Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Canadian history not boring? Who knew?

From the web-based community newspaper Perth EMC (sorry, couldn't find what EMC stands for) on May 5th the following headline: Canadian History Far from Boring, says local author

The local author referred to has written a book on the history of the CCM.

From the article by Chris Must:
When local historian and author John McKenty set out to research and write a book on the history of CCM, he never suspected his book would include tales of desperate financiers traveling to Italy to ask the Mafia's banker for a loan....

The book, 'Canada Cycle & Motor: The CCM Story', is McKenty's third self-published book of Canadian history. The story of how a fierce boardroom battle for control of CCM in the '60s and '70s led the combatants to look for financial backing in the most unlikely places is just one of the fascinating tales to be found in its pages....
Canadian nationalism played a key role in the founding of the company at the end of the 19th century. Rumours began circulating among Canadian bicycle manufacturers in 1898 that the American Bicycle Company (ABC) was planning to expand to Canada. Walter Massey of the Massey-Harris farm equipment company had begun producing a line of bicycles when he took over the business in 1896. When he heard that ABC was company to Canada, Massey decided the only way to overcome the competition would be to merge several small Canadian cycle makers into one large company. As a result, CCM was founded in 1899.

CCM's advertising was a straight appeal to patriotism, urging Canadians to buy a Canadian-made product. "They worked the patriotic angle real hard," said McKenty. The strategy paid off, and by 1903 the Canadians were in a position to buy out ABC. By that time the American company was itself in financial trouble as the availability of cars sent bicycle sales plummeting.
In other news, dog bites man. (Sorry, I was trying hard not to be a condescending over-educated urbanite, but I couldn't resist.)

It does sound like a good story, and reminds me of The Revenge of the Methodist Bicycle Company: Sunday Streetcars and Municipal Reform In Toronto, 1888-1897 by Chris Armstrong and Viv Nelles (Oxford University Press, republished 2010) which is also a good story, good history, and far from boring, despite being Canadian, local and business history.

Mckenty's book can be ordered online at http://www.vintageccm.com/. The article says a portion of the proceeds will go to the Ottawa chapter of Bicycles for Humanity, a grassroots initiative that provides bicycles to disadvantaged communities in Africa. Which sounds like an exemplary cause.
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