History of Siegfried Bettmann & Early Triumph Bicycles



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1904 triumph motorcycle SCHULTE

The first company was started by Siegfried Bettmann in 1886, with funding provided by the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co. Mauritz Johann Schulte became Bettmann’s partner in 1887. In 1888 Schulte worked at Wm Andrews for several months to gain experience of Wm Andrews bicycles. The first ‘Triumph’ bicycles, marketed the following year, were rebadged machines purchased from William Andrews, and it is believed that Triumph bought the remaining inventory of Andrews company in 1902. 

Siegfried Bettmann arrived in England from Nuremberg in 1883, aged 20. Initially staying at the Station Hotel, Holborn Viaduct, he soon moved to cheaper accommodation in Church Road, Islington. On his very first evening in these lodgings he met ‘young, handsome, fair’ Mauritz Johann Schulte who originally hailed from Hanover, but had travelled to London to try his luck after living seven years in Holland. Mauritz had already been in London for three or four weeks but had not looked for a job. With Siegfried’s encouragement both started job hunting and both were offered jobs after two weeks of letter applications to advertisers in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ newspaper. Siegfried didn’t mention what job Mauritz had obtained but only that for the first two or three months he was earning slightly more than himself, working for Kelly & Co and using his translation skills to compile foreign directories for its publications.


In 1884 Bettmann and Schulte both changed jobs, Bettmann starting work for White Sewing Machine Co, whose European office was at 19 Queen Victoria St. His manager was George Sawyer.

Schulte was engaged as a foreign traveller at £3 per week by a firm dealing in chinaware and pottery.

There had been a serious economic depression in America, and the sewing machine market, dominated by Singer, was increasingly competitive. There was a sharp drop in demand during 1885. So, six months after Bettmann started with White Sewing Machine Company, he was laid off.

Bettmann returned to work for White Sewing Machine Co in December 1885, after his own company had been established. The very interesting report below, outlining his travels in Europe and the state of the sewing machine trade in various locations, is from 1887.


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4 Golden Lane, London

Since working for the White Sewing Machine Co, Bettmann had gained experience of commercial travelling. He already had good language skills and contacts in Germany. So he decided to start his own business, as the British agent for the German company Biesolt & Locke, buying their sewing machines in Germany for resale in Britain, as well as selling British bicycles at home and abroad.

George Sawyer, his manager at White Sewing Machine Co, invested in the new company, and became chairman. His first company name was S. Bettmann & Co.

Biesolt & Locke 1893 copy

Biesolt & Locke was a small German company, founded by Maximilian Biesolt Reinhold and Hermann Locke in Meissen in 1869. They introduced a new model, the Afrana, in the 1890s, which was subsequently used for the company name too. The company went out of business in 1914, after a factory fire, and Seidel & Naumann used the Biesolt & Locke name until around 1925.

The larger sewing machine companies would have had a good back-up service, but presumably paid less commission on sales and already had representation in different locations. I assume Bettmann chose to resell Biesolt & Locke machines in his new company because they had no agents in Great Britain and he managed to get a good deal with the company.

Unfortunately, with a competitive sewing machine market, and the bicycle an expensive luxury item rather than a necessity, business did not materialise as fast as he wished. In December 1885, he returned to the unfilled position of foreign traveller for the White Sewing Machine Company while still operating his own company.

You can see the Wm Andrews Triumph badged tricycles in the Bettmann & Co Dutch advert, below.

Bettmann & Co dutch advert

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You can see from the German advert above that Bettmann had a display at Stand No 23 at the Leipzig Trade Fair. This exhibition was a major opportunity for selling British goods in Europe, as well as for meeting potential new trading partners.

