Father with daughter on bicycle



Click the photo two or three times to see it full size. (It’ll open in a different tab or page so you can return to this one easily).

This is a photo that I bought, I think, on Ebay… or was it Etsy? Oh well, one or the other. I saw it and thought: “YES!” Well, let’s face it, most of the vintage photos I see elicit that reaction… but this, I’m sure you’ll agree, is special. It’s so… vaudeville, isn’t it? The young father in his jaunty boater, and the little girl wearing her pretty dress and her hair in a ribbon and she’s… um… .scowling. Or looking very bored, at least. Doesn’t she remind you of Violet Elizabeth Bott? (In case you don’t know who I mean, Violet Elizabeth is a rich, spoilt little girl character in the ‘Just William‘ series of books for children written by Richmal Crompton from 1922 to the end of the 1960s. Violet Elizabeth’s famous line (with apologies to anyone with a lisp) is “I‘ll thcream and I’ll thcream until I’m thick!”)

And then there’s the bicycle. Ah yes, that bicycle. The one I struggled to identify with little success. Is it a sunbeam? If it’s a sunbeam, what variety of sunbeam is it? If it’s not a sunbeam, what the heck else is it? I hunted and hunted and came up with very little because I’m as much an expert on bicycles as I am on chickens.

Did you click on the photo? Are you good at recognising things? In particular I am trying to find out the make, model and date of the bicycle.  Originally it was to help me choose colours for it and help me colour it accurately, but now – well, now I’m just curious.  I not only know nothing about bicycles but as I can only name a few parts (seat, pedals, spokes, wheels) it’s difficult for me to track things down.

Mr H. thinks the image on the front upright… er… whotsit (see what I mean about my bicycle ignorance?) is a ‘head badge’ but I can’t find this specific one amongst Google’s strange idea of search results. He found a pedal type that is similar but it’s for a woman’s bicycle and this is a man’s bike.

I’m pretty sure the photo was taken in England, so we’re looking for an English (or at least, British) bicycle.

Any help on this would be appreciated.

Oh and in case you’re wondering more about Richmal Crompton and how she came to write the Just William series… this might help:


51 thoughts on “Father with daughter on bicycle

  1. I know nothing of bicycles, let alone British bicycles, but I recognize the expression on that child’s face. Give her ten more years, and she’s going to be trouble for someone — most probably her parents. But she’s cute, and probably turned out just fine. Your work on the image is great, too. It really does transform the photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Most of it is just heightened contrast to bring out the details that were already there. Age frequently seems to rid a photo of its details but they are usually still there. (And now I’ve said that, I bet someone will ask me to restore a photo that doesn’t have any that I can bring out!) Glad you like it, Brad, thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think you’re right that this is a photographer’s prop, though it was probably made to be ridden. (And yep, those tires are definitely flat!) Robert (comment just after yours) found one that is very similar and it’s a Sunbeam, but the one in the article has a 28″ frame. If you have a look at my reply to him, you’ll see why – if this is the one – I think it would have made an excellent prop for this type of photo. Thanks, Greg.


  2. It’s a very nice photo, I always like those straw skimmers.
    I don’t know anything about bikes (and can never remember how to spell derailleur), but there’s a pretty encyclopedic site “www.oldbike.eu” which has a picture of a 1920 All-Black Royal Sunbeam for Gentlemen (28″ Frame) that looks very similar to yours.
    I assume “28” frame” refers to the bicycle, and not the rider, because how would he reach the pedals?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s called a ‘Skimmer’ there? Or is that a colloquialism? Here they’re called ‘Boaters’ (I presume because people originally wore them to go boating, but am not sure – something else to look up!!)

      Apparently the 28″ frame is for a rider with an inside-leg measurement of around 37″. I’m pretty sure this is a prop because, as Greg points out in his comment before yours, both tires are flat but, now you mention the height of it – if it is this one (though there are a few discrepancies which I’ll mention in a moment, so probably a different model) – that would make it a great prop for bringing the accompanying child-subject’s face closer to the standing person’s face.

