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Bike Shop: 1912

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1912. "Metzger bicycle shop. Detroit City Gas Co." This photo of a cycle (and phonograph) shop was taken to show off the gaslight fixtures. 8x10 glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1912. "Metzger bicycle shop. Detroit City Gas Co." This photo of a cycle (and phonograph) shop was taken to show off the gaslight fixtures. 8x10 glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Bicycles & gramophones

It's what they don't have in common that matters. Bicycles sell well in warmer months when people are outdoors. Gramophones sell well in colder months when people are indoors. I believe this is Metzger's shop at 351 Woodward and not the one he shared with Huber.

Obsolete Stock

The items on the left-hand shelf are most likely Victor records. Victor & Edison allowed their dealers to carry both lines, until Edison introduced a disc machine & Victor ordered its dealers to drop Edison.

All of the cylinders appear to be 2 minute records, although Edison introduced the 4 minute "Amberol" cylinder in 1908. Both were about to be discontinued in late 1912, along with open horn machines. The celluloid "Blue Amberol" record and a new line of Amberola (inside horn) cabinet machines were introduced in the Fall of 1912. Dealers were then allowed to discount the 'wax' cylinders, to clear their stocks.

By this time, Edison's consultants said people were "Victrola crazy", while Edison's cylinder business fell disastrously & Columbia quit cylinders altogether.

Gas and Electric

The center fixtures are gas, but the perimeter fixtures are electric. Best of both worlds when electric lighting was not necessarily bright or reliable.

Metzger Got Around

Bill Metzger was also behind the Metz car, which has previously been a Shorpy subject. I learned that from a friend who I had sent this photo to.

Used Motorcycles

It seems that these fellows dealt in used equipment as well, Indian Motorcycles produced the last Camelback gas tank single cylinder machine in 1908 (according to my father, who's the curator of a very large motorcycle museum). The Metzger Bicycle Concern would have a heart attack if they knew what that "old" Indian single was worth today.

[This picture could just as well be from 1908. - Dave]

The 8-track of 1912

Those shelved items on the right are music cylinders. Music discs were a growing market in 1912 but looks as if this shop's owner had a lot of inventory to move before he could think about selling discs. (Judging by their loose-looking packaging, I don't think the items in some sort of vertical envelopes on the shelves on the left are discs, although if they are, they're way outnumbered by the cylinders.) Some of the songs of the day: "She Pushed Me Into the Parlour," "Daddy Has a Sweetheart (And Mother Is Her Name)," "Ragtime Cowboy Joe," "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," "The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi" and Irving Berlin's "Keep Away From the Fellow Who Owns an Automobile."

All Natural

Not single black tire in the shop. Everything is natural rubber.

The sound of bikes

I find it quite amusing that the two leading bicycle store chains in Israel, where I live, are called Matzman and Mintz. Something with the "TZ" sound drags people to deal with two wheeled vehicles, apparently!

Not all are bicycles

I spot at least two Indian and two Excelsior Auto Cycles on the left row and can't quite identify what is in back behind the two men sitting though I suspect another Excelsior.

Early iron

Some of those "bikes" are motorcycles.


I see four motorcycles on the left. An Excelsior Autocycle (Ignaz Schwinn was behind Excelsior motorcycles). Behind the Excelsior is a "camelback" Indian of about 1909 vintage, I think. Then another Indian and perhaps another Excelsior. In today's market those old motorcycles would extremely valuable and sought after by collectors. I think music, bicycles, and motorcycles would still make for a fun shop today.

Mail Call

I'd say those envelopes, in the showcases behind the Victrolas, hold recordings by John McCormick, Enrico Caruso, Rosemary Clooney and Elvis.

An Odd Mix

The left side of the shop has a good selection of Victor Talking Machines. The right wall has shelves of Edison cylinders . I think I see a Columbia at the back of the shop. And all those bicycles! What a combination.

Well that's puzzling

I don't see any light fixtures that look like gas burners. I'm not aware of any glass bell shades pointing down that were ever used on gas lights. I'm pretty sure I can see bulb sockets on the perimeter lights, although I can't quite make them out. The fixtures in the center of the room have pull-chain switches on them.

[Each gas chandelier has a pair of pulls to regulate flow. Below is another example from Detroit City Gas Co. - Dave]


As far as I can see, none of the bicycles on offer have any brakes whatsoever. Such carefree times.

Just like today's hipster bikes

No brakes - no coaster brakes, no hand brakes.

All the with-it college kids are riding fixed gear bikes with no brakes these days.

Safety third!

A hipster's dream

What beautiful bikes. As a cyclist, I would love to have one of them.

Huber & Metzger

Bill Metzger started the first retail automobile store in Detroit in the old Biddle house. He became the first independent auto dealer in Detroit and probably the US. Below, the Huber & Metzger bike shop at 13 Grand River Avenue.


Is that the reflection of the magnesium flash going off behind the men?

[It is! - Dave]


What do gramophones and bicycles have in common? No, seriously, I want to know.

[Horns. - Dave]

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