Schwinn History: 1950 to 1959

Detail of  the 1952 Schwinn bicycle catalog cover

In 1950 one in every four bicycles sold in the U.S. was a Schwinn. The fifties for Schwinn collectors is an era of many great models and features, but for the Schwinn company, it was a turbulent decade of change, loss, innovation, and legal battles. Luckily in the end what remains is a decade of great bikes.

One of the greatest moves that Schwinn made in the 1950s was to create an "authorized dealer network" and break away from the department stores. From this time and for decades after, to be a Schwinn dealer actually meant something.

If a dealer was authorized by Schwinn then that dealer received training from Schwinn on repair, parts, and even selling techniques.

Schwinn authorized dealers flourished in the fifties and around 500,000 bikes were sold almost every year from 1950 to 1959. Below are some images and text from Schwinn documentation of these eventful years.

vintage schwinn ad

The advertising for Schwinn used talented artists and rich colors. The advertisements from this decade are collectible for their now retro look. Schwinn had for a long time made bikes for other entities than themselves like department stores. Now it was all about the Schwinn name, and the ad campaigns were large and plentiful.

The Schwinn name had become synonymous with quality and every boy and girl wanted one. It is hard not to smile as you look at these old advertisements and their verbiage... "My new Phantom is sure a beauty. All the fellows say it's the swellest looking bike in town"

But of course it wasn't the advertising that was the star, it was the bicycles.


51 schwinn bicycle


Models of this year included the Schwinn Hornet...


See the complete history of the Schwinn Hornet.

The Schwinn Phantom...


See the complete history of the Schwinn Phantom.

The Schwinn Panther...


See the complete history of the Schwinn Panther.

The fifties catalogs from Schwinn are an enjoyable glimpse into the past no?


The Schwinn Meteor for boys and girls...


See the complete history of the Schwinn Meteor.



See the complete history of the Schwinn Phantom.

See the complete history of the Schwinn Starlet.

See the complete history of the Schwinn Streamliner.


In 1955 Schwinn documentation went a bit modern in their visual presentation (what we now call "retro").


The painted illustrations were replaced by a more sleek look. The language become more professional as well. The 1955 catalog (image at right and below) started off with this blurb...

"Yes, more Schwinn Bicycles are sold, year after, year, than any other make - a fitting tribute to Schwinn's reputation for superior styling and unmatched quality standards."

Here is how the Schwinn Hornet was presented this year...


See the full 1955 Schwinn catalog.



See the full 1956 Schwinn catalog.


The Schwinn Corvette was popular this year....


See the complete history of the Schwinn Corvette.


The catalog this year featured beautiful full color photos of each bike, and is a wonderful resource for Schwinn collectors...


See the full 1959 Schwinn catalog.

In 1959 the new Panther (now called the Panther II) was introduced, as was another Schwinn icon, the "S" seat (the two tone seat with a big "S" on it).

The Schwinn Panther had some great accessories, the dual lights, the rear racks with the little reflectors on it and the new trimline tank.

1959-schwinn-panther-newest-schwinn 1959-schwinn-panther-2-ii-detail

See the complete history of the Schwinn Panther II.

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