      I had looked at the 1920 Royal Sunbeam on that site (http://www.oldbike.eu/museum/1920s-3/1920-1923/1920-all-black-royal-sunbeam-for-gentlemen-28-frame/) but, while it has pale colours in its accompanying drawing, neither that nor the one in the photo has chrome in any part of its frame, also the springs beneath the saddle are different and the bracket or whatever it’s called that would hold on a lamp, is slightly different. I might contact the owner of that site and give a link to my image – maybe they’d recognise it. Thanks, Robert.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve heard those hats called both, my father actually has one somewhere, that he used to wear when playing croquet, as a kind of gag.
    I don’t know anyone who’s an expert on antique bicycles, the Schwinn’s from the ’50’s are considered ancient around here! Good luck with the bicycle hunt!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s useful to know different terms for things in other countries as it makes research easier. For instance, if you were looking on an British site for what you call ‘suspenders’, here you’d find what women use to hold up their stockings, so you’d have to look for what we call ‘braces’. (And then you might find yourself at a dentist’s site, instead, as there are two types of braces – one to hold up trousers (what you call pants, I believe) and what’s used to keep uneven teeth in check…

      It makes me smile what current generations are calling ‘vintage’. If I go looking online for the sort of clothes I used to wear as a teenager, I usually find them now in a fancy-dress store or in a scrapbooker’s idea of a vintage fashion image!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. While I was in college, I lived in Hull for six months, and picked up some of the phrases, although I know Yorkshire and Hull have their own particular dialects.
        Some of the older folks were calling the bus drivers “conductors” which I thought was nice,although I never understood a single word uttered by a bus driver in Hull.
        And now I know to keep an eye peeled for “suspenders” on British clothing sites! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

            1. Haha! Yeah, I see… 🙂 Now, take those designs, put ’em in a real-life photoshop colour saturator, heighten the colours to their extremes, and then get comfortable with whatever mood-enhancer you fancy… and you then have the ‘reality’ (so called) of the time. Well, part of the time anyway.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. 🙂 well a fascinating, creative reality, wish I could have seen it!
              It’s funny, among the whole overwhelming trippy array, what caught my eye was a jacket with a concierge bell, or whatever you call those bells on the counter at hotels. That seems fun.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. I was thinking that her expression had to do with her having had quite enough of sitting on that bicycle seat, and wanting to get down off it. It does look like quite a modern bicycle. Whatever kind it is, I’d bet it’s the deluxe model.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s what I thought, too. Photoshoots were (and still are) difficult enough for adults, but children must have found them a total bore. Mmm… Yep, probably a deluxe model – and owned by a photographer who let the tires go flat, haha!


    1. That’s good to know, thanks. Also, I hadn’t realised til I listened to the interview I posted, that originally the Just William stories had been intended to be for adults! It was only later that children came to enjoy them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Have you any idea of the date of this photo? And even if the photo is English, would the bike have to be English? Bicycles weren’t just popular with civilians but, as you may know, they were widely used in the military. This website gives an idea of the numbers and makes of bicycles in the military in the early 20th century. https://bsamuseum.wordpress.com/ww1-military-bicycles-in-world-war-one-wwi/ Some of them may have found their way into civvy street, and as props in a photographer’s studio. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Probably just before or just after WW1 as people wouldn’t have been having their photos taken in studios during the war… and most likely before as so many men were lost. I can’t quite work out the age of the man (am not very good identifying ages) but he seems quite young – late teens/early twenties?

      No, the bike needn’t be English but again it will depend whether this was taken pre or post war as British opinion of foreign goods changed after each of the wars. The major thing that makes me think this bike is not military is the use of chrome in part of it. I think it was probably bought second-hand to use as a studio prop but was almost certainly a ‘de-luxe’ model. That said, I’ve read that the saddle, tires and various other parts, could be bought separately, so it may be that it was made one way – with the chrome – and the other parts added later… which makes it very difficult to find!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A boater was, as you suggest, worn on a boat on the river, to protect the wearer from the sun. That’s a great piece of work – the colours look entirely natural.

    And yes, I would imagine the little girl might thcream and thcream until she was thick!


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