Cycles,

The business had begun as the Bonnick Cycle Company of Coventry, England. During  the 1890's  the pedal cycle craze  sweeping Britain at the end of the 19th century had attracted attention from William Riley Jr.  He had some  family money from the textile industry  and purchased the business improving it so in 1896 renamed  it as The Riley Cycle Company Limited. In later years  cycle gear maker Sturmey Archer was added to the starting the tradition of buying in suppliers within the marque.

Bonnick & Co. Ltd (1890) Badge from the headtube of the cycle


In 1890 William Riley added to the family's  ribbon weaving business (faced with mounting costs and decreasing profitability) by purchasing the cycle firm of Bonnick and Company. To the Riley family, making bicycles was an new venture but the company although remaining  known as Bonnick & Co. Ltd this improved in their hands. The jump from maintaining  jacquard looms and designing/punching the cards to cycle engineering would not have been too large.  They retained the original badges and name but started to advertise in other countries and introduce 'upgrades' such as the non vibrating (sprung/ suspension) saddle. The Riley Cycle Company  was established  by  February 1890 with a subscribed capital of £950. This meant the board of Bonnick Cycles  initially was William (jr), Herbert his brother and Basil his brother in law . He  also retained the services of Arthur Bonnick as Works Manager and E. J. Bakewell as Sales Manager at King Street. The majority of the 168 £10 shares initially issued were allotted to the Riley family: Basil Riley, tailor and hosier according to the census, held 40 as did William Riley jun. and Herbert J. Riley, then both trimmings manufacturers. William Riley sen., "gentleman", held 20 while Alfred Bonnick, the actual cycle maker, also had 20.
**Basil Riley was a tailor from Lancashire who actually married William (senior)s daughter Hannah  so brother in law to William the father of Percy & co. This excess of Rileys and Williams makes things complex when sorting . Interestingly he was the one tasked with foreign selling trips and the one that William snr spent his last years with**
 

In  1891 they exhibited twenty one bicycles at  the 15th Stanley Show then held  at  Crystal Palace Sydenham, for the third time and with 225 exhibitors including cycle-making machinery. There were 1,130 machines on show and around  half having the new balloon (pneumatic) tyres  fitted. Most cycles on show  were the Safety type (modern standard height) with Ordinaries (penny farthing high bikes) a smaller minority. This show ran from Saturday 24th to Saturday the 31st January and was one of the main world trade fairs for cycle manufacturers which at this time were very fashionable .  The Bonnick show entry was described in the catalogue  as " A good display of no less than twenty safeties and a tricycle, on which Pneumatic cushion and solid tyres are represented, as well as several types of frames, a new pattern being the 'Kite' consisting of double tubes carried away from and back to the head in a graceful curve. A new method of fixing the foot rests without drilling holes in the fork sides is shown, and also a neat clamp and spring for carrying the brake lever. All the machines on show have inside chain adjustments. A new introduction in the shape of a ladies safety at £20, should be inspected by those of the fair sex looking for a mount. A level looking, well finished tricycle of the touring variety with large cushion tyres completes a very credible exhibit"
The 'Telephone bicycle' had an interesting frame design with a sloping front frame and an odd curved section following the rear wheel profile. This resulted in a shorter wheelbase but  as they were using 32inch wheels rather than the 26 inch of today this caused the rider to sit much higher. Couple this  with front brakes  acting upon the tyre tread rather than the side wall on  one wheel only plus a high riding position would mean stopping in the wet or on hills  would have become quite exciting
info:-The Stanley Cycle Show or Stanley Show was an exhibition of bicycles and tricycles first mounted by the Stanley Cycling Club in 1878 at The Athenaeum in London's Camden Road. Britain's first series production cars were displayed at this show in November 1896. The 34th and last exhibition was held in the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington in November 1910. It was supplanted by the 1911 Olympia Motor Cycle Show and, a few weeks before that, Olympia's International Motor Exhibition.

