1952 Rollfast Hopalong Cassidy Super de Luxe 26″ Spring Fork Cowboy Bike

1952 Rollfast 26″ Hopalong Cassidy Super de Luxe 26″ Spring Fork Cowboy Bike

This is my latest project, and I’ll update it as I progress.

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THE BIKE DREAM

Somewhere in the picture below there is a little boy in a dream world. He got there by wishing he could dress up his new, superduper, jewel-fendered Hopalong Cassidy bike a bit. Pageant magazine granted him his wish, got 35 of the latest bike gadgets – horn radio to spoke lights – and plucked the boy (Charlie Hankinson of Mutual’s Juvenile Jury) down in the middle of them. Overcome, Charlie gasped, gulped, hopped on his Hoppy bike and was last seen picking off a rustler with the handsome six-shooters shown just behind the handlebars…

If you’re reading this, you probably have bike dreams too. British enthusiasts may have somewhat more mundane bike dreams, such as searching for elusive brake linkage parts for their 100 year old Sunbeam. We didn’t have ‘Hoppies.’ But practical dreams are healthy for our aging minds. That’s why our hobby, bringing derelict vintage bicycles back to life, is becoming so popular. A modicum of mechanical skills, a minor financial outlay, and the ability to research our particular machine – which, in this internet age, can be done from the luxury of our own home – provides endless hours of enjoyment as we accumulate the parts we need to transform a bike dream into a dream bike.

The picture above is pinned on my wall to provide inspiration. Because, for my Hopalong Cassidy Dream Bike, I’ve started with only the bare necessities…

As you can see, I’ve got quite a way to go. But I’ve already located a hoppy style rear rack and a full set of proper rivets for the fenders. The next thing I need is fenders to put them on :)

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HOPALONG CASSIDY

Hopalong Cassidy was introduced in 1907 as a fictional character in a story by Clarence E. Mulford. Mulford wrote 28 more books featuring the cowboy. Hopalong was so popular that movies and TV shows were made based on the character. The first Hopalong Cassidy movie, starring William Boyd, was produced in 1935. Boyd starred in 66 Hopalong Cassidy movies. In 1948, edited versions of the movies became a TV series, with 52 editions produced.

Boyd and his new 1942 Chrysler Town & Country Station Wagon

Cowboy heroes were the favourites when I was young. Before we had television, I used to go to the cinema on Sauturday mornings; with all the other kids I cheered The Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers. I don’t remember Hopalong Cassidy from saturday morning cinema but we must have had his films because, of course, his name was what you called anyone who’d hurt their leg and had to hobble along.

Great Britain in the fifties was more impoverished than the USA. Maybe that difference was reflected in our TV cowboys? Over there, Hopalong Cassidy got to hunt down and kill baddies. In Great Britain, all the Milky Bar Kid did was eat chocolate.

We had older cousins in America, and used to receive some of their clothes when they’d grown out of them. I remember the shirts had button-down collars. The clothes seemed very exotic. My favourite dinky toys were American cars, and collecting dinky toys certainly inspired me to become a vintage vehicle enthusiast many years later.

I was born in 1952, just like this bicycle. So does owning an American top-of-the-range Hopalong Cassidy Boy’s Cowboy Bike represent not just reliving my childhood, but re-inventing it? Apart from the fact that a complete restored example would cost many thousands of dollars, I wonder if starting with just the bare frame and forks also has some deeper meaning?

Above: the Juvenile Model without springer forks

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ROLLFAST (D.P. HARRIS Co)

Rollfast bicycles have a long and complex history with ties between two different company. The D.P. Harris Hardware and Manufacturing Company originated the name in the 1890s. In the early 1900s they teamed up with the H.P. Snyder Manufacturing Company. Snyder was the primary manufacturer of the bicycles, while Harris provided some of the parts and marketed them. During the Great Depression, Snyder began manufacturing bicycles for other retailers such as Montgomery Ward who sold them under the Hawthorne name. Two particularly collectible Snyder-built Rollfast bicycles are the V-200 model and the Hopalong Cassidy bicycles. Snyder built Rollfast bicycles well into the 1970′s.

