Tank Bikes

This is a 1941 Hawthorne Bicycle.

This style is often referred to as a Balloon Bike or Tank Bike and was what every boy wanted for Christmas, up through the 1950s. Hawthorne was a private label brand name used by the retailer Montgomery Ward, primarily for sporting goods. Like Sears & Roebuck, who came later and grew larger, Montgomery Ward started as a mail order catalogue in Chicago in 1872. Both companies sold thousands of products that were made by other companies, but badged with one of their in-house brand names. For sporting goods and bikes, Sears used the name Elgin before WWII and J.C. Higgins post-war. The Hawthorne name was used until the 1970s-80s.

I purchased this Hawthorne fully restored. It was built by H.P. Snyder. It has a springer front end, which Schwinn introduced in 1935 and the other manufacturers copied in 1936. It also has balloon tires, which were introduced by Schwinn in 1933.
1941 HAWTHORNE BICYCLE MONTGOMERY WARDMost Hawthorne bicycles were manufactured by either H.P. Snyder or the Cleveland Welding Company. Because these companies made bikes for many brands, most Hawthorne bicycles were virtually identical to models made for other retailers, but paint colors, sprocket style and brand badging were different. Many parts on bikes coming from the same manufacturer are interchangeable. Snyder also made bikes for Rollfast, which was eventually purchased by AMF.

Schwinn is the most well-known US vintage bike manufacturer. Other popular brands were Rollfast, Western Flyer, Roadmaster, Hiawatha, Murray, Huffy, Columbia, Peerless and Firestone. Because of the increased interest in collecting and restoring vintage bikes, several brands have reproduced vintage tank styles, including Schwinn, Columbia and Roadmaster.

Montgomery Ward continued to compete against Sears and other large department store chains, fighting for relevance in an ever-growing marketplace. Bought and sold many times since its original one page catalogue in 1872, the growth of Kmart, Walmart and Target in the late 20th Century, finally brought an end to Wards in the year 2000. The brand has continued to change hands and in 2006, it was relaunched as an online retailer. The Hawthorne brand, however, is likely gone forever.

By David Kelly