Saturday 18th April 1863
Born on this day, Siegfried Bettmann, originally German but became a British national, a bicycle, motorcycle and car manufacturer and initiator of the Triumph Motorcycle Company.
Bettmann founded S. Bettmann & Co and started selling bicycles by the name ‘Triumph’ from premises in London. In 1886, Bettmann sought a more general name, and the company became known as the Triumph Cycle Company. A year later, the company registered as the New Triumph Co. Ltd., with funding from the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company. In that year, Bettmann was joined by another Nuremberg native, an engineer named Moritz (Maurice) Schulte, as a partner. Schulte encouraged Bettmann to transform Triumph into a manufacturing company, and in 1888 Bettmann purchased a site in Coventry using money lent by his and Schulte’s families. The company began producing the first Triumph-branded bicycles in 1889. In 1896, Triumph initiated a subsidiary, Orial TWN (Triumph Werke Nuremberg) a German subsidiary for cycle production in his native city.
In 1902 the company diversified into making motorcycles at their works in Much Park Street. In 1902 the first Triumph motorcycle was developed. It was a strengthened bicycle with a 2.25 bhp Minerva engine. Once the business grew the purchased engines were replaced with their own and in 1907 the company expanded into a new factory in Priory Street, in premises of a former mill.
At the beginning of World War I the War Office called a meeting of Coventry industrialists at St Mary’s Hall and asked them to put their resources at the disposal of the military and two weeks after Britain had declared war on Germany, Bettmann received a telephone call from Capt. C. V. Holdsworth of the Army Service Corps, (who later became Triumph’s managing director) with an order for a hundred Triumph motorcycles for the BEF who were soon to go to France. Despite being a Saturday afternoon, Bettmann and his staff worked non-stop to crate the required motorcycles and by Sunday evening they were delivered to Coventry railway station in time for the evening train. The British Army subsequently placed large orders for the Triumph 550 cc Model H and by 1918 they were Britain’s largest motorcycle manufacturer.
In 1921 Bettmann further diversified into car production and bought the Dawson Car Company to produce the Triumph 10/20. In 1927 he developed the Triumph Super 7 which sold well until 1934. In 1930 the company changed its name to the Triumph Motor Company and produced the Triumph Southern Cross and Gloria ranges. In 1936 the company had financial problems however and in 1936 the Triumph bicycle and motorcycle businesses were both sold. The motorcycle business was bought by Jack Sangster of Ariel Motorcycles to become Triumph Engineering Co Ltd.