Our story finds us in the Midlands on a dark winter morning in 1862, the young John Brooks awaking from strange dreams. Having completed his ablutions, and breakfasted on a gruel of buttermilk and barley, he makes to leave for work, only to open the stable door and find that at some point in the night his horse, Ned, has shuffled off its piece of this mortal coil.
A friendly neighbour agrees to loan him a bicycle for his commute; young Brooks takes to it like the proverbial duck to water, lamenting all the while, however, the lack of comfort afforded to his nether regions by the apology for a “saddle” protruding from the frame.
Cycling history is made shortly afterwards in 1866, when the now marginally less young Brooks opens his workshop in Birmingham. An exceptionally gifted leatherworker, he produces “Saddles, Bags, Etc.” for the burgeoning market in matters bicycular.
So what about that “Etc.”?
By the early 1900′s, this unassuming abbreviation had come to mean quite a lot in the context of the annually produced “Brooks Book”, which then as now, catalogued the entire line of products available under the Brooks name in any given year.
In 1902, any self-respecting military man-about-town not only had Inflator Slings attached to his frame, but also these rather nifty Sword Clips. As well as facilitating the horizontal transportation of one’s blade, the mere presence of such clips on an unguarded bicycle served as a polite warning to any putative saddle thief that there were possibly other bikes out there, whose suddenly returning owners might be less well armed.
Of course, there was a way of getting across the message that you were even more well armed than a duel-happy gentleman officer. In the same year, Brooks (being, as he was, in a unique position to observe how the phenomenon of cycling acts upon society) had become aware of an escalating number of acts of “Thoroughfare Exasperation”. Horsemen had continued to mistakenly believe that they owned the roads, and were frequently spotted cuffing innocent cyclists with the butt of their whips, or inducing their steeds to defecate at junctions where a rider innocently “track stood” his Ordinary.
Mr. Brooks was appalled at this vulgar abuse of altitude, and resolved to level the playing field, as it were. Thus were born his patented “Gun Clips”. They could be attached diagonally (see above), for riders wishing to fire a kill-shot upwards at a belligerent jockey, or horizontally (see below), in case a cyclist merely wished to maim his antagonist’s horse.
The threat of a slow painful death by knife fight, or quick one via a hail of bullets didn’t scare every road user in those days, however. Remember, this was the hardiest of modern generations; the freewheel hadn’t even been invented, nor was Goretex yet widely available outside of Special Forces circles.
To show the rest of the world you meant business, you took these…
Easy. Everybody assumed you were a bike messenger.