Happy birthday Viktor Schreckengost

Miscellaneous 7 4

Today, June 26th 2006, Viktor Schreckengost celebrates his 100th birthday. If you are not familiar with Mr. Schreckengost and his work, you are not alone. In a June 06 article, Metropolis magazine calls him “one of America’s most important–and under-recognized–industrial designers.” Whether you know of him or not, you have probably used several of the products that he designed over the course of his 70 year career. He designed so many different types of products, more categories than I can list here, but the designs that I want to mention in this post are, of course, the bicycles.

In the late 30’s as the chief bicycle designer for Murray, Mr. Schreckengost designed the streamlined Mercury bicycle, which was later exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. During his 35 years with Murray, Schreckengost designed many other bicycles and pedal cars. In fact, around 100 million of his bikes and pedal cars were manufactured by the company quickly making Murray the largest bike manufacturer in the world. Later, in the sixties, Schreckengost’s designed a product that many of us remember fondly, the banana seat. He noticed that kids at the time were replacing their front wheels with smaller, lighter ones to make the bikes wheelie better. In an earlier Metropolis article, Schreckengost explained: “To wheelie right, you should be able to balance the bike. We made the banana seat so you could have two positions on the same seat. I was afraid kids would go over the back onto their heads. To protect them, I put this sissy bar on the back of the bikes with fringes on it–so it became part of the image.”

What an impressive life and career? 100 years is quite a milestone. I hope that Mr. Schreckengost has a great day celebrating this special birthday.

The picture above is from his website. Check out the bicycle gallery if you are interested in seeing more of his work.

7 Comments

  1. Herbert June 27, 2006 at 7:19 am -  Reply

    I heard an interview of Victor Schreckengost on NPR. Very, very amazing.

  2. James June 27, 2006 at 7:32 am -  Reply

    Herbert, In addition to seeing a couple of articles about him in design magazines over the past month, I heard the second half of that NPR interview as well. I am glad that Mr. Schreckengost has been getting the recognition that he deserves.

  3. Anonymous June 27, 2006 at 11:11 pm -  Reply

    I knew from reading some of your previous posts that you enjoying sucking up to anyone in the industry, but you’ve reached a new low here. While I’ll admit that the picture of Victor’s show bike is very elegant and no one would deny that banana seats are cool, don’t you think it was at least worth mentioning that Murray bicycles, once the largest maker of bikes made some of the worst crap ever to be called a bike? These department store behemoths managed to be ponderous and fragile at the same time. They did a huge disservice to cycling. Who knows how many people gave up riding after thinking how awful it was to ride one of these beasts? C’mon, would it kill you to say something sucked once in a while? It would lend more credibility to claims of design greatness. Great blog, by the way.

    • jack July 25, 2013 at 9:33 am -  Reply

      Actually I ride daily and my backup bike is a converted JC Higgins Murray bicycle; no brakes, fixed gear and 700c x 23c gold rims – its awsome and wouldnt trade it for anything.

  4. James June 28, 2006 at 11:09 am -  Reply

    Hey Anon, you certainly are a perceptive individual. I can’t slip anything by you. My blatant industry sucking up is yet to pay off though. I have been waiting patiently for a free Campy Record grouppo to show up on my doorstep, but it must still be in transit. Seriously though, for the most part I post products that I like or find interesting and I do not intend to post products that I dislike just to be critical. In the past, I have mentioned a few products that I am not a big fan of; those wacky serpentine Pinarello forks for instance. I don’t, however, consider that type of commentary to be the focus of my blog. In general, I love bikes of all types and that is what this blog is about.

    As a former bike shop mechanic, I have worked on my share of Murrays and other department store bikes. Some of those bikes did not shift correctly because of serious frame alignment issues. You are right that cheap bikes from big box retailers are generally of low quality, but that fact doesn’t take away from Mr. Schreckengost’s design achievements in the 1930s through the 60s. I fail to see how my post could really be construed as sucking up to Murray. I prefer to think of it as a tribute to a talented designer who happened to work for that company. I guess we will just have to disagree on that one, but I do agree with you on one more point. You are right that it wouldn’t kill me to say something sucked once and while. I thought that your anonymous accusation sucked for instance. Does that help add a little credibility? Oh yeah, thanks for the blog compliment by the way.

    Out of curiosity, does anyone else out there agree with the anonymous commenter?

  5. robodobo June 29, 2006 at 6:38 pm -  Reply

    James, you are so right about Anon sucking and I completely agree with you that Murray rules. After all they couldn’t have made it to #1 without making the best bikes. Sure, my Murray Baja Fever may weigh a bit more than a Scott CR-1, but I could buy 50 Murrays for the price of one Scott. It is the rider, not the bike. I’d bet Lance probably still could have won at least six Tours on a Murray. I’d also bet that the Murray Herculite enhanced mild steel tubing would fare pretty well against a Ford F-250.

  6. Wayne Bertrand November 5, 2013 at 1:09 pm -  Reply

    I agree that Anon sucks…… I have a JC Higgins desinged Coloflow and the Spaceliner “7 tank” and not only are they works of art….. they ride very well and are rock solid some 50-60 years later. Anon fails to take into consideration the designs of the time. I also have a Schwinn Phantom, Silver king Hex Tube, Elgin 4 star and a Western Flyer X-53 and the are ALL heavy bikes…….

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