Velocipede - French vélocipède, from Latin velox (“swift”) + pes (“foot”)
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Arthur M. Gooch - Renaissance Man - Bicycle Maker

52 Inch Gooch Roadster No. 46 Circa 1885

Arthur M. Gooch was a small custom builder of Ordinary bicycles in Newton Upper Falls Massachusetts beginning in 1878. Little is known about Gooch. At least 4 of his machines are known to have survived. He used many of his own forgings as well as some imported parts. His bicycles were of very good quality. His family operated a stone quarry in Newton Falls where he had his machine shop. Early cycling periodicals show that Gooch built racing models as well as roadsters. There are several appearances of Gooch's name in one of the earliest American cycling periodicals The Bicycling World. The Massachusetts Census for 1870 lists him as residing in Newton and born about 1856.

In the Newton City Directory for 1879 and 1880, A.M. Gooch is listed as a machinist boarding at the home of S.H. Gooch, Warren and Glen Ave. Newton Center.

According to Bruce Epperson in his book Peddaling Bicycles to America: The Rise of an Industry, page 29, one A.M. Gooch of Newton Massachusetts was making a small number of Ordinary bicycles in the late 1870's.(Peddaling Bicycles to America: The Rise of an Industry, page 29)

In the May 1880 edition of The Bicycle World we read the following :

In the same issue we can see one of Gooch's earliest adds :

In July of 1879, Darius Hadley and William E Gilman completed the first bicycle tour in the United States. From Boston they had taken a steam ship to Portland Maine then cycled East to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Hadley's mount was a bicycle by Gooch. (Pg. 274 The Bicycle World, "In the White Mountains" June, 1880)

As a member of the Waltham Bicycle Club, A.M. Gooch applied for membership to the League of American Wheelmen (L.A.W.) in 1880. (The Bicycle World October 30,1880 Pg. 438)

At the September 7, 1880 Grand Meet and Races, held during the New England Agricultural Fair at Worcester Massachusetts, W.W. Stall of Boston won the half mile heat on a 58 inch machine by Gooch. ( Page 378, The Bicycle World, Bicycle Races, September 18,1880.)

In the February 18, 1881 issue of The Bicycle World, W.W. Stall gives his record of riding for the year 1880 on his 58 inch Gooch. (The Bicycle World Feb. 18, 1881 Pg 232)

At the Mechanics Institute Fair held September 1881 Gooch exhibits a full nickle machine. (The Bicycle World September 2, 1881 Pg 198)

The Newton City Directory of 1883 lists Arthur M. Gooch as Bicycle Manufacturer, near Glen Avenue near the Rail Road and boards a Samuel H. Gooch's (his brother ?).

On Saturday October 4, 1884 the Boston Bicycle Club held a 100 mile road race from Natick Mass out to the North Shore. D.T. Fales of Framingham Mass. came in fourth (9 hours 59 mins) on a 52 inch Gooch. (The Bicycle World October 10, 1884 Pgs. 389 - 390)

Finally we meet the man himself on a days run from Newton to Westboro Massachusetts in 1889. (The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review Vol 3 No 11 Page 236,1889).

The Sportsmans Directory, Milwaukee Wisconsin, 1891 lists Arthur M. Gooch of Newton Center Massachusetts as a bicycle dealer.

It seems as though Gooch was a bit of an inventor as well as bicycle maker. When doing research on Arthur Gooch, I made the aquaintance of Dean Bird who grew up in Newton not far from the ruins of Gooch's shop. As a young boy Dean was given a small sphere of stone, the size of a baseball. The sphere was ground into this shape by Arthur Gooch. Apparently Gooch held a patent for a machine that would grind stone into a perfect sphere. The Gooch family business was a granite quarry.

 

Sphere of stone ground by A.M. Gooch 

I had said that four machines survive that were built by Gooch. A Roadster dating to 1885 can be seen here on this website in the Velo Gallery. Another fine survivor is a Light Roadster that probably dates to 1888. It is pictured below.

  

52 Inch Gooch Light Roadster No. 73 Circa 1888

Lymann Hotchkiss Bagg, a.k.a. Karl Kron, was an cycling pioneer and chronicler of the earliest days of the Ordinary bicycle in the U.S. He composed a large volume (800 pages!) of cycling information, Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle, in 1884. In it he notes manufacturers, types of bicycles, people and places, distances traveled, statistics, etc. etc. and just about anything related to cycling during the years 1879 - 1885. His attention to detail was manic. Amazingly there is not a mention of A.M. Gooch in his book ! This is especially perplexing as Kron grew up in New England, and was good friends with Col. Albert Pope who lived in Newton Massachusetts.

Gooch was a small maker of bicycles however it was unlikely that he escaped the reach of the Pope Manufacturing Company. Pope had a virtual monopoly of all patents relating to the manufacture of bicycles from the late 1870's into the mid 1880's. Here is an ad from The Bicycle World, May 5, 1882.

Pope Mfg. Co. Add May 5, 1882

I have often wondered what arrangement, if any, A.M. Gooch had with the Pope Manufacturing Company and why we've heard nothing about this skilled bicycle pioneer.

The Bicycle World 1882