The Latest Technology in Wheels

A change came in the late nineteenth century with the application of the new bicycle technology. Within a few years all wheelchairs were manufactured in factories using bicycle-technology wheels. But that was all that changed. The form was still pure furniture.

Patent drawings for a wheel showing close-up of the spoke hooks on the rim.

Letters Patent No. 150,021, “Vehicle-Wheels”, P. Gendron, April 21, 1874, United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Peter (Pierre) Gendron was born at St. Ours, Quebec and worked in his father’s wagon shop until migrating to the United States. In 1872 he opened the Gendron (Iron) Wheel Company in Toledo, Ohio. In 1874 he patented an improved way to attach the metal spokes of the bicycle wheel to both strengthen and lighten it He commercialized his new wheels by putting them on baby carriages, then bicycles and children’s toys. By 1900 he was building wheelchairs.

Many of the antique wheelchairs now found in Ontario were manufactured by the Gendron company, often in the Toronto manufacturing plant set up around 1900 to avoid the tariff on American wheeled items. But Gendron was not the first to manufacture wheelchairs in Canada.