DISRAELI GEARS

Tokheim

US Patent 3,861,227 - Tokheim main image US Patent 3,861,227 - Tokheim main image US Patent 3,861,227 - Tokheim main image

In 1901 John J. Tokheim founded the Tokheim Manufacturing Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA. The company was formed to manufacture a petrol pump which John Tokheim had patented that year, possibly the earliest petrol pump ever patented. In 1918 John Tokheim sold his company and it moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where it was based until recently. Today Tokheim is still a major player in the world market for petrol pumps, is owned by the Dover Corporation of the USA, and, somewhat bizarrely, seems to be based in Dundee in Scotland.

Tokheim appears on this web site because, in the 1970s, it sold a device called the Tokheim Gearmaker. This was a gearing system for bicycles which included a rear sprocket which could, effectively, be varied to be one of five different sizes, equivalent to 12, 16, 21, 28 or 34 teeth. A twist grip controller on the handlebars altered the configuration of the sprocket to one of these five sizes by controlling crude, but cunning, toothed segments that were brought into (and out of) play.

I have been told that Tokheim got involved with this magnificent system because they were terrified that the 1973 'Oil Crisis', when OPEC raised oil prices by 300%, was going to decimate their petrol pump business. The car would die, and cycling would be the transport system of an oil-free future.

This is a beautiful idea, and the timing of the launch of the Tokheim Gearmaker in 1974, immediately after the 'Oil Crisis', does seem indicative. Unfortunately the timeline does not fully support this fine fable. Some facts might be:

  • The Yom Kippur War between Israel and various of its neighbours, did not start until October 6th 1973
  • Tricky ol' Richard Nixon did not order the huge airlift of US weapons to Israel until October 9th 1973.
  • The effortlessly urbane Sheikh Yamani and his pals did not retaliate and start cutting oil production and instituting their oil embargo on the US (and other countries) until October 17th 1973.
  • So there was no especial reason to expect any 'Oil Crisis' until a full year after the Tokheim patent.

Rather than being a panicked response to history-defining world events, it seems more likely that Tokheim saw the Tokheim Gearmaker as a potentially profitable business opportunity, with the US enjoying a 'bike boom' starting in 1971 and ending in 1974. Unfortunately the Tokheim Gearmaker was spectacularly unsuccessful and soon disappeared without trace.

Tokheim has a history section on its web site, but this does not mention the ill-fated Tokheim Gearmaker.


see also US Patent # 3,861,227 - Tokheim 1972

see also US Patent # 3,861,227 - Tokheim 1972

US Patent 3,861,227 - Tokheim thumbnail


see also US Trademark # 998,145 - Tokheim 1972

see also US Trademark # 998,145 - Tokheim 1972

US Trademark 998,145 - Tokheim thumbnail


see also US Trademark # 1,022,630 - Tokheim 1974

see also US Trademark # 1,022,630 - Tokheim 1974

US Trademark 1,022,630 - Tokheim thumbnail


Tokheim - web site 2019

Tokheim - web site 2019

Tokheim - web site 2019 image 01 thumbnail
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