I’m reading Robert Hurst’s latest book The Cyclist’s Manifesto. In Chapter 2 on the history of cycling, Hurst writes about the hundreds of bike factories, suppliers and dealers that went out of business in the late 1890s after automobiles started becoming popular. An entire industry — the industry that laid the foundation for automobile mass production with the development of tooling, production techniques, machining expertise, and even little things like ball bearings, gears and pneumatic tires — was annihilated with the coming of cars.
There was no Federal bailout back then, so many factories were “destroyed by suspicious fires” in apparent insurance fraud. Writes Hurst:
Attempting to unload one’s toxic financial obligations unto other parties has become a convention of American culture. You’ve got to feel for the SUV dealers, in an era of high-tech fire protection systems and masterful inspectors. Will the dealers get a spot at the bailout trough alongside the manufacturers? Keep an eye out for ‘eco-terrorists.“
The Cyclist’s Manifesto available now. Hurst’s writing is always fun and informative.