A Bonnick cycle still exists within the Register/Motor Club with colour photographs within the archive only one will be included here



A Kirkwood and Miller cycle sold in the UK  in 2014 described as :-A c1890 Kirkwood & Miller & Co., ‘Crescent No 1’ diamond-framed solid-tyred Safety Bicycle. Found in dry storage, this sound example of a 21-inch diamond framed bicycle comes with its original saddle, 28-inch handlebars, 8-inch slotted cranks and two original pedals, mounting step, front feet rests, mudguards, inch-pitch block chain and older but good tyring on the crescent rimmed 30-inch wheels. All of the spokes are sound and tight and the bearing cups and wheel hubs appear to have seen little use. Missing are the handlebar grips and a later brake lever is fitted which needs alteration for use, albeit the original spoon, bar and spring are present. Now compare this to the above Bonnick advert and description of the Telephone and or Swift cycle which proves the rebadging theory The only way to check if Bonnick or Swift would be to locate and examine the cycles. However as they imported cycles from these two manufacturers any other 'Kirkwoods' located have a very, very high probability of being the missing Bonnick/Riley bikes. Price then before premium was £3550 at Transport Collector Auctions  so making an earlier Riley/Bonnick/Swift bike still exist with the owner maybe not knowing how important it is . Info update:-The machine had been purchased at a cycle-jumble in New York state about 20-years ago, and sold by the vendor in 2014 . The buyer was a dealer from Holland . . . being traced !

...."H. L. Miller. Probably no business enterprise ever inaugurated in Peoria has had a more auspicious beginning than that of Kirkwood, Miller & Co., wholesale and retail dealers in vehicles of various descriptions and in a few kind of implements. The firm was organized March 15, 1890, and opened its doors for business about the 1st of April. In the sixty days which have elapsed they have already disposed of twenty-nine car loads of buggies. They occupy a building 50x100 feet in dimension, with three stories and a basement, the two upper floors being used as a repository. They handle buggies, carriages, carts and everything in the vehicle line, together with harness, windmills, hay rakes and tedders combined, and tank pumps. Their goods are manufactured on contract in Minneapolis, Rockford, Columbus and Cincinnati. The firm consists of Hugh Kirkwood, of Minneapolis, and our subject, each being the general manager of a branch house in his respective place of abode. " From Portrait and Biographical Album of Peoria County (1890).
**The above comment is inaccurate as Kirkwoods were described and listed as 'bicycle jobbers'  meaning that at that time they re badged everything produced for them as theirs. Until after their court case where they basically fleeced the Riley family they did not manufacture cycles only buggies. So as I thought they bought in the cycles and vehicles so all Kirkwood Miller & Co Cycles are actually Bonnick & co between 1892 and 1893**
Peoria was a big part of the biking craze that captivated countries around the globe in the latter end of the 19th century and was one of the top five cities in the world when it came to international bicycle races. They built them here, as well with Peoria-made ‘high art’ bicycles so the decision to import Bonnicks made financial sense as the town is close to Chicago and within reach of New York for sales.





This seems to be the one Bonnick/Riley sold as the Kite see below pic from Robs pages

