Page:The Cycle Industry (1921).djvu/86

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got them. The result of all the flotations and the buying and selling of the various concerns was that a limited few made money and a large number of people, many of them workers in the various businesses, lost their savings of many years.

The unprecedented demand for bicycles was afterwards proved to be a little fictitious, because every dealer ordered three times as many bicycles as he expected to sell with the hope of obtaining about one third of them. When the off-season for sales arrived those fictitious orders were mostly cancelled, and as manufacturers could not force delivery on dealers who, if they had been compelled to take the machines they had ordered long after they were due, would have been unable to pay for them, the cancellations had to be largely accepted.

The result of the flotation of many of the cycle firms meant over capitalization. The prospectuses had set forth that as such and such a profit had been earned on the manufacture of a certain number of bicycles, the unprecedented amount of orders on the books at high prices signified a corresponding increase in the profits, which would be more than sufficient to pay the dividend on a largely increased capital.

Alas, the orders were cancelled, society got tired of the new craze and relinquished the use of a bicycle, and the great slump of 1896–97 rushed on the trade with greater swiftness than the boom of the previous twelve months. Over capitalization meant that many of the older publicly floated concerns and several entirely new firms either reduced their capital by cancelling half the value of their shares or retired voluntarily or compulsorily from the arena.

Two or three very lean years intervened between the slump and the advent of the motor cycle and motor-car.