The Schwinn Bicycle Company is an American company that develops, manufactures and markets bicycles under the eponymous brand name. The company was originally founded by Ignaz Schwinn (1860–1948) in Chicago in 1895. It became the dominant manufacturer of American bicycles through most of the 20th century. After declaring bankruptcy in 1992, Schwinn was bought by a Dutch conglomerate and most of the manufacturing was moved to Taiwan and the far east.
The Schwinn Fair Lady was made between 1964 to 1985. During these years, manufacturing was still going strong in the USA and the UK. Specifically this post is about the evolution of a design classic - The Schwinn Fair Lady bicycle.
The last U.S.-made Schwinn bike rolled off the production line in 1982. The company was originally founded by a German engineer Ignaz Schwinn in 1895.
In the 1950s, Schwinn began to aggressively cultivate bicycle retailers, persuading them to sell Schwinns as their predominant, if not exclusive brand. During this period, bicycle sales enjoyed relatively slow growth, with the bulk of sales going to youth models. In 1900, during the height of the first bicycle boom, annual United States sales by all bicycle manufacturers had briefly topped one million. By 1960, annual sales had reached just 4.4 million.[Nevertheless, Schwinn's share of the market was increasing, and would reach in excess of 1 million bicycles per year by the end of the decade.
1968 Schwinn Stingray Fair Lady
The original Schwinn Fair Lady was made between 1964 to 1985. The first one came with lots of extras to make it extra appealing to girls. You can also see that the curved frame and rounded edges make it more feminine in look, appealing widely to women and girls.
Here are some early advertisements showing that the bike was build at different sizes for mum and daughter to be able to go cruising together in matching bicycles.
Some of the features included stainless steel finders, front carrier, chrome Hi-lo beam headlight, 2-tone saddle, chrome rims, 1.75 whitewall tires, chrome-trimmed chain guard, Radiant colors, choice of 3-speed with caliper brakes, 2-speed coaster brake or regular coaster brake.
In 1966 the Schwinn Fair-Lady carried on to evolve with the addition of a coaster brake, a flower-trimmed wicker basket, chrome plated full-length fenders and a Silver Glow saddle.
Here is a great vintage advertisement for the Schwinn bicycles in the 1960s.
An article in Forbes says "Imported bicycles held only a sliver of the market when Schwinn dominated the industry. It was founded in Chicago in the 1890s but rose to prominence through Depression-era innovation that redefined the bicycle as both durable and stylish. Its marketing genius was to cultivate a network of small dealerships run by people who knew bikes, and who were eager to promote the brand. Schwinn dealerships became a staple of downtowns, typically employing a manager, a full-time worker or two and perhaps a few teenagers in the summer."