1896 Comet (selected images)

Although this is a site dedicated to CCM, I think this catalogue is interesting and a useful resource. This is from a photocopy; I don't have the original unfortunately. The Comet factory was at 17-19-21 Temperance Street, across from their previous factory on Adelaide St., Toronto. It seems their bikes had head tube decals not metal badges, so I imagine there could be some unidentified bikes out there that are Comets. The fork crown is unique (I hope) so check that picture if you have an early mystery bike at home.


I agree that it is Toronto anad Canadian history in cycling and worth posting here.

My favorite photo is of the factory !

To bad history in grade school is not as cool as the history seen in this site.

Then again, I didn't care then, or now, about Christopher Columbus sailing the seas.

CCM, Cooper, Moffet, Kodak etc manufacturing companies in Toronto then is super cool now.

I guess it helps that I still live within 10 minutes of all the companies I listed above.

Thanks for the history Brian



"Comet Company Fails", May 1899:


cometfails1899.pdf 248.75 KB

Often, factory illustrations in turn of the century catalogues have been embellished to increase the size of the operations and impress the consumer. However, this is a case where the representation is accurate. Attached is fairly recent photograph of the old Comet premises. 

After Comet went bankrupt, the building stayed in the cycle trade for a number of years, being occupied by the  Canadian division of the Dunlop Tire Co. The building would terminate its association with bicycles in late 1907, being taken over by a hardware store. 

Comet's owners did not fare well after the company folded. Thomas Fane worked as manager for a couple of fish companies before passing away, four years after the demise of Comet. Lavender continued in the bicycle business, opening his own shop but it was short lived, surving only two years. 

Comet's failure is not suprising. The glut of manufacturers had increased competition to the point of threadbare profit margins. However, had they been able to survive the summer of 1899, they might have been one of the companies under consideration for purchase, during the formation of CCM in August.


There may be a issue with photo above being the Comet Factory Building as that building is 9 Temperance Street, currently the Hong Kong Trade Commission.

Comet was 17-21 Temperance Street as listed in the pdf above.

The building shown in the Comet catalogue looks the same but may have actually been along the street further where the

huge glass building is now if in fact it was 17-21 Temperance.

There may have been a few buildings built the same on Temperance Street.

Worth looking into futher to confirm.


Just a observation with the numbering on the street.



I did a quick research on that building. The last photo shown above is indead 9 Temperance St, the Kong Kong trade centre. the 17-21 Temperance St. complex was demolished, and replaced by a modern office complex. prior to that, is was purchaded by an Irish imigrant who started a hardware store in 1905. See picture of post card. both the 9 and 17-21  Temperance complex look identical, which may explain the currnet issue. 




This has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me. After receiving the Comet brochure last fall, I used my GPS to bring me to 17-19-21 Temperance Street where my heart sank as I stared at a soulless glass tower. Then I got all excited when I saw the photo in T-Mar's post, concluding that the city must have changed the address from 17-21 to number 9, perhaps for simplicity sake. And now, after researching an answer to the above mystery on the building numbers, my heart has sank again. The explanation for all this confusion is a little crazy:

The Comet Cycle Company building survived into the 1990s. It received a heritage designation, protecting it in 1988. Aparently the city was interested in the facade because it was designed by well-known Toronto architect, E.J. Lennox. He also designed Old City Hall, Casa Loma, and the Massey-Harris head office bldg. In the early 1990s, the facade was dismantled, moved 120 feet east, and reassembled on the front of the building at 9 Temperance Street. In 1996, the City of Toronto repealed the heritage designation for the former Comet building and applied the designation to 9 Temperance. This allowed for the demolition of the Comet building to make way for the Bay-Adelaide Centre. I will attach the notice below.

As sad as it is to think the building was lost, I guess we can say that this outcome is better than nothing. It's worth noting that since Comet was the first occupant of that building, it seems that it was designed by E.J.Lennox specifically as a bicycle factory, for the Comet Cycle Company. At least the facade was saved.

cometbldgfacade1996.pdf 451.41 KB

Absolutely a historical disaster ! Shame on Toronto and the jerks in power at the time !

There is ZERO historical value by putting the front of a building on another building. NONE !


What a way to get around things when money is involved. No respect at all for what actually should have

been a building saved for its important past. Even after it was originally dedicated to be saved.


Such a scam !





Brian, thank-you for solving the building mystery. Attached is a staff photo. Presumably it was taken for a special occasion, possibly the opening of the new factory. If so, that would place it 1895-1896 and align with your catalogue. 


