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Manufacturer: Rollfast   Site of Operations: New York
Founder: D.P. Harris   Website:  
Parent Company n/a   Notable Lines/Models: Hoppalong Cassidy
Tricycles Made Since: 1895 (founded)    
Still in Business: Yes    

COMPANY HISTORY:

The D. P. Harris Hardware and Manufacturing Company of New York City was established in 1895 and was renowned for many products, especially Rollfast bicycles, tricycles and roller skates. The bikes were sold under such names as Princeton, Harvard, Savage, Roamer, Gold Medal, Rex, Peerless, Century, Peerless, Standard, Royal Flyer, Champion, Lexington, Black Beauty, Fleetwood, Blue Ribbon, Cadet, Winchester, Keystone, Ben Hur (also used by Schwinn) and Puritan. They also made bikes for the Pep Boys automotive stores. In the 1890's Mr. Harris became a distributor of the Reading Standard Bicycle and established a factory to produce bike and skate parts including ball bearing. This may have lead to the Rollfast name and explains why the ball bearing was featured on the head badge through the 1950's. The H. P. Snyder Company of Little Falls, New York started manufacturing circular ring knitting machines in 1895, the same year that Harris established his company. Snyder, and his partner Fisher, began producing a high quality line of bikes under the "S & F line" name. The company reorganized in 1899, with the retirement of Fisher, and renamed the H. P. Snyder Manufacturing Company. In the early 1900's Snyder had 300 bikes that he was unable to sell. Harris offered to sell the bikes and had sold them in less than a week. A partnership was born.

By 1917 The Snyder Company was producing bikes and bike-related items only. They later added wagons and trikes. A second location was acquired in Michigan City, Indiana. During the Great Depression the Snyder Company was hard hit. Harris and Snyder agreed that the Snyder Company would market their bikes directly to large department stores such as Montgomery Wards who sold the under the Hawthorne name. The Cleveland Welding Company also supplied bikes to Wards. This move benefited the Harris Company since they supplied parts, such as handlebars and sprockets, which were made at the Reading plant. The Hawthorne bikes also used Torrington pedals and U.S. Royal tires which were distributed by the Harris Company. Schwinn introduced the balloon (2.125" width) tire in 1933. Rollfast introduced there model in early 1934. The "Custom Built" V-30 featured balloon tires, chrome rims, Rollfast chime siren, wide Texas steer horn handlebars, chrome forks and struts and "Double Arrow" point decorations. 1934 also saw the balloon tired three wheeled delivery bike named the "Cyclo Delivery". The 1936 streamlined Sport Motobike Deluxe, V-24F, featured twin curved op tubes with a horn tank between them. Quality features included dust proof caps to seal the crank bearings. By 1939 the tank was extended past the seat tube. 1941 found a ribbed tank and the Rollfast version of the streamlined fender light. The Schwinn Company introduce their spring fork in 1938 and Rollfast followed in 1939. The Rollfast fork controlled the vertical action of the fork so the wheelbase was not affected. The fork could also be adjusted to the riders weight. During the war Rollfast, as well as all other manufacturers, were only able to make basic stripped bikes. The company sold replacement grips and pedal blocks out of wood to save rubber and made "Tire-Flex" to extend the life of tires by slowing deterioration. After the war, there was a large demand for deluxe bikes. A cast aluminum streamliner was proposed to compete with the Monark Silver King but was not produced. Rollfast used many celebrity endorsements and sponsorships for their marketing. PeeWee Reese, Willie Mays, Bobby Riggs and even Bob Hope were used to endorse Rollfast bikes. Rollfast used television show sponsorship and give away's for promotion of the brand.

By 1948 a new factory in Reading was used to increase production bike and skate parts and accessories. Rollfast parts found their way onto other branded bikes and were sold aftermarket as well. In 1949 Rollfast introduced an all new line of standard and deluxe models. The top model, 4272, had a slightly different spring fork, a painted "wing" design on the tank and chain guard, "ball" type headlight mounted to the springer, chrome "bumper" on the rear and possibly front fender, Torrington pedals stamped "Rollfast" on the caps, coke bottle grips, and glass studded Persons-Majestic reflectors. Two tone metallic paint was available in green, blue or burgundy contrasted with silver. This model was produced, with slight difference, through 1953. 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 were 20" and 24" wheels followed by a tricycle roller skates, 16" Play cycles and 26" version. The bike was a success, selling around 100,000 units in the three or four years it was offered. In 1954 the new model #50 was the top model. Embossed chrome trim was added tot he tank, three tone paint, chrome fenders, deluxe Delta Rocket Ray, new type carrier with taillight 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 tire model in the Rollfast line. Rollfast owned 6 distributors to sell there products. In the 1950's Firestone Tire and Rubber was one on Rollfast's largest customers. By 1955 Rollfast switched to the lighter weight bikes and had a very successful year. They heavily promoted the parts that the sold, U.S. Rubber tires, Lobdell and Troxel saddles, Torrington spokes and pedals and Bendix hubs. These middle weight bikes did away with many of the heavy "extras" such as spring forks and horn tanks. Many of the bikes featured jet planes on the chain guards. In the 1960's the muscle bike became king. Schwinn introduced the Stingray model in 1963 and other manufacturers followed. Rollfast had the Scoot with a banana seat and high rise handlebars. When Schwinn introduced the Krate series in 1968 other manufactures again followed. Rollfast had several different modified models including the Top Drag, Sparker, Jumbo Jet and Smoothy. Each model had a unique frame design and most featured a 20" rear slick, 16" front wheel and a spring fork.

In the early 1970's the ten speed craze hit the U.S. and Rollfast imported the Astra from France. Mossburg, a well known firearms maker, decided to purchase the Snyder operation. They invested money in new technology such as carbon fiber. The Harris Company looked to AMF to supply bikes for Rollfast when a previous agreement had fell through with the new owners of the Snyder operation. The distributors who had become accustomed to the quality of the Snyder made bike refused to buy the AMF produced bikes. This arrangement lasted only one year. Mossburg tried to produce bikes under there own name but failed. The Snyder factory was closed in 1975 and demolished the year after. In 1976 an auction was held to liquidate the equipment. Huffy ended up with the giant tube mills. Emory Manufacturing from Jacksonville, FL ended up with most the frame and fork making equipment. Emory made industrial bikes until being approached by Western Auto to make a retro styled cruiser. Dies for the tanks and carriers were re-created. Emory decided to produce a line a cruisers but the Rollfast name was being used on a line of Taiwan mountain bikes. Emory used the Aerofast name instead.  Most of this information was distilled from the March/April and May/June 1996 Classic Bike by Steve and Lynn Culver.

Notable Features: Coming Soon....

     
       

Tricycles Photos & Info:

     
 
Hoppalong Cassidy tricycle Chain driven Rollfast tricycle ~1940's  
       
       
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