Cleveland Cycles Poster, ca. 1895

Value (2008) | $4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction

Back in '77, I had just moved to Texas, and, uh, I was walking through a gallery, and I saw this poster here, and I was going to buy it, but I didn't think I could really afford it at the time. And I was looking through the Houston Chronicle and saw a picture of this particular poster, and I thought, "Oh, no, somebody's going to buy it." So, I had my girlfriend at the time go down and put it in layaway for three months and...

What was it about the image that appealed to you?

Well, I like the colors, and I like the Indian coming down the road with these Parisians bowing to him like he's some type of a... a god or something, and it... I just... it just attracted me.

And how much did you end up paying?


And that was when?


So, a few years ago.

Oh, yeah.

It's a French poster, but it's advertising an American product. Cleveland Cycles were actually manufactured in Toledo. The poster itself dates from the 1890s-- 1895, 1898, around that time-- when the bicycle craze was really gripping all of the world. And the Cleveland Cycle Company was one of the world's major manufacturers, large enough that they were able to export their bikes to Europe and to France. You know, the Cleveland Cycle Company doesn't exist anymore, but this was a very accurate depiction of the bike itself, with the curved down handlebars and actually the company logo emblazoned on the front stanchion. Just to show that it is a French poster, the pallet insignia down at the bottom there shows the name and the address of the printer in France, who would have printed this poster for their American clients. The poster was done by the artist Pal, but that's his printed name. It's really like a pen name. His actual name... he was a Romanian-born artist who worked in Paris. Now, my French is not very good. His name was Jean de Paleologu, a French artist who primarily was known for his very buxom women. Only a very few of his posters feature men. Now, it's a great story that's being visually depicted here, and I interpret it slightly different than you do, and I think the way it was meant to be interpreted... The people at the side of the road are not actually bowing down to the rider himself. They're bowing down to his great, new, top-of-the-line American bicycle. Some of whom are wearing cyclists' jerseys, some of whom are women, some of whom are in professional clothes. They have discarded all of their old bicycles along the side of the highway. Forget about that old, sort of prehistoric junk. Here comes the new great machine, and they're literally worshipping it. Now, one of the reasons this company chose to use the Native American as their symbol is because Europe was gripped by a fascination of all things exotic about the West. We know cowboys, we know Indians. The Native Americans were a much more exotic character in the minds of Europeans than were the cowboys, so Native Americans were often used in these kind of advertisements. The poster was done via a process called stone lithography. The colors are bright. The image is eye-catching. So, we've got a beautiful French poster, something that really epitomizes and captures the wild majesty of the American West. You paid $350 for it...


30-some odd years ago.


Today, at auction, a poster in this size, this condition, with this image... I would estimate its value between $4,000 and $6,000.

Oh, okay.

It's a wonderful image, it's in great condition, and I'm really glad you brought it in.

Thank you.

Appraisal Details

Swann Auction Galleries
New York, NY
Appraised value (2008)
$4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Dallas, TX (June 28, 2008)
19th Century

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