The Rambler Owners Club

Gormully & Jeffery Mfg Co: Rambler Bicycles

Gormully & Jeffery Rambler Cycles

The American Rambler bicycle brand was manufactured by the Gormully & Jeffery Mfg. Co., in Chicago from 1878. As you can see, above, the company operated ‘Bicycle Riding Academies’ so that potential customers could try out Ramblers and learn to ride them.


Thomas B. Jeffery was born in Stoke, Devonshire, England. At the age of eighteen he emigrated to the United States, and moved to Chicago. Later he worked making models of inventions for submission to the U.S. Patent Office by inventors. With partner R. Phillip Gormully he formed a bicycle company and became the 2nd largest bicycle manufacturing company in the U.S. One of his accomplishments was developing a clincher rim and tire so that pneumatic tires could be used more effectively on bicycles.

Rambler was the main Gormully and Jeffery bicycle brand. In 1895 they started the Shelby Cycle Manufacturing Co to make the Ideal bicycle, which was a cheaper model. This was marketed both as a Rambler Ideal and a Shelby Ideal. (More about Shelby further down the page).

In 1900 Jeffery and Gormully sold their interest in their bicycle company and bought a factory in Kenosha Wisconsin to start making cars. They kept the name, so their cars were also called Ramblers. Jeffery’s first Rambler car is seen below.


Some of his early designs had a front mounted engine, and a steering wheel, but the first production models conservatively followed the Duryea pattern, and had a tiller and a rear engine.

The Ramblers cost in the $750 to $850 range, with an 8-hp, 1.6L, 1-cyl. engine mounted beneath the seat. In the first year of sales the Rambler became the second largest selling car, with 1500 automibiles sold, second to Oldsmobile.

In 1898 his son Charles built two more sophisticated single-cylinder cars with a front-mounted engine. It was left-hand drive, which was unusual for an American car of the day.

The Rambler’s design evolved by 1902, moving the driver to the right-hand side and moving the engine from the front of the vehicle to the back under the seat.


1886 advert in THE CYCLE











Shelby, Ohio, USA

Shelby Cycle Manufacturing Co started in the boom years of the 1890s. In 1895 the company marketed their Ideal bicycle. The artist impression of their factory, above, is dated 1896. The April 10, 1896 edition of the Shelby Republican newspaper described the new company as follows:

‘In the Shelby Cycle Manufacturing Company, Shelby can boast of not only having Ideal Bicycles made, but also in having an Ideal Factory. The company is controlled by R. Philip Gormully, President; Thos. B. Jeffery, Vice President; and A. W. Gump, Treasurer and General Manager. The above parties have been in the bicycle business upwards of seventeen years, and as they were formerly associated in a business way the venture is not a new one. Possession of the building was taken by The Cycle Co. last September, and already over three hundred hands are employed, and everything is in first class running order with the large out-put daily increasing.’

Gormully & Jeffery were, of course, already bicycle manufacturers of good standing – their company made the upmarket Rambler bicycle. Their experience no doubt allowed the new Shelby Cycle Co to capitalize on increasing consumer demand for cheaper bicycles: it looks to me like the company was established with this particular aim in mind. As you can see above, the Ideal name was more prominent than the new Shelby company name, and Rambler sold bicycles under the Ideal name too.


‘Mr. Gump, who had been in the bicycle trade in Dayton for eighteen years previous to coming to this city, had more or less business relations with the Gormully, Jeffery Mfg. Co. and at one of the cycle shows Mr. Gormully stated that if Mr. Gump found a factory his concern would take very largely of the stock, providing a medium grade wheel was manufactured to supply the increasing demand for a cheaper wheel than the Rambler. Shortly after this their present plant was secured and the manufacture of wheels begun. The first year’s output consisted of 10,000 wheels and this large number of bicycles was completely sold out. This year the company has been turning out 100 wheels a day and under pressure is capable of making 200 bicycles every twenty – four hours. The company have on their payroll three hundred and fifty men, an item of much importance to any community whose prosperity is dependent on manufacturing enterprises.’

‘The works are divided into eighteen departments as follows: enamelling, wheel building, hub and automatic machinery, frame filing, fork sides, frame building, brazing, tool room, pedals, lathe and machinery, polishing, nickeling, experimenting, assembling, buffing, and shipping, each of which is in charge of a competent foreman.’

‘The Shelby Cycle Manufacturing Co., are now making seven different styles of Bicycles. Their No. 1 Ideal, $75.00; their High Frame Ideal, $75.00; a 26 inch Diamond, $50.00; a ladies 28 inch Drop Frame, $75.00; a ladies 26 inch Drop Frame, $50.00; a 28 inch Diamond Frame, $50.00; and a 28 inch ladies wheel, $50.00. The Shelby Cycle Co., will not sell any wheels at retail at all, and all their retail trade will be through the hands of Seltzer & Steele who have the local agency.’

‘The first order for the new factory was 1000 bicycles for Mr. Thos Varney, of San Francisco, one of the top retail outlets. The factory was obviously busy day and night: “Railroad passengers and citizens of Shelby note particularly the brilliant display of electric light at the works of the Shelby Cycle Mfg. Co. On dark nights especially do the lights, streaming from the many windows, form a fairy picture of beauty and activity. It is necessary to work an extra force of men all night to meet the demand for Ideal Bicycles.’

This information with thanks to ‘Shelby Chapter of The Ohio Genealogy Society’ –

To see more of the Shelby Lindy Bicycle PLEASE CLICK HERE




Whereas the British version was THE BUBBLECAR SONG

The American version, BEEP BEEP, featured ‘A LITTLE NASH RAMBLER’

While riding in my Cadillac,
What to my surprise.
A little Nash Rambler was following me –
About one third my size.
The guy must’ve wanted to pass me up
As he kept on tooting his horn. Beep! Beep!
I’ll show him that a
Is not a car to scorn.
Beep beep. Beep! Beep! Beep beep. Beep! Beep!
His horn went beep beep beep. Beep! Beep!
I pushed my foot down to the floor
To give the guy the shake.
But the little Nash Rambler stayed right behind;
He still had on his brake.
He must have thought his car had more guts
As he kept on tooting his horn. Beep! Beep!
I’ll show him that a Cadillac
Is not a car to scorn.
Beep beep. Beep! Beep! Beep beep. Beep! Beep!
His horn went beep beep beep. Beep! Beep!
My car went into passing gear
And we took off with gust.
Soon we were doing ninety –
Must’ve left him in the dust.
When I peeked in the mirror of my car,
I couldn’t believe my eyes:
The little Nash Rambler was right behind –
I think that guy could fly.
Beep beep. Beep! Beep! Beep beep. Beep! Beep!
His horn went beep beep beep.
Now we’re doing a hundred and ten –
This certainly was a race.
For a Rambler to pass a Caddy

Would be a big disgrace.
The guy must’ve wanted to pass me up
As he kept on tooting his horn.
I’ll show him that a Cadillac
Is not a car to scorn.
Beep beep. Beep! Beep! Beep beep. Beep! Beep!
His horn went beep beep beep.
Now we’re doing a hundred and twenty –
As fast as I could go.
The Rambler pulled along side of me
As if we were going slow.
The fellow rolled down his window
And yelled for me to hear,
“Hey, Buddy, how can I get this car
Out of second gear?!”
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!