MANUFACTURE D’ARMES et CYCLES de Saint-Etienne

1. MANUFACTURE D’ARMES et CYCLES de Saint-Etienne

MANUFACTURE D’ARMES et CYCLES de Saint-Etienne


The company was established at Villebouef, Saint-Etienne, on 10th November 1885, by directors Mimard and Blachon for the manufacture of sporting guns and bicycles under the Hirondelle trade mark. Initially it handled the sale and repair of mainly British bicycles and tricycles. Own production of bicycles did not begin, and then only on a small scale, until March 1888.

Against the growing trend for diamond frames the first catalogue in 1889 favoured the cross frame in the form of the Superbe. The frame was curved to absorb vibrations.

In 1892 four models were offered: the 125 for artisans and workmen, etc and selling at Fr185, the 130 for postmen, bailiffs, road inspectors and messengers at Fr235, the 135 roadster for doctors and commercial travellers at Fr275, and the Superbe at Fr360. All of these were bought-in from the Gautheir Brothers* contrary to the claim in the catalogue to have been manufactured on the premises, and sold at a profit.

A new factory was built in 1894 that was equipped with the latest machine tools. In 1895 bearings were introduced that could be stripped, cleaned and adjusted by hand. The range of bicycles and parts was simplified. The number of brazing operations was reduced, and the number of different bolts were reduced and standardized. The company emphasised the interchangeability of components. The Mimosa model was produced. The retro-direct gear was introduced in 1903. Two gears were obtained by means of two chains with a change of gear being obtained by pedalling in the opposite direction. However, these were never popular. Continual simplification and quality control saw sales increase to 12,000 a year by 1911. The company failed in 1940 as a result of the Second World War.

* Gauthier Brothers: Pierre and Claudius Gauthier were mechanics who started to build their own bicycles from about 1886, having copied a Rudge. They were based in Blois, France. In 1887 they produced a model called La Militaire for army dispatch riders. In 1889 they exhibited a model which could be converted from bicycle to tricycle and to tandem tricycle. They were asked in 1891 to design three bicycles for Manufacture d’Armes et Cycles de Saint-Etienne.