During 1950, cowboy themed merchandise was popular. Harris used a tie-in with Hopalong Cassidy to take advantage of this fascination. The bikes came in black with white and chrome trim. There were a pair of built-in pistols with jeweled holsters, horse hair grained saddle, fringed rear carrier, “Hopalong Cassidy” medallions on the tank, chrome studs on the Rocket Ray light, chain guard and fenders and a head badge in the shape of an upside down horse shoe. The first models – described below as ‘Juvenile Models’ – had 20″ and 24″ wheels.

The 20″ and 24″ Juveniles were followed by the ‘Velocipede’ tricycle and the 16″ ‘Playcycle.’

For those whose parents couldn’t stretch to a Hoppy bicycle, there were Rollfast Hopalong Cassidy Roller Skates with attachable spurs.

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Finally there was a top-of-the-range 26″ version, the Super de Luxe Spring Fork Model.

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D.P. Harris HDW & MFG. Company Inc

BICYCLE DEPT……………………………………..July 31, 195o

COMPANY LETTER TO RETAIL OUTLETS

Hi’ya Pardner,

In response to an avalanche of requests from teen-agers and parents, ROLLFAST is now producing FULL SIZE 26″ HOPALONG CASSIDY Bicycles.

The surge of popularity of America’s rugged Man-of-the-Year has definitely engulfed the 10 to 16 youth group. ROLLFAST and HOPALONG join to score another FIRST that will put a double-barrelled ‘hop’ into your fall sales!

The new, full size HOPALONG CASSIDY bicycles possess all the smart, exclusive features essential to successful TOP models … spring forks, whitewall tyres, character styled lamps, tanks, chain guards, carriers … all with a touch of the Old West to produce the nation’s MOST WANTED BICYCLE!

Write, wire or telephone today for details and Fair Trade prices.

The most dynamic advertising and publicity promotion ever conceived reaches yiour customers wherever they are, in cities … towns … villages …! ‘Hoppy’ comic strips to more than 11,000,000 paid circulation daily … 60 television stations, 450 radio stations, and thousands of movie theaters produce ‘Hoppy’ shows … 100,000,000 readers of LIFE, LOOK, McCALLS and READERS DIGEST have read and seen ‘Hoppy’ feature editorials during the past month. Untold thousands of youngsters continue to stampede the Western star’s ‘personal appearance’ Circus as it rolls from city to city.

Tie in with this powerful, all-out campaign that shoots straight at extra sales for you. You really can’t afford to overlook the potential of ROLLFAST’S HOPALONG CASSIDY BICYCLES, VELOCIPEDES, PLAYCYCLES & SKATES.

Yours very truly,

D.P. Harris Hdw & Mfg Company Inc.

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Rollfast’s Hopalong Casssidy Bicycle was a success, selling around 100,000 units in the three or four years it was offered. But, despite the company’s promotional letter, the 26″ Super de Luxe was not as successful as the other models. When you consider that in America 26″ bicycles were full adult size, you can see that marketing an adult size bike with a child’s cowboy theme was a risky endeavour. Teenagers in the fifties were more interested in cars and many were driving by sixteen years of age. So, sixty years down the road, the 26″ may be the rarest of the models.

In 1954 a new top model was introduced, the #50. Embossed chrome trim was added to the tank, three tone paint, chrome fenders, deluxe Delta Rocket Ray, new type carrier with tail-light and a new spring fork similar to the Schwinn fork. The “R” design front sprocket was dropped for a five arm sprocket and a new chainguard was added. This was the last deluxe balloon tyre model in the Rollfast line.

Below you can see a Rollfast Hopalong Cassidy Girl’s Cowboy bike with springer forks, the same as mine.

[Rollfast history + tricycle photo thanks to http://www.tricyclefetish.com/rollfast.php%5D

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15th December 2009: One thing I really enjoy is looking for the various parts needed for a restoration. In the past five or six years, ebay has made that task very much easier. I used to have to wait until Beaulieu Autojumble rolled along every September to get most of my parts. Ebay is 24/7.

