Thomas B. Jeffery

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Thomas B. Jeffery

Thomas B. Jeffery (1845–21 March 1910) was an inventor and manufacturer of bicycles and early automobiles.

Early life

Jeffery was born in Stoke, Devon, England. At eighteen years of age, he emigrated to the United States and became a resident of Chicago, where "he was connected with the business of manufacturing telescopes". Later he was engaged in making models for the patent office and in 1879 started in the bicycle business, being one of the pioneers in that field. He, with R. Philip Gormully, organized the Gormully & Jeffery Manufacturing Company and began making the Rambler.

Bicycle Manufacturer

Thomas B. Jeffery was an inventor and bicycle manufacturer with his partner, R. Philip Gormully, who built and sold Rambler bicycles through his company, Gormully & Jeffery Mfg. Co., in Chicago from 1878 to 1900. The Rambler was still a proud piece of machinery when low prices took precedence over high quality. Its body featured flared metal tubing for extra strength at the joints, which were brazed by immersion in molten brass. These techniques continued even after Gormully & Jeffery (G&J) and Rambler became names of the American Bicycle Company, or Bicycle Trust, which was not known for the best manufacturing techniques in all of its lines. By 1900, Gormully & Jeffery was the country's second-largest bicycle maker and Jeffery had gained fame for developing, among other things, the clincher rim that enabled pneumatic tires to be used.

Jeffery's patent

Invention of Clincher Rim

Dunlop's pneumatic tires for bikes were pretty much like the garden hoses they started out as. They were tubular in shape, and were secured to the bike rims by glue, and air pressure pressing them against the rim. The rims were wooden, and had a concave surface for receiving the tube. These tires sometimes came off the rims, and a more secure type of tire was needed. Thomas B. Jeffery came up with an improved tire that was held on by a wire that was embedded in the rubber of the tire, and the wire could be tightened onto the rim. He got a patent on the ancestor of all clincher tires in 1882.

Automobile Manufacturer

Thomas B. Jeffery and his 1897 Rambler prototype

He was one of America's first men interested in automobiles, and in 1897, he built the first Rambler motor car.

Jeffery was serious about motor cars so he sold his stake in G&J and founded the Thomas B. Jeffery Company. He used the G&J money to buy the old Sterling Bicycle Co. factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he set up shop to manufacture automobiles on a large scale. From 1902 until 1908, Jeffery moved steadily to bigger, more reliable models. His cars were built on assembly lines (the second manufacturer to adopt them -- Ransom Olds was first), and in 1903 he sold 1,350 Ramblers. By 1905, Jeffery more than doubled this number. One reason may have been because he went to the steering wheel before 1904. In 1907, he was building a large variety of different body styles and sizes. Among them was a five-passenger, $2,500 Rambler weighing 2,600 pounds and powered by a 40-hp engine.

Thomas B. Jeffery died in 1910 while on holiday in Pompeii, in Italy, and after his death, Charles T. Jeffery, changed the automotive branding from Rambler to Jeffery to honor Thomas B.

Ultimately, his family sold the manufacturing business to Charles Nash, who renamed the company Nash Motors and greatly expanded manufacturing efforts.

Monopoly Fighter

Jeffrey contested several patents:

  • Fought the Pope bicycle patent and won.
  • Fought the Selden bicycle patent and won.


Despite what internet sites may say, Thomas B. Jeffery was never a wagon builder.


1845 - Thomas Jeffery is born in Devon, England.

1863 - Jeffery emigrates to the US and moves to Chicago, Illinois.

1878 - Jeffery partners with Phillip Gormally and starts the Gormally & Jeffery Bicycling Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Illinois.

1882 - Jeffery invents the "Clincher Tire".

1897 - Jeffery's builds a rear-engine Rambler prototype using the Rambler name previously used on a highly successful line of bicycles made by G&J.

1899 - Positive reviews at the 1899 Chicago International Exhibition & Tournament and the first National Automobile Show in New York prompt the Jefferys to enter the automobile business.

1900 - Jeffery sells his stake in G&J to the American Bicycle Company.

1900 (Dec 6) - Thomas B. Jeffery finalizes a $65,000 deal to buy the Kenosha, factory of the defunct Sterling Bicycle Co. with money from the sale of his interest in the G&J.

1901 - Two more prototypes, Models A and B, are made.

1902 - First production Ramblers - the $750 Model C open runabout and the $850 Model D (the same car with a folding top). Both are powered by an 8-hp, 98cu. in., 1-cyl. engine mounted beneath the seat, and both are steered by a pioneering right-side tiller (a new concept at the time). First-year production totals 1,500 units making Jeffery the second-largest car maker behind Oldsmobile.

1910 (Mar 21) - Thomas B. Jeffery dies while on vacation in Pompeii, Italy.

1910 (Jun 10) - Charles T. Jeffery incorporates the family's car business as a $3 million public stock company.

1914 - Charles T. Jeffery replaces the Rambler name with the Jeffery moniker in honor of Thomas B. Jeffery.

1915 - Charles T. Jeffery survives the sinking of the RMS Lusitania off the Irish coast


External links