Very cool photo, T-Mar, thanks. Looking at the bikes, I think it was likely taken in the first half of the 1890s. Two of the bikes appear to have a top tube that slopes downward. I found a Comet advertisement for their 1893 models that shows this style of top tube, while by 1896 the top tubes were horizontal. I think they would have chosen new or current models to pose with in an organized, preplanned photo like this. Your guess of the opening of the new factory in 1895 could be correct. I also found an ad for their 1899 models, which shows different chainrings than the one on my bike. I've attached the 1893 ad, and will attach the 1899 ad later if I can figure out how to reduce the file size. For a tiny newsprint ad (1893), it's surprisingly detailed. I counted 28 spokes on the front wheel and 36 on the rear.

Any idea which men are Fane and Lavender? I see at least five possibilities: the two older men standing at the far left and far right near the second row, or the two men in the foreground each holding a bicycle, or the older man at the far right of the first row.

Do you have any more Comet items? If you're ever looking to sell Comet stuff, please send me an email.


cometmodel1893.pdf 290.75 KB

T-mar, the more I see that photo the more I love it. There are so many different expressions, and body language, you can see their personalities. Also, I've notice all the handle bars are in the lower, racing position. Can you tell me where the photo came from? Do you own a print, or did you find it online? Is it in a book?

Brian, I don't own any Comet memorabilia, literature or products. The photo is a scan acquired through an acquaintance from my wife's home town. The acquaintance is not the owner, but got his copy through another source that is unknown to me.

As to the date of the photo, the bicycles are all pneumatic equipped safety models, which should place ithe timeframe no earlier than the early 1890s. However, the placards all say Comet and the company was named  Thomas Fane & Co, prior to the 1892 model year. This raises the possibility of the company name change being another event warranting a staff photo. So, I'd say it is likely no older than the 1892 model year and no newer than 1896.  

Regarding the identification of  Fane and Lavender, the gentleman in the left foreground would seem to be the prime candidate for one of the two partners. His position in the photo suggests a person on high stature in the company and it is further supported by his dress and grooming. His age also looks correct, knowing that Fane and Lavender would have been 36 and 38 respectively, assuming an 1892 date. He also appears to be in excellent condition, which is reasonable to expect of both Fane and Lavender, each having been national cycling champions in the mid to late 1880s. Assuming this is correct, the gentleman in the right foreground, is probably the other partner. 

I drove by 9 Temperance today. It's an odd looking structure given that it's not very deep. It's a much smaller building than the imposing facade would lead you to believe at first glance. I'm sure it was built for the sole purpose of taking the facade and fullfilling the city's requirement for the repeal of the heritage protection on 17-19-21 Temperance. I studied the entrance area, took a photo and compared it to the staff photo, and have come to the belief that it was indeed taken to celebrate the opening of the new factory in 1895. The stonework on the left and right sides is the same, the three large glass windows at the top are the same size in both photos. The window frames are different - wood back then and thinner metal now. The entrance area has a width and height that appears compatible with the number of people in the photo. I think it was a tradition in those days to have the staff photo taken on the front steps of the factory entrance. Since this building had no large steps, they constructed a temporary wood scaffold to sit on for the photo. You can see part of a support piece sticking out under the arm of one of the workers on the far right, near the top. I will post some photos:


cometfacade5_li.jpg cometfacade1.jpg cometfacade4_2.jpg

p.s I forgot to mention that I circled in red two horizontal ridges in the stone blocks near the top right of the windows. These same ridges are visible in the staff photo.

Here are some photos of the original building, three in its Aikenhead's days, while the blurry B&W photo has the Dunlop sign out front, so it's from 1900-1907. I found the B&W photo in an E.J.Lennox book. Reportedly, the original print is held by the Toronto Public Archives.I couldn't find a record of it online but a visit to the archives might yield a clearer copy.

Also, the Ontario Archives acquired a lot of Lennox documents which they transferred to U of T. While the original drawings for the building are not listed, the drawings for the Aikenhead's revision are listed. BTW, the building permit for the Comet factory was issued July16, 1894.

As previously noted, the building currently wearing the old Comet facade was not built at the same time as the Comet factory. In the late 1890s, a large building housing E. Bosseau & Co, (wholesale tailors) occupied a 156 foot frontage constituting 1-11Temperance St. 

cometas_aikenheads_c.jpg comet_as_aikenheads_e.jpg comet_as_aikenhead.jpg img_6927.jpg

Just something to add to the comet talk

 1894  Comet Track racer


I spent many happy hours at that Aikenhead’s store in the 80s...we bemoan the loss of the building but that was a REAL hardware store.  Not many of those left either!

Thanks Dave. That 1894 track racer looks like the bikes in the Comet staff photo.

And thanks for the additional photos T-mar. The artist who drew the 1896 catalogue may not have embellished the size of the front facade of the factory, but it appears that he took liberty with the depth of the building and the number of windows.  The artist responsible for the Aikenhead drawing painted a more realistic view. For comparison, the depth of the new structure at number 9 Temperance goes back to about only the third column of winows.

I wish I could have walked through the inside of the building while it was still Aikenheads Hardware, but I was not yet living in Toronto in those days.