And it used to be extremely difficult to buy parts abroad, though in the 1980s my subscription to Hemmings Motor News helped a lot with American stuff. I ventured over to Hershey Swap-meet in 1989. I only bought a few knick-knacks at the swap meet (the world’s largest), because I’d already found a cheap Ford Model B Pickup truck in the local Harrisburg Auto Trader, which I imported to the UK (and, unfortunately, had to sell in 1992 in the last recession).

By the turn of the 21st century, with older vehicles mostly in the hands of older people, some of the vintage vehicle hobbies were in danger of dying out for lack of younger owners to take over custodianship. But with increased worldwide spares availability and communication, the internet has given our old hobbies a new life.

Though I have a few American bicycles, this is my first vintage American bicycle rebuild. I’ll log each step in the process in the hope that readers will be inspired to do something similar.

It helps a lot to find a fellow enthusiast who has already restored a similar vehicle. Thanks to my friend Ed in America, the following parts for this project are now on their way across the Atlantic.

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Two of Ed’s restorations, a 20″ Hoppy and a Shelby Donald Duck.

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HOPALONG CASSIDY MERCHANDISE

Hoppy was the most merchandised TV or movie character to date. With so many toys, ads and promotional gifts still around over fifty years later, it gives us a wonderful insight into America of the early fifties.

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HOPALONG CASSIDY’S TROOPER CLUB


As you can see, I’ve pledged to live up to the creed, and my membership card has recently arrived.

Hoppy told me to tell all my pals about the club so you can all get application cards and join up too, as soon as possible. I am now studying the Troopers Secret Code so that I can communicate with other boys and girls when I see them out on their Hoppy bikes.

Be an Alert Trooper: Hard-riding cowboys know it takes plenty of food to keep ‘em strong in the saddle – and that goes for you Troopers, too!

So eat three square meals a day with plenty of good-tasting, energy-building Butter-nut Bread!

Every delicious, soft slice of Butter-nut Bread is ‘one to grow on’ – enjoy Butter-nut with meals and between meals too!

He can outwit an Indian quick as you please…

Save Betty Blue Gingham with the greatest of ease…

Yes, the Butter-nut Kid is sure always ahead

‘Cause he fills up and feels fine on BUTTER-NUT BREAD

It looks to me like Hopalong Cassidy’s Butter-nut Kid might have been the inspiration for Great Britain’s Milky Bar Kid.


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TROOPERS NEWS

As well as badge, secret code chart and membership card, subscribers to Hopalong Cassidy’s Troopers Club also received the Troopers News.

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GENE AUTRY by MONARK

Monark introduced the Gene Autry bicycle in 1950 to try and compete with Rollfast’s range of Hopalong Cassidy bikes. A boy’s and a girl’s model was offered, both with 20 inch wheels. Here are some pictures of them for reference.

Monark’s idea of a horse head just above the front fender was a nice touch. This well-presented fully dressed boy’s model was in an auction.

The Gene Autry did not sell well. The Hopalong Cassidy was so well marketed I’m sure it would have greatly overshadowed the Monark.

This girl’s model was for sale recently. It may look mundane without its accessories, but this is a very rare bicycle these days.

The chain-case featured Gene Autry’s signature.

While the Hoppy had studs on its fenders, the Gene Autry was decorated with ‘jewels.’


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Of course, instead of buying a complete bicycle, western fans could simply ‘westernize’ the bike they already owned…

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HOPALONG CASSIDY GREETINGS CARDS

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HOPALONG CASSIDY GUNS and HOLSTERS

The cap gun and holster could be attached to the tank of the bicycle. The gun pictured below was not connected with the bike; the Zoomerang Gun fired a paper roll.

Many Hoppy promotional items were made of cardboard and paper. It’s surprising that the Lexington Dairy gun shown below has survived.

The cardboard gun below is 5 1/2 inches long.