1892-3  The Stanley show for this year quotes " Bonnick & Co had a very good stable of 25 lines one the 'King of Racers' weighing 26.5 lbs only when fitted with Dunlops. They had also  a very cheap machine, with a combination diamond and cross frame, and another on the stand made up and in rough to  show the workmanship "  A disclaimer was added to the 1892 catalogue  to say that due to marketing confusion  the 'Kite Safety' in the last years catalogue referred to as having a Wenham frame  and sold in America as the Kite was actually made by Bonnick and that they were "the inventors thereof" and had been in their patterns (catalogue)  for several seasons past.
A result from the November  1892 Stanley Show  at the Royal Agricultural Hall Islington was that "Kirkwood & Miller have almost entirely confined themselves to 'Telephone' cycles made by Bonnick and they intend to push them in 1893 ". In the USA cycle magazine of 1892 it was announced  that "F. H. Henning, of Kirkwood, Miller & Company's bicycle department, leaves for New York on the 14th to meet Mr. Basil Riley, who is coming over with a sample line of 'Telephone' wheels for 1893. The 'Telephone' has given satisfaction this year, and K., M. & Co. will handle them on a much larger scale next year, Mr. Riley will only remain in this country a short time, as Messrs. Bonnick & Company, who manufacture the Telephones, will want to be on hand"  Kirkwoods  were then an importer and farm implement manufacturer from  Peoria, Illinois which suggests they were bought for export and will have been re badged (Needs a US cycles expert here see pictures below and above).  They also said that about this time Mr. Basil Riley, managing director of Bonnick  Company  of Coventry, England, came over with a sample line of  cycles. He is then recorded as traveling after the New York trade show to Toronto to meet Canadian companies so the company focused on exports from the start. They then record "Bonnick & Company, Coventry, Eng., through their representative, Mr. Riley, closed a contract last week with Bostwick of Toronto" (Geo. F. Bostwick,). Their 1892 business review quoted, " Kirkwood, Miller & Co., were among the first in the field with their 1892 pattern bicycles, and being able at all times to furnish their lines thereby gaining a number of customers when they buy their 1893 wheels. They will continue to import their 'Telephone' and 'Kite' . . . .   published in Western Wheel Works" from Bearings: The Cycling Authority of America, Volumes 4-6 by the  Bearings Publishing Company, 1892.
This  'Telephone' cycle was described as  built in seven patterns, weighing from twenty-five to forty-nine pounds and also came with the detachable 'Telephone Wheels' available as an improvement for other makes of cycles revealing the wheels specialism actually started back from the bike manufacturing. Within the cycle trade of Kirkwood and Miller  their largest suppliers were Bonnick & Co., of Coventry which proved a problem later for the fledgeling company.  Their advertising stated "Kirkwood, Miller & Co. are agents for the 'Telephone' cycles, of Bonnick & Co., Coventry, England, also for the 'Swift' (The Coventry Sewing Machine Company was founded by James Starley in 1859. It started making bicycles in 1869 and changed the name to Coventry Machinists Company. In 1896 it became the Swift Cycle Company and started to make motorcycles in 1898, and experimenting with an early car in 1900). " ( from The farm implement news. Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : E.J. Baker 1892 Vol 13 p.24).  The US press of the time castigates Kirkwoods for putting in their largest orders just before the crash as they knew it was happening. Describing it as a major blow for Bonnicks who took most of the hit and losses  from The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review, Volume 10 p 32
By the end of this year they are also listed as the main supplier when Kirkwood were in court for not paying suppliers.  This is first reported in the press as "The firm of Kirkwood, Miller & Co. will be a thing of the past. A representative of Bonnick & Co. , who manufacture the Telephone bicycle at Coventry, Eng. , is on his way to this country, and will place the ' Telephone' agency in the hands of other parties. Bonnick & Co. are trying to re- cover a consignment of 'Telephones' which are in the custom house in this city. They claim the goods are in transit, and that they have a right to claim them as their property. The assignee looks at the matter in a different light, and claims the goods as the property of Kirkwood, Miller &Co., who have received the goods and placed their signature on the government books. . . . "
 . . . .  In the newspaper as Peoria Trade Doings. "The case of Bonnick & Co. vs. Kirkwood, Miller & Co., to decide the ownership of bicycles in bond here, will be heard before Judge Weed, Jan. 23. The case was called last week, but at the request of Bonnick & Co.'s attorneys it was laid over. The amount involved is $8,164 " sorry not translated into £ but could not find the 1892 exchange rate $ to £ !
. . . . ."Hope for Creditors. There is hope for some of Kirkwood, Miller & Co.'s creditors  more hope than there was a few days ago, at least. It will be remembered that some $8,000 worth of wheels, shipped by Bonnick & Co. , Coventry, and in bond at the government warehouse, were claimed by the assignee (for the benefit of the creditors), while Bonnick & Co. petitioned the court to return the goods to them, claiming that until the duty was paid the goods were only in transit and had never come into the possession of the firm now defunct. The court delivered a lengthy decision, refusing to grant the prayer of the petitioners". .....
  . . . . ."Creditors Will Get Little. Peoria, March 17.— The recent failure of Kirkwood, Miller & Co. , has been the means of completely gutting the retail bicycle business of Peoria this spring. The assignee has put out a large number of high grade pneumatic tired machines at from $60 to $90. These wheels are fitted with '93 pattern Morgan & Wright tires, and at the prices they have been offered have been selling like "hot cakes." This, however, only affects the high grade market, as Kirkwood, Miller & Co. had no medium grade wheels in stock whatever. The assignee is now closing out everything, and inside of thirty days nothing will be left of Kirkwood, Miller & Co., except a few pages of history. Nothing has been heard regarding Bonnick & Co., of Coventry, or their intention of catering to the American trade again. It is believed, however, that they will come to this country some time during the summer and establish an agency and make preparations for the season of 1894, The 'Telephone' wheels gave very good satisfaction wherever sold, and Bonnick & Co. will have no trouble in seeming a good American representative. The recent decision of the county court here regarding the goods on consignment at Kirkwood, Miller & Co.'s store cuts the assets of that concern about $20,000. The court ruled that a large number of farming implements and carriages were on consignment, and turned them over to the parties who manufactured them. This, together with the heavy expense incurred in disposing of the goods, will cut down the assets to a very low notch. It is a question whether the house will pay over 15 cents on the dollar".

