Getting at the truth about Triumph's First Engineer

by Peter Cornelius (Triumph Specialist, for the VMCC in Britain)

Repeated from Triumph story book to Triumph story book Mauritz Schulte is described as the 'engineer' behind early Triumph motor cycles. I wish to explain why this is a fallacy and give credit to the man who was really the Engineer behind Triumph.

When Siegfried Bettmann arrived in England from Nuremberg, in 1883, after a very short while at the Station Hotel, Holborn Viaduct, he moved to cheaper accommodation in Church Road, Islington. On his very first evening in these lodgings he met "young, handsome, fair," Mauritz Johann Schulte who originally hailed from Hanover, but had travelled to London to try his luck after living seven years in Holland. Mauritz had already been in London for three or four weeks but had not looked for a job. With Siegfried's encouragement both started job hunting and both were offered jobs after two weeks of letter applications to advertisers in the 'Daily Telegraph' newspaper. Siegfried didn't mention what job Mauritz had obtained but only that for the first two or three months he was earning slightly more than himself.

In 1884 Bettmann and Schulte both changed jobs. Schulte was engaged as a foreign traveller at £3 per week by a firm dealing in chinaware and pottery. (An unskilled job not unlike Bettmann's, but with products less related to 'engineering' than Bettmann's sewing machines.) When trade worsened for the White Sewing Machine Company in 1885 Siegfried lost his job and being fed up with the uncertainty of working for other people and having experience of commercial travelling decided to start his own business selling the German Biesolt & Locke sewing machine in Britain and British bicycles in Britain and overseas. He named the company S. Bettmann & Co. in a partnership form in the hope that some good friend, preferably Schulte, would join him in the not-too-distant future. Business did not materialise as Siegfried had hoped for his new company so in December he returned to the unfilled position of foreign traveller for the White Sewing Machine Company while still operating his own company.

In November 1886 Mauritz J. Schulte offered to join Siegfried Bettmann as a partner. He had saved £250 from his two years, as a foreign traveller in chinaware and pottery so the capital of the firm was decided to be £500. In 1887 whilst Bettmann was still travelling Schulte came to an arrangement with the small Birmingham bicycle manufacturer of William Andrews to make bicycles in accordance with their own specification and in 1888 Schulte spent two months with cycle maker William Andrews in Birmingham working at the bench in order to gain mechanical experience. This was the extent of Schulte's 'engineering' knowledge!

Moving on to motor cycle manufacture, it was in 1905 that Triumph introduced their 'own' engine. I use the term 'own' very loosely for it is recognised that the engine of that year, and for some years later, had dimensions which were identical, and parts were interchangeable, with a number of other makes of motor cycle.. Certainly Triumph did not have facilities for casting (or moulding as it was then known), and it being such a specialised industry in its own right, never did have and it is doubtful whether Triumph would have employed anyone at that time who had the knowledge or skills to design and manufacture the necessary masters for the moulders to work with. Certainly not Schulte, and the now renamed Triumph Cycle Company did not have sufficient capital at that time to invest in such skills. So it would therefore have been much easier, and cheaper, to order an already available item, but with the name Triumph cast into the crankcases. Certainly their completed motor cycles were different from those of other manufacturers although they did draw on ideas from Rover, including the initial disastrous (for Triumph) twin down-tube frame.

Enter the true hero. Back in July 1890 when Schulte moved to the new Triumph Cycle Works in Coventry he employed two superintendents; a Mr. Hayes to attend to the machine shop and Charles Hathaway to attend to the enamelling, plating and assembly shops. Although they both had full powers in their separate departments, jealousy soon arose between the two. Schulte took Hathaway's part and despite efforts by Bettmann to bring about an understanding Hayes was dismissed. This left Charles Hathaway as overall Works Manager. A wise decision by Schulte as henceforth he laid claim to any good work which Hathaway produced, and conveyed this to pioneer rider and influential journalist the Rev. Basil H. Davies, who wrote under the non-de-plume of Ixion. It was in later books by Davies that he said that Schulte had told him that HE was the designer of Triumph motor cycles, and hence the carrying forward of this 'untruth'. The subtle improvements and 'individualities' which made Triumph motor cycles so successful, like the to-and-fro front forks, the rear luggage carrier, the carburettor, oil seals for rotating shafts, rear stand retaining clip, oil squirt nozzle, oil measure fuel cap and engine to gearbox mounting for the Junior model were all patented in the names of The Triumph Cycle Company and Charles Walter Hathaway. Had Schulte designed these, or anything else, he would have been able to put his own name to the patents. Certainly his ego would have required it. Had he not returned to Germany to find a wife, as no English woman would have been good enough for him. (Nee Marta Andersen in 1893 or 1894) One cannot claim that Hathaway's name appeared as he was the Works Manager, for a Frederick Walter Burroughs' name appears with the Triumph Cycle Company for the Patent of the ratchet silencer cut-out, and James Batchelor for the free engine clutch, commonly known as the clutch hub.

Around 1905/1906 Bettmann and Schulte foresaw that the new Motor Car industry threatened the cycle industry although they could not agree on what best to do about it, so Bettmann decided to pursue the motor car independently. He went to Paris to look at the three-cylinder Minerva car with a view to marketing it in Britain. He persuaded Hathaway to accompany him as "technical advisor", as he then owned a Ford motor car and was the only one of the three with any idea of technical matters. (Schulte had been one of the earliest car owners in the country, a single-cylinder De Dion with tonneau body, and his wife, Marta, sat by his side continuously blowing the horn!)

I have read it claimed that the Triumph Model H (actually Type H) was named after Hathaway since he had designed it. Doubtless he had designed it, but the Types had progressed by 1915 from A to G, so what was the next letter in the alphabet? Although Hathaway rode earlier models well in competitive events it is not known whether he actually rode his final design, the Type/Model H which became available in February 1915, for it was in 1915 that Hathaway died following an operation.

Many years later Bettmann remembered him as, "A man of ability, but his ability was surpassed by his probity, modesty, and knowledge of handling men. In his conversations with the men, even when he had to show disapproval, he never used a bad word, much less a swear word. He listened to all with patience, and was respected for his sense of justice. He was mourned by all who worked with and under him. A cortege of between 1500 & 2000 people followed his remains to his last resting place, which is adorned by a memorial erected in his honour by the men who were under his charge." Of the early bicycle days Bettmann said that Schulte's love of cycling and Hathaway's mechanical skills, spent on simplifying construction and increasing the ease of propulsion, meant that right from the start of construction in Coventry the Triumph Cycle Company produced bicycles which gained the admiration of the discriminating cycling public.

Thirteen years after Hathaway's death in the promotional brochure of 1928, 'Upholding a Name' there was the item, 'The large part played by the late Mr. Charles Hathaway in the design of this (1905) machine will always be remembered by those who knew him."

We didn't know him, but I ask that in future we remember him and belatedly give credit where credit is due. (Schulte had left Triumph but 8 or 9 years prior to this brochure but he was not called upon to be remembered.)