The Great Depression, which began in 1929, devastated many United States manufacturers and German immigrant and CEO of Schwinn and Company, Ignaz Schwinn struggled to hang on to his business. Frank W. Schwinn, Ignaz’ son took over the day-to-day operations and introduced the schwinn cruiser in 1933 hoping to save the company from bankruptcy. Frank’s gamble paid off and Schwinn became a branded icon in bicycle history.
Inspiration for the cruiser came from motorcycles built by Ignaz Schwinn’s motorcycle company, Excelsior-Henderson. The schwinn cruiser built of high quality steel framing, with wide balloon tires, and a tank hanging off the frame, looked like a motorcycle without the engine. Thus distinguishing the cruiser from all other bicycles manufactured at that time.
The schwinn cruiser was a workhorse and every paperboy and bike messenger rode a schwinn. Schwinn innovations include the balloon tire, the front brake, and aircraft welded construction. The balloon tire contained an inner tube, which resisted going flat. Two years after introduction the balloon tire became the industry standard for bicycle tires.