( from The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review, Volume 10 p 32 for 1893 as pdf in the archives)  source Smithsonian copy of  Referee and Cycle Trade Journal pdf will be in archives plus others mentioned here
**An interesting ending to this saga appears in later court papers as "The goods were shipped in the name of the Henning Buggy Company, a fictitious concern, the name probably suggested by the fact that a Mr. Henning was manager of Kirkwood, Miller & Company's cycle department. The goods were invoiced to Kirkwood Miller and company' American companies later used this to get some redress from Mr Henning who as above was the cycle department manager  backing up the supposition that this was in fact fraud not a mistake upon the part of Riley/Bonnicks** from Farm Implement News - Volume 14 - Page 23 1893

1894 This loss would have proved considerable for the Bonnick company and prove to be the reason they immediately switched from exports to the USA to selling in Europe


Cycle advert from Veloce Sport n°461 du 4 janvier 1894

 Tandem advert from Véloce Sport N°467 du 15 février 1894

Badge from the headtube of the cycle

1895  During  1895 the badge was altered from Bonnick to  RS/ Bonnick then by May 1896 was totally renamed as Riley Cycle Company whilst at the expanded  King Street  works. By March 1895 the shareholders had put a total of £4,440 into the business, but the Riley family, prompted by the terminal decline in Coventry's textile industries had moved into more complete management, purchasing the remaining shares held by Bonnick and other managerial personnel in 1894, resulting in of the 444 shares issued, only 7 owned by Jesse Griffiths, one of the firm's managers - remained outside the families  possession.
Photograph from Robs Riley pages from Alan Teeder
1896 During 1896  remaining parts of the weaving  business were wound up and sold  and the final prt of the name change from BonnicK & Co. to the Riley Cycle Company was completed with £60,000 of share capital. They are listed by 1896 as having four hundred employees £38,000 in capital  and £10,833 profit margin which for a newish business is a stunning balance sheet. In July 1896 they put their business through an under-subscribed £40,000 public flotation, but nonetheless endured as the Riley Cycle Company until 1938 when the business was formally closed during the Nuffield sale .

1897 The last portion of the Bonnick company at 1 + 2  King Street and the Riley company property in the next door Nicholas Street was purchased for £400 from Arthur Bonnick. He was then released from his contract to work independently for a few years until appearing in court in 1898 as a bankrupt with his only asset a vice for tube factoring.

1898 Development of the growing business was hindered this year by  a fire in February which was severe enough for both the nearby Dunlop Fire Brigade and the Coventry City Fire Brigade to attend as Foleshill was so built up by then. By the time the firemen arrived the wooden building in the yard was well ablaze due to the the shed including the main gas line. The Dunlop crew directed the water jet onto the gas  engine which controlled the fire and eventually both crews sorted it. When the damage was surveyed many 'ready for sale' cycles that had been finished that night for urgent delivery  had been destroyed luckily unlike many businesses in the area they were fully insured.
RILEY CYCLE COMPANY LTD: SHAREHOLDERS' MEETING..1898  The annual meeting of the shareholders of the Riley Cycle Company, Limited, was held , at their works, Coventry, this afternoon. Mr. Riley /Manager (chairman of the directors) presided, and the various of the members of the Board were present, namely., Messrs. H. A. Webb, E. T. Peirson, W. Riley, and H. J. Riley; also W. A. Riley (secretary) unfit J. Rhodes (Messrs. Rhodes and Co., accounts/a):. The report of the directors called attention to that time which occurred upon the works in February,. which seriously interfered with the trade.,and for what they believed the profits would remain. much larger. The profit, for the year was, (£6421- 9s- 6d., which  the balance of  profit brought forward, from last  year, made £3,411 . as dealt with.

