Toulouse-Lautrec and the Simpson chain

by Adam on 6, April, 2012


The Simpson chain was invented by William Spears Simpson in the late 1800’s and by a series of events using the élite cyclist of the time went on to prove that the Simpson Lever Chain was an improvement over the standard chain in a series of races called the Chain Matches held at the Catford cycle track, London. Mr Simpson was so confident in his chain he offered odds of 10 to 1 against beating his squad. A cynic may argue that all the chain actually did was change the ratio of the gears and the riders representing the Simpson Team would have won regardless of the chain they used.

As part of the advertising campaign Mr Simpson commissioned a fellow called Toulouse Lautrec to design a poster to illustrate his chain. The image at the top of the page is the initial rejected sketch. In the foreground we have Tom Linton, a Welsh cyclist who in his all too brief career who in 1894 broke five world records in just one month (including an eight day event).

In the background you may notice a chap rummaging around in his Gladstone bag, this is rumoured to be the wonderfully titled “Choppy Warburton” or as he was know by some in the business L’Herboriste. At the time Choppy was the coach of Tom and Arthur Linton and a Gentleman cannot but help read the sub-text regarding M. Lautrec’s image.

Suffice to say the final poster is a lot less controversial but I shall be honest and say if a kind soul has one kicking around…

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

EmGeeCeCe April 6, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Very interesting stuff old chap….



Adam April 8, 2012 at 11:17 am

I was interested to find out that M. Lautrec was a keen fan of cycle racing, apparently he was often seen on the sidelines at meets


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