Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

Almost exactly one month to the day, I wrote a brief article covering a special 1897 magazine promotion. Therein, on June 17, 1897, The Great Round World and What Is Going On In It, offered people one of two Kodak cameras as a reward for referring a certain number of new subscribers to the magazine. The tiers for receiving a new camera were four and nine new subscribers. If someone managed the nearly-impossible feat of referring 100 new subscribers to the magazine, he or she would receive a shiny new bicycle. I discovered while scouring old magazines that cycle promotions were popular. Today, we cover a special 1895 offer wherein industrious customers could earn a Fairy Tricycle.

The Fairy Tricycle Promotion

The Fairy Tricycle promotion appeared in the July 16, 1895 edition of Harper’s Round Table, a magazine that has made many appearances in The New Leaf Journal. While the promotion was published in Harper’s, it was not a promotion of the magazine. Instead, the offer came from a Mr. W.G. Baker of Springfield, Massachusetts. What did you have to do to be the proud owner of a Fairy Tricycle, like the girl pictured in the promotion?

A girl on a Fairy Tricycle in an ad printed in the July 16, 1895 issue of Harper's Round Table
Clipped from the advertisement

Mr. Baker explained:

We wish to introduce our Teas, Spices, and Baking Powder. Sell 30 lbs. and we will give you a Fairy Tricycle: sell 25 lbs. for a Solid Silver Watch and Chain; 50 lbs. for a Gold Watch and Chain; 75 lbs. for a Bicycle; 10 lbs. for a Beautiful Gold Ring. Express prepaid if cash is sent for goods. Write for catalog and order sheet.

Much like the Kodak camera offer, the Fairy Tricycle was just one of the promotions that enterprising amateur salespeople could earn.

  • 10 pounds of product: Gold Ring
  • 25 pounds of product: Silver Watch
  • 30 pounds of product: Fairy Tricycle
  • 75 pounds of product: Bicycle

Was there a bicycle bubble in the late nineteenth century? I would take the watch, for whatever it is worth. What is curious to me is that Mr. Baker saw fit to feature the Fairy Tricycle in the promotion, with the image of a happy young lady on the tricycle – in lieu of the other potential prizes. Did he know something I do not. Mr. Baker likely had a good reason for structuring the promotion in this way.

What is a “Fairy Tricycle”?

I had never heard of a Fairy Tricycle before coming across this promotion (and I seem to be a bit late to the party at that). From the picture in Harper’s, it looks like what I would imagine a nineteenth century tricycle to look like. What explains the name?

Lucky Collector Car Auctions has a page about the 1890 Fairy Tricycle (I do not know why a car auction site covered this – but let us just roll with it). The three-wheeled apparatus was produced by “Fay Manufacturing” in Elyria, Ohio. By 1903, Fay Manufacturing became “The Worthington Company” under the leadership of Fred Colson. In 1917, Colson changed the name of the company again – this time to “The Colson Company.” American Vintage Bicycles notes that The Colson Company and its predecessor companies were known for producing a variety of tricycles, “including tricycles for adults and handicapped adults.”

While I do not know exactly what model of Fairy Tricycle was being offered by Mr. Baker, I did come across an auction page for an around 1900 model. It looks nearly identical to the Fairy Tricycle in the 1895 advertisement – down to the last detail. If this is not exactly the same as what was being offered in Harper’s, it is at least very close.