The Chairman, proposing the adoption of the report and balance-sheet, said the directors had endeavoured to make the balance-sheet as simple as feasible, but there were one or two points that called for some remark. In spite of what had been a most disappointing year for the whole of the cycle trade, and in spite of loss of orders and inconvenience caused by the fire at   the works,. they were  able to show a good profit. They might have done a larger business, but the risk would have been greater, and the directors thought it wise to be careful where they placed their goods.. Allusions   was made in the balance-sheet to the sum of  £3.500 which was a reserve for the redemption of debentures; £2,000 of this had been  paid, and a furthers £1,500 would be paid almost immediately. That practically reduced the goodwill the business and was much better, as by paying off these debentures they were glaring £125 per annum. The plant had been depreciated for the purpose of the balance-sheet, but the managing directors were of opinion that the plant was now in very much better condition than ever. The prospects' were good, and they quite expected to do considerable, more business than during the past year.. Great praise was due to the managing directors Messrs. W. Riley, jun. and Herbert J. Riley) for the able manner in which they had surmounted. the difficulties of getting to work again alter the fire.( hear,. hear.)

Mr. Webb seconded, and pointed out with satisfaction that the profit made represented 12 per.cent on the nominal capital. The position of the Company's,  affairs did not at all warrant the  low , price of the shares upon the market. Mr. T. E. Barnes (Birmingham') There has not been a share upon the market for a couple of months.

The Chairmen: 'That shows someone is holding  them.'

Mr. Webb said the cycle trade was under a cloud just now. but be was sure their shares' were' well worth holding, as the concern was not over capitalised, nor did it suffer from extravagant , management. What few shares there were in the market place the directors wine buying up.

The report and balance-sheet were adopted a dividend of 5 per cent. for the year on the ordinary shares was declared. Mr. H. A. Webb was re-elected director, Messrs. William Riley, jun., re-elected valuer, and Messrs Rhode' and CO. (Birmingham) re-elected. auditors. A vote of thanks to the Chairman, which was heartily carried, concluded the proceedings. / Coventry Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 16 November 1898

The young Rileys decided to build a motor car, the design and construction of which were carried out by Percy Riley, who had just left grammar school. Work on the little voiturette started in 1896, and it was completed in 1898,


 1899 By early 1899 the firm had started to produce tricycles and quadricycles using 2.25hp M.M.C engines both of which went behind the rear axle and, according to the type, one or two front wheels were fitted. (M.M.C. were the initials of the Motor Manufacturing Co of Coventry,  formed after the restructuring of  H. J. Lawson's The Great Horseless Carriage Company.. They made copies of the De Dion engines and motorcycles at the Motor Mills, from 1898 to 1904.) . They also used the German Cudell engines and Minerva. Business was so slow this year that they lost money (£685) for the first time since the Kirkwood & Miller crash as the Boer war had begun plus the first cycle boom had ended as motorised vehicles became more popular.

1900 At about this time engines were changed to a 2.75hp or a 3.5hp M.M.C. Again business was tight with reductions in the family members wages and a written loss of £1,506

1901 The first motorcycle appeared as a typically primitive 'solo' fitted with a 1.5hp Minerva or a 2.75hp M.M.C engine.

1902 A forecar design was added to the range.

1903 During this year a further option was added in the form of a 3.5hp MMC engine. The solos were now  advertised as the Moto-Bi. Late that year, Riley started fitting their own engines in the vertical mounting position, but still keeping the Moto-Bi name. Engine sizes were 2.25-hp, 3-hp and 3.5-hp. The largest of those was intended for forecar use, with the option of water- or fan-cooling, and both forecars and sidecars were included in the range.

A later delivery cycle with a cyclemaster engine attached on youtube From the look an official  MG & Riley Factory Cyclemaster Carrier Bicycle for delivering things around the site so 1947 onwards.


coming soon ! Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=0E1RAQAAMAAJ 1915 - ‎Snippet view - ‎More editions PERCY RILEY, Coventry, England. Filed Oct. 29, 1909. Serial No. 525,321. (Cl. 123–159.) 1. In a four cycle internal combustion engine a fixed cylinder having lateral inlet and exhaust ports, cylindrical port controlling means of the sleeve valve