent almost $700,000 to buy everything from an 1869 Dexter boneshaker that was made in Poughkeepsie, NY to the one-millionth bicycle to roll off the Schwinn assembly line, a 1968 Sting-Ray Orange Krate.

Although rumors were that either Jay Leno or Clint Eastwood were the big buyers, James Dicke II bought the collection because, “My hometown needs a tourist attraction.”

The Dicke family owns
Crown Equipment, where his son, fourth generation James III is president of the company. The company was started in New Bremen by brothers Carl and Allen Dicke in 1945 to make temperature controls for coal burning furnaces. When TV became popular, they began manufacturing antenna rotators, which helped to give better reception. While those early products are clearly obsolete today, the company continued to diversify, beginning to produce lift trucks in 1957, something that it continues to do today in the USA and overseas.

From humble beginnings in New Bremen, the company is still producing products there and is where its worldwide administration and product development continues to take place. Local firms put down strong local roots, of which the Dicke family is a great example.

1 comment:

divyesh said...

It is eally informative blog. I love to read such blogs in my holiday time.