The history of these fairs goes back to the Middle Ages. A fair held at Leipzig is first mentioned in 1165. In 1268 all foreign merchants travelling to or living in Leipzig got safe conduct for their persons and their goods, even if their Rulers were at war with Saxony, leading to the settlement of numerous merchants in Leipzig; trade goods included herring, cloth, wine, and pepper. In 1507, the Emperor made the Leipzig fairs imperial fairs (Reichsmessen) and banned any fairs within a 15-mile radius around the town, which further increased Leipzig’s importance. By the 18th century, Leipzig had become the centre for trade with Polish and English goods, and was known as ‘the marketplace of all Europe.’

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For centuries, cows had been kept in inner London and people bought their milk straight from their local supplier. So-called ‘milk-walks’ – the equivalent of the milkman’s round – were bought and sold for the exclusive right to a particular area. The ‘Cow Keeper’ shop, pictured above, is typical of the shops in the area in the early nineteenth century. Since the mid-1800s, Golden Lane was occupied by small Victorian industries and business, mainly involving metalwork. The area was redeveloped in the early 1950s as a result of bombing during WW2.


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Much Park St, Coventry

In November 1886 Mauritz J. Schulte offered to join Siegfried Bettmann as a partner. He’d managed to save £250 from his two years as a foreign traveller in chinaware and pottery, so the capital of the firm was decided to be £500. In 1887, whilst Bettmann was still travelling, Schulte came to an arrangement with the Birmingham bicycle manufacturer of William Andrews in Aston, Birmingham, to make bicycles in accordance with their own specification. In 1888 Schulte spent two months with cycle maker William Andrews working at the bench in order to gain mechanical experience. Bear in  mind that prior to this, both partners were salesmen rather than engineers. Siegfried Bettmann and Moritz Schulte started producing their first Triumph-branded bicycles in 1889, at their new factory in Coventry.

The first machines provided by William Andrews were very innovative bicycles; it would have required a major investment to make similar bicycles from scratch; instead they were finished in Triumph’s workshops and sold with Triumph transfers. However, by the early 1890s, the design of the safety bicycle was evolving at a fantastic rate, and factory machinery had also been developed to mass-produce frames and parts. Standardisation and increased supply of components now made it much easier for companies to start making their own bicycles. As a result Bettmann and Schulte started manufacturing their own Triumph bicycles and parts.


The machines were very well received, business was profitable and, in 1896, Bettmann also initiated a factory in his native Nuremberg, Germany – Deutsche Triumph Fahrradwerke Aktiengesellschaft.

They had learned the advantages of making everything in-house for their range of bicycles. So, after presenting their first motorcycles in 1902 using bought-in Minerva engines, they worked hard to develop a complete Triumph motorcycle, which came onto the market in 1905.

Being German, it’s likely that Bettmann and Schulte had a good understanding of the international situation. As a result, with the outbreak of war in 1914, they were in a very favourable position to increase motorcycle production, and as a result won major government contracts to supply Triumph motorcycles (and bicycles) for wartime use. By the end of the war, Triumph was the world’s major motorcycle manufacturer.

1904 triumph motorcycle


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triumph factory COVENTRY

1896 Triumph FACTORY

1930 TRIUMPH factory

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Triumph 02

Above and below: a friend’s earliest known (1902) Triumph motorcycle with Minerva engine, set up as both two and three wheeler. Although announced in 1902, it went on sale in 1903. There are no known original photographs of it.

Triumph 1902




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1879 White Peerless Sewing machine 1


This 1879 Peerless Hand Machine is the type of sewing machine that Siegfried Bettmann would have been promoting when he worked for the White Sewing Machine Co in 1885.



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Meissen, Saxony, Germany

 journal of domestic appliances 1887 bettman & co




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Bettmann and Schulte information with thanks to Peter Cornelius – http://www.veterantriumph.nl/pages/index.php?page=4

pics – http://www.registrostoricotriumph.it/storia-triumph-1885-1902.html

Catalogues and Triumph information throughout this website with thanks to Andrew Heaps, and another friend who wishes to remain anonymous.

Cowkeepers Shop image with thanks to – https://baldwinhamey.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/dairy-supply-company/