The Lewis Cycle and Motor Works, Kadina, 1905 - 1924

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The Lewis Cycle and Motor Works opened its Kadina branch in Taylor St on Monday, October 2, 1905.

It proved somewhat of a false start however, because by the end of that same month they had moved to new premises at The Beehive Corner (Hallett and Graves Streets). Thanks to the beautiful colourised postcard (above) from the collection of Doug Gordon, we have a photographic record of the early days at the Beehive Corner, with the architectural "beehive" figuring prominently. Given the vehicles on display (all Lewis-Minervas, three with vertical engines of which at least two have magneto ignition) and the brightness of the signage, we could guess that the postcard was produced to mark the opening of the new store.

Not to be outdone, John Holden has sent in yet another beautiful card of Graves St, with the Lewis Cycle & Motor Works figuring prominently, most likely taken on the same day as Doug's card:

Lewis Cycle & Motor Works, Graves St, Kadina c1905

From the local newspaper of February 1910 we learn about some of the staff: "A.E. Sampson, manager of Lewis's since 1906, has been appointed their country inspector. Former salesman George Hunt takes over as the Kadina manager." By July, A.E. Sampson was reported as working for Murray Aunger Ltd.

The business was sold in February 1912, and during the period 1912 to 1914 Lewis advertising and publicity materials make no mention of a Kadina branch. However, from an illustration that appeared in the Australian Motorist in December 1913, we see that the business, now operating from a site in Hallett Street just a couple of doors north of the Beehive Corner, was still active as an agency for Lewis, albeit under the "Rowe's" banner. It is not known if the move came before, after, or coincided with the sale of the business. The image is of poor quality, but we can see that it is carefully posed with two cars, two motorcycles and a bicycle on display.

Rowe's Kadina agency for Lewis, 1913

In the 11 September 1915 issue of the local newspaper we find: "Vivian Lewis has re-purchased the business from manager E.W.T. Rowe and placed Mr D.W. Simpson as manager." Just what prompted Lewis to sell and then reacquire the Kadina business in such a short space of time is not known. When we next see the Hallett Street garage in a c1920 photograph, it is little changed from its 1913 form despite the change of ownership:

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As in the earlier photographs, new Lewis motorcycles feature prominently. The machine on the left is a new Lewis Precision 2 stroke and on the right is a new 6 h.p. Lewis JAP V-twin. However by this time Lewis motorcycle production was winding down and Lewis were beginning to source complete machines elsewhere. Under the magnifying glass we can spy an English P&M motorcycle in the display window, and a poster of an ABC for which Lewis were also agents. In the left display window we see a relic of an earlier time: a pre-war locally-made motorcycle branded "JAP" no doubt obtained as a trade-in on a new machine.

The car on the left is Dr F. S. (Syd) Holder's 1920 Dodge, in the centre is a c1920 Saxon (for which Lewis were agents at the time), while the light-coloured car is possibly a Pullman. The nose of a US-built Detroiter is just visible inside the garage; its old English script badge signifying pre-1916 origins. (For Detroiter fans, the definitive history has been written by Ronald Putz, and can be found in Car Classics magazine, Vol. 5, No. 3, August 1973.)

Although the business looked prosperous, a tragic suicide in August 1921 signalled that conditions were difficult. The end of Lewis involvement in Kadina came in 1924, when the local paper announced in its July 26 issue that "Holland Pearce and Co have taken over the Lewis garage in Hallett St."

Unlike the contemporary Lewis buildings in Adelaide, both the Beehive Corner and Hallett Street garage are still standing in Kadina. Sadly the Beehive has now disappeared...

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Many thanks to Kadina historian Keith Bailey for his work researching the local Lewis presence, and his willingness to share his knowledge with us. Keith has written extensively on the history of the Kadina area, including the books Copper City Chronicle - A History of Kadina and Kadina... a second look.

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