Prewar Cleveland Welding Frame “Families”
The best way I have found to organize information about Cleveland Welding Bicycles is to divide production first by era and then by frame characteristics.
As most Balloon Bicycle collectors do, I first separate CWC production into prewar and postwar production. In an effort to further classify prewar models I have developed a system that divides prewar models into groups of frame “families”.
Within each of these families are bicycles that share general frame geometry but may have differences due to running factory production changes. I will add pieces regarding prewar juvenile balloon and adult lightweight models later. For now the list should be complete for all the prewar standard models. I have also noted a couple of possible variations that do not appear in catalogs, and that I have never seen. These models may or may not exist. By noting these possibilities, I hope to flush out examples if they do exist.
Double Bar Roadsters and Camelbacks, 1936 Girl’s Model
The earliest CWC production consisted of essentially of two frames, a boy’s frame and a girl’s frame.
The boy’s frame was offered as a double-bar roadster (DR-1) or, without the lower top tube, in a camelback configuration (DC-1). Each of these configurations was offered at several trim and accessory levels including a top of the line model built on a camelback frame and featuring a tank that wrapped over the top tube and around the head tube. In addition to being offered with 26” balloon tires, some models were offered with 27” x 1.50” high pressure single tube or 27” x 1.50” semi-balloon double tube tires. Similar frames were produced in smaller sizes as juvenile models
The DR-1/DC-1 models were offered into 1937 with running production changes and the double bar model was further modified for 1938 by lowering the bottom top tube (DR-2). A tank was made to fit this frame. The DR-2 frame was offered as a base model Roadmaster at least as late as 1939 (and perhaps later?)
These frames were popular as branded models distributed by chains like Montgomery Ward and Western Auto. As low cost specials, these frames may have been produced throughout the prewar period.
The First girl’s frame (GR-1) differs from later girl’s models in the geometry of the down tubes and location of the down tube brace, and will not accept a tank. This style frame is pictured in 1936 and some 1937 literature I have only seen this model with the 1936 style chain ring and believe it was replaced with the second girl’s model (GR-2) sometime during 1937.
Late in 1936 a new tank model was offered. This frame is the same as the concurrent double bar roadster but the lower top tube was reconfigured to fit a hanging tank. I refer to this model as the “Bent Tank” as the bottom of the tank, and the tube beneath it, has a pronounced downward kink. This model appears in the 1937-1940 Roadmaster catalogs and may have been produced until prewar production ended.
The BT-1 through BT-4 variations refer to frames that use a version of this tank (the tank itself came in several physical and paint variations through those years). The first version has a straight down tube and straight chain stays. In 1939 CWC began producing frames with a revised rear end featuring upswept chain stays. In 1941 CWC began offering frames with a curved down tube.
Of the four possible variations/combinations of down tubes and stays, the Bent Tank models were offered as BT-1 (straight/straight) from late 1936 through at least 1940. I have listed a BT-2 with the 1939 curved stays and a straight down tube although I have never seen one and doubt this variant exists. The BT-3 (straight rear, curved front) and BT-4 (curved front and rear) both appear in the 1941 catalog.
The Bent Tank frames were produced in significant numbers and appear with a variety of badges.
The last important thing to mention regarding Bent Tanks is that H. P. Snyder, a bicycle manufacturer in Little Falls New York, produced bicycles that are very similar to and often confused with certain CWC built models including Bent Tanks, 3-Gills etc. I call these Fauxmasters and will address this separately.
CWC’s approach to marketing was to offer several distinct lines based on a tiered pricing structure. In 1937 Special, Standard, Deluxe, and Supreme lines were offered. The Supreme line was new for 1937 and featured exclusive models based on a new for 1937 frame design. The most notable feature of this frame is the curved seat tube featured on both the girl’s and boy’s models and the reverse curve down tube used on the boy’s model. Both versions also use the taller 6” head tube. This is typical for all prewar girl’s CWC frames but exclusive to only top of the line CWC boy’s frames. The girls frame also has twin front braces below the tank.
Most collectors are aware of these bikes (and the rarity of the boy’s models). These bikes were offered in variations for 1937 and 1938. The designations I use to differentiate the frames are as follows. SP-1 is the boy’s 1937 frame with threaded holes for mounting the 1937 tank internals. SP-2 is a frame without the holes and would have been used for a 1937 tank-less boy’s model or a 1938 version, with or without a tank. GS-1 is the designation for the 1937 and 1938 girl’s Supreme model.
These models were replaced in 1939 with new models featuring a new rear end with curved chain stays. Gone were several distinctive 1937-1938 features including the curved seat tube and the curved down tube of the boy’s model. Remaining was the shape of the tank apertures and the double braces below the tank on the girl’s model. The boy’s model is referred to in the hobby as the 4-Gill for the four louvers in the front of the scimitar shaped tank (originally designed to replace the 1937 tank for the 1938 model) These models are still referred to as Supremes in 1939 literature and as the “A” model in 1940 literature. The frames themselves appear to be the same for both years. (There are differences in fitments and trim between 1939 an 1940 models. 1939 Roadmaster models have a fender mounted headlight, 1940 models use the “grapefruit” light mounted on a bracket on the fork crown).My designations for these frames are 4G-1 for the boy’s, and GS-2 for the girl’s.