This cardboard Hoppy gun is interesting because it’s a birthday card.

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HOPALONG CASSIDY BADGES

Below, you can see a range of Hopalong Cassidy badges. Badges were, of course, cheap to produce, and many companies made them in joint promotions. Being metal and so more durable, they are probably the most common Hoppy artefact still around 60 years later.

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ARVIN RADIO & TV

The image of Hopalong Cassidy on his white horse has been around for so long that it is almost an American icon. The popularity of Hopalong from the 1930s through the 1950s and even beyond made him a natural to be incorporated into the design of a radio in this period of the medium’s greatest growth. The Arvin Model 441-T or Hopalong Cassidy Radio, originally priced at $16.95, was manufactured in 1950 using two styles of embossed, paper-backed, aluminum foil fronts.

William Boyd bought the rights to his Hopalong Cassidy character in 1948. He released edited versions of the films (totaling more than 100 by the time he retired) to the then young medium of television, first through KTLA in Los Angeles and then nationwide through NBC. Additional new episodes were shot as well, with Hoppy’s popularity increasing all the while.

Hopalong Cassidy sagas were also on the radio from 1950 to 1952. A long-running Hopalong Cassidy comic book series, published by Fawcett, added to this marketing success story.

In fact, Hopalong Cassidy merchandising was more than successful and varied in scope. Pajamas, bicycles, watches, toy guns, cowboy hats, cowboy outfits, candy bars, pocket knives, bread, butter, cookies, milk, other food products, toothpaste, wallpaper, and literally thousands of other items were produced for his adoring public. Hopalong endorsed some 2,400 items, many of which are still being marketed today.*

[This text from http://www.antiqueradio.com/Jul07_Gray_Hopalong.html%5D

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There are also Hopalong Cassidy harmonicas, jigsaw puzzles, bedside lights, good luck coins, clothes hampers, rings, napkins, pennants, clocks and watches, pocket knives, drinking glasses, pendants, clothes, hats, toys, lunch-boxes, sunglasses, towels, recipe books, models, pencil-cases, spurs, cottage cheese containers and much more. The most amusing endorsed product I’ve come across so far is the ‘hair trainer’ illustrated above – a hair tonic for young cowboys :)

You could easily become totally obsessive and fill your house with this junk. I’ll stick to the bicycle.

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UPDATE: 14th January 2010. The bike has now been collected by DHL in USA, and is on its way across the Atlantic. I’ll take some photos when it arrives. I wonder if any Rollfast Hopalong Cassidy bicycles were imported into Great Britain in the fifties?

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UPDATE: 16th January 2010. Well, that didn’t take long. The Hoppy box has arrived already. Here are a few photos. I’ll take some more as it’s prepared for assembly.

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HOPPY TOGETHER

UPDATE: 16th February 2010.

We’ve now done a basic assembly in order to assess it. And I’ve balanced a British saddle on it and rested it on some British wheels in order to see how it looks standing up.

When I’m doing a restoration from a pile of bits I like to be able to visualize as soon as possible into the job what the finished result might look like. Even more so in this case because there are a number of decisions to make.

I want to do as little cosmetic work on the bike as possible. Hoppy fenders should be black, with rivets fitted. But I wasn’t sure whether to leave these fenders as they are for now.

However, the tank needs its Hopalong Cassidy transfers applied. Unfortunately, the tank has been roughly painted over rust, so the transfers will not stay on as it is now. Having to repaint the tank helped me to decide to repaint the fenders too.

Next job will be to find wheels and a saddle that suit.

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Looks like The Saturday Evening Post of June 1951 was drumming up trade for Rollfast.

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UPDATE: 2nd March 2010.

It’s into the paint shop to have the tank, mudguards and chainguard done. Will be carefully rubbed down, primed and sprayed in satin black.

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APRIL 2010: At last the Hoppy is finished …just in time for its debut at the Amberley Veteran Cycle Day. To see it PLEASE CLICK HERE

Published on December 1, 2009 at 2:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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