As the Great Depression took hold in the middle of the twentieth century, some manufacturers chose their products wisely, catering to the masses who would be in need of certain necessities. Bicycles, for one, became very popular during this time. The Hiawatha Coaster Bicycle, to be specific, sold over one million dollars in sales for the Huffman Manufacturing Company in Ohio.
In the 1930's as the depression began, this company entirely switched its products. Having been previously known for creating the first sturdy oil spout for 50-gallon drums, it caught wind of the coming need for more financially efficient modes of transportation and began manufacturing bicycles. Primarily sold in Gambles Hardware Stores through the 1970's, the Hiawatha Coaster Bicycle was also manufactured by the Cleveland Welding Company, Shelby Cycle Company and Murray Ohio.
This vintage style of bicycle was a simple one-speed wonder with primarily steel construction and a curvy and attractive design. The title "coaster" or "cruiser" stands for the style of brakes, being a basic mechanism of the backwards motion of the pedals. The most popular Hiawatha was known as the Arrow.
Today, one can find entire groups of people dedicated to resurrecting the life of these American wonders. For obvious reasons, the Hiawatha Coaster Bike would not be a practical solution for mountain trails or cross-country treks. But a well-cared for and attentively built vintage bike can have many years of everyday use in its gears. These bicycles can be a fun sight to behold, a joy to ride and an incredible addition for many vintage collectors.
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