The top of the line models were again changed for 1941. Referred to as the Men’s “A” Fully Equipped, the boy’s model frame still uses the curved stay rear end and 6” head tube. The down tube is curved, a new feature for 1941 appearing on several models. The top tubes for this model were reformed around a new straight bar tank. One of only two straight bar prewar tanks, this tank is unique to this model and striking for its size (the 6” head tube). I refer to this frame as the SB-1. The girl’s “A” model also used a unique for 1941 frame but this frame was also used on girl’s 1941 “B” models so some prestige was lost. I refer to this frame as the GR-4 and the significant difference from the GR-3 model (see girl’s models below) is the upswept brace below the tank. This frame uses a new for 1941 tank, specific to this frame.
I have not seen any year-to-year production numbers for Cleveland Welding but I assume form the number of bikes existent today that 1938 was a good year for production. The double bar roadsters and bent tanks from this period seem to be out there in good numbers and CWC introduced several new frames in 1938 to expand their market. One new offering for 1938 was the first 3-Gill frame. This model was developed as a sort of junior version of the boy’s 1938 Supreme with its new 4-Gill tank. The basic frame again is a variant of the DR-2/BT-1 frame but with a curved lower top tube and a matching tank with 3-Gills. (Note; the Bent Tank and the Model “A” straight bar tank also breathe – exhale? The gills are to let the horn sound out - through 3 gills)
The 3-Gill models proved to be very popular and the 3-Gill tank is the only CWC prewar boy’s tank to continue to be offered on the postwar line. There are several versions of this tank. While the shape is the same and will interchange throughout the line, there are specific differences between early and late tanks and variations that are model specific.
The first 3-gill (3G-1, 1938) frames have a straight down tube and straight chain stays. 3G-2 (1939-1940) is the designation I give 3 gills that have a straight down tube but the 1939 pattern curved chain stays. 3G-3 (1941) is a 3-gill with a curved down tube but the earlier style straight stays. 3G-4 (1941) is a 3-gill with curves front and rear.
Two more versions of the 3-gill exist that pose dating questions. A Heavy Duty version of the 3G-4 exists but is not listed in the 1941 catalog. I have designated it a 3G-5. Several versions of the 3G-4 have turned up without drop stand tangs (3G-6). These may be late additions to the 1941 line, revisions to models for 1942, or the first postwar production frames before the later changes were implemented. These questions would best be answered by literature which may or may not exist. Collecting more serial numbers may also clarify these issues.
In the 1937-1938 Fall/Winter Montgomery Ward catalog a new 5-bar Hawthorn model is introduced. The model described and pictured was produced for M-W by Monark. Monark produced several duralium framed models for M-W and the 5-bar was a foray into producing a steel framed, 26” wheeled bike. The bike is again pictured in the 1938 M-W catalog with trim differences. In the 1938-1939 catalog a 5-bar is pictured but is actually a variant manufactured by H. P. Snyder. At the same time, M-W offered a companion 4-bar girl’s model. In the 1939 and 1939-40 M-W catalogs, a revised version with curved down tubes, upswept chain stays and the availability of a tank were offered. The Tank model inherited the “Zep” name from an earlier M-W model.
Cleveland Welding was a source for some of the above bicycles. The catalogs themselves do not mention the source for the various models and it appears that some individual models had more than one source.
I have two CWC 5-bar frames (and a Monark, and a Snyder for comparison) that are similar to the earlier 1937-38 frames, I believe they were produced in 1938 for M-W but both came to me as bare, badge-less frames. I also have a CWC and a Snyder 39-40 “Zep” style frame. I have not physically seen a CWC girl’s 4-bar but I believe they exist.
The 5-bar frames are a subject unto themselves and require photographs for clarity so I will take this on later and close the multi-bar section with the following designations: 5B-1, early 5-bars with straight stays; 5B-2, late 5-bars with curved chain stays; G4-1, G4-2, designations for similar CWC built girl’s 4-bars (if they exist).
These frames are grouped together as they do not relate singularly with any other family category.
The Motormaster (MM-1) was CWC’s attempt to enter the motorized market. As such it falls outside the scope of true bicycle products but it does appear in the 1939 bicycle catalog and while it was unsuccessful (viewed from the perspective of how few were produced) it was a precursor to CWC’s later involvement with Wizzer.
The All American (AA-1) was designed by Walter Dorwin Teague supposedly from the responses to a survey of American boy’s on what constituted a “good looking bike”. The bike was not offered as a Roadmaster but was sold by Montgomery Ward (though apparently not exclusively as I have a frame badged as a Western Flyer.) Interestingly there are CWC All American Badges but I have not seen one used on an All American frame. The frame itself is an odd blend of various models. It has the early straight stay rear end coupled with a unique bent down tube and uses a straight bar tank also unique to the model.
CWC offered a truss bar model (TR-1) in the 1940 and 1941 as a heavy duty model. The model appears to use a version of the 4-gill frame with an arched truss bar replacing the lower top tube. The catalog notes that heavier tubing and components were used on this model.
The 1940 and 1942 catalogs also show a Delivery model (CT-1) similar to a Schwinn Cycle Truck.
Girl’s Prewar Frames
The GR-1, GS-1, GS-2, GR-4, G4-1, and G4-2 models have been discussed above. This leaves the GR-2 and GR-3 frames. In 1937 the girl’s Supreme was the first girl’s CWC to be offered with a tank. Sometime during 1937 the GR-1 model was modified to use the same tank. The GR-2 appeared in the 1938 catalog and is still part of the CWC line in 1941. The GR-3 is the same frame with the 1939 rear end. The GR-3 appears in 1939 1940 and 1941 catalogs and is the basis for postwar girl’s models.