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A New Century (1900-1920)

Normile's Bicycle Works

Normile Bicycle

A W.J. Normile Bicycle, c.1920

William J. Normile, a merchant and Napanee Town Councillor (1905-1907), was largely responsible for the popularity of the bicycle in Napanee during the early twentieth century. DISCOVER MOREReadmore Arrow

Born in October 1862 in Canada West, William Normile worked as a carriage maker in Napanee for nearly twenty years. He is listed as a wagon maker on the 1881 Census. William worked for Webster & Boyes in Napanee for at least part of that time, and when the firm went out of business, he took over the building and became one of the largest bicycle dealers in Eastern Ontario.

The first notice for the Napanee Bicycle Works appears in an 1899 Farmers and Business Directory for Canada. The store was located on the north side of Dundas Street, between East Street and Adelphi, and featured a number of different makes and models of bicycle. Bikes were delivered even in the winter months, as can be seen in the c1900 photograph of the Normile store receiving a large shipment via sled.

Normile was an agent for the Cleveland bicycle and also Massey Harris bicycles. As the store's popularity grew, Normile began ordering bicycles with a Normile name badge attached to the frame in order to advertise his business, and to give the townspeople a chance to buy a "local" bicycle. A pre-World War I postcard shows a streetview of Dundas Street, and depicts the Normile Bicycle Works in the bottom left corner.

Bicycling became a very popular sport, and weekly races were held every Friday night in the summer months, racing from the Normile Bicycle Works out to a finish line on Belleville Road.

As technology advanced, and automobiles emerged, the Napanee Bicycle Works updated its stock and services. According to the Napanee and Deseronto Industrial Edition of 1907, the Bicycle Works sold bicycles, motor vehicles, carriages, and gasoline engines, while also offering repair services and electrical work including house wiring. During the peak season, W.J. Normile employed several mechanics to keep up with demand.

The illustrated Normile bicycle has a name badge on the front of the handlebars: "Manufacturer, W.J. Normile, Napanee." The bicycle features a skip tooth sprocket, chain, and cast pedals. The back wheel is original, and features a wooden rim with wire spokes.

By 1914, the Normile store had been renamed, "Napanee Bicycle and Automotive Works." Family tradition relates that W.J. Normile was the first Ford Dealer in Napanee, and Henry Ford reportedly offered Normile two shares of the Ford Motor Company, which he politely refused.

Sometime after 1920, W.J. Normile sold his business to Mr. Ross Paul, and built a new garage on East Street just south of his residence. According to his obituary, he was still actively working at his garage until the time of his death on October 5th, 1926.

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