* 1. Mercury Industries Ltd.

Mercury Industries (Birmingham) Ltd

Stratford Rd, Birmingham. Registered Company Number 419738.

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As a cycle manufacturing company, Mercury Industries (Birmingham) Ltd was very different from its competitors. The retail home market was not its priority. Instead, Mercury was established to provide exports and fulfill ministry contracts.

The company was formed in 1946, with premises in Stratford Rd, Birmingham, and trading as the Mercury Cycle Company.

Throughout the War, the Government had issued contracts to industry. British industry was, in effect, nationalized. This arrangement was dismantled only slowly when the War ended. One reason was the top priority of procuring foreign exchange by suppressing demand in the home market and maximizing exports.

As Mercury Industries Ltd was so successful in their postwar venture, I find it hard to believe that the Government and key players in the bicycle manufacturing industry did not have major involvement. As journalist and Mercury expert Mark Daniels describes it:

Their rise was meteoric: within a year the business relocated to Dock Lane, Dudley to accommodate increasing demand and rocketing North American exports projected at $1,500,000!

By 1948 some 200 employees were already on the payroll; then with the 1950s came the cyclemotor and new opportunities for the first motorised products. These were specially constructed, heavy gauge gents ‘Diamond’ and ladies ‘Open’ style Mercury frames to mount the Cyclemaster unit, made specifically for this purpose and supplied with no rear wheel. 1953 listings added a Pillion frame with pad and footrests, and the Roundsman 1cwt rated delivery frame with small front wheel and large carrier. All four products continued up to 1955.

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I’ve not yet discovered the individuals involved in the establishment of Mercury Industries; I hope further research will reveal more. Possibilities are:

1. An amalgamation of various bicycle manufacturers – the term ‘Industries’ in their title is not unlike Raleigh Industries. Phillips made a similar military roadster. Norman made a similar civilian bicycle, which was sold minus rear wheel like the Mercury, specifically used to mount a Cyclemaster. Raleigh/ TI took over so many bicycle manufacturers (though Phillips and Norman were not added until 1960) surely a venture of this nature would find it hard to start up without their co-operation?

2. A Government-established company – obviously tight control was required for a company that supplied the Ministry with vehicles. Possibly the company was formed as a result of the successful set-up of bicycle manufacturing and supply during the war, ie it was considered a shame to dismantle a functional arrangement that could make money in peacetime too for both Industry and Government.

3. Some involvement from EMI Ltd? EMI bought Rudge-Whitworth from the liquidators in 1935, and two years later production moved to the EMI factory in Hayes, Midx. So they already had direct involvement in the business. Also, EMI was awarded the contract to produce the Cylemaster, in return for turning their factories over to radar production during the War. As Mercury was essentially a wholesaler in the home market, and supplied the bicycles sold by Cyclemaster Ltd, was this an ‘in-house’ arrangement?

4. A combination of all the above? According to the National Archive (Public Record Office) all company records were destroyed, so we may never know.

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The ‘Cycles of Mercury’ has an astrological meaning. Mercury is the aspect of the human character affecting the way we communicate; its cycles (through the zodiac) illustrate various external influences. Dictionary definitions of ‘mercurial’ – animated; lively; sprightly; quick-witted; changeable; volatile; fickle; flighty; erratic.’ Essentially, Mercury is a ‘trickster.’ Is there some irony to this company’s choice of name?

Without direct public sales during its years of bicycle manufacture, Mercury Industries did not advertise until around 1952 when it became involved with Cyclemasters and, subsequently, scooters. Its scooters were totally misconceived, and this led directly to the collapse of the company and liquidation, in 1958.


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Published on February 5, 2009 at 7:18 am  Leave a Comment  

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