What does the expression 'free-state' actually mean? The description does not in fact, have any special meaning at all. The federal states (provinces) all have exactly the same legal rights, whether they call themselves 'free-states' or not. Nonetheless, at least the two 'free-states', Bavaria and (since 1990) Saxony as well, radiate a special type of energy, supported by two provincial capitals who have managed to carry over their historical importance right into modern times, in Munich's case, continously (since after the second world war) and Dresden, since the reunification of the two German states.
Now, what does all this have to do with the Wanderer company? Almost the entire activities of this company took place in the 'free-state' of Saxony, although they only begun to use this expression after 1920. It also ended the moment that Saxony (and four other provinces) were separated from the Federal Republic of Germany. The destiny of the company however, was not linked with Dresden, but with the city of Chemnitz.
It would almost appear, that the advancement of Wanderer showed a parallel to the rise of Germany. This can be explained by the first important product, the bicycle. It was the English, who in 1885, the foundation-year of the company, ruled the German bicycle market. They utilized the benefits of having begun with the industrial revolution 50 years earlier. Thus, the two well qualified founders, Richard Adolf Jaenicke and Johann Baptist Winklhofer first sold 'Rudge' bicycles, which they also serviced and repaired, they also instructed their customers on how to use them.
Indeed, these were not the bicycles that we know today. A great deal of practice was needed, to safely master a 'Penny-farthing', as they were affectionately known. In the beginning it was highly fashionable and mostly it was reserved for use in clubs. Now the force which played a decisive role, came into play. Not only did the two founders start out with very little money (and that was borrowed), they also managed, in only two years, to replace the imported bicycle with their own successful construction.
The occasional standstill through fires happened relatively often in the founding stories of many well known automobile manufacturers (e.g., Daimler and Opel) and the still young Wanderer company was stricken very early. Even though almost the entire half-yearly production went up in flames, the terrible impact could, as in the other cases as well, be overcome and the company thrived in new, even larger and more suitable premises. All together, they had to move three times, before the company finally found, on the outskirts of Chemnitz, enough space to expand.
The Penny-farthing would still be produced until 1892, however, a long time ago it had to basically, make place for the low-wheeler or safety bicycle. Wanderer built it, using a crank to the gear-driven front-wheel, with a drive-shaft to the rear wheel and finally also chain-driven as we know it today. The name, (Rad)-'Wanderer' was taken from the bicycle business and is still today used to describe bicycle-touring (in Germany). At that point, the emblem, a recessed 'W' with a suggestion of wings on the flanks, was also created.
The bicycle production withstood the German and worldwide crises of 1900 and those after 1918 and 1929, fairly well, because they provided high-quality products and through the introduction of more reasonable bicycles, despite the general recession, they were even able to increase their sales. The brand-name of 'Continental' that found its way into the bicycle business, actually came from the world renowned typewriters (from 1903 onwards), later, under the same name, there was also other office-equipment, e.g., adding-machines. Shortly after 1900 they started out with the production of machine tools, indeed, this only really got going after about 1906.
We, of course are interested in the motor-vehicles and we'll start with the Wanderer-motorcycles. From the passionate cyclist to one now using engine power, was only a small step. As did almost all the producers (e.g. Harley and later BMW), they started out with a side-valve engine. In the early productions in fact, is only the exhaust-valve controlled by a cam. The inlet-valve opens by itself as a check-valve. In a 200cc engine this first provided approx. 1 kW (1,5 hp).
Like most of the first motorcycles, the vehicles looked more like bicycles with auxilliary engines attached, before they were given their own frames and wheels, which gave them a higher load-capacity. Because of the longer wheel-base, the handlebars had to be lengthened, at the same time the performance was raised to 1,8 kW (2,5 hp) by slightly increasing the capacity. Herewith, they took part, quite successfully, in endurance comparisons and in exhibitions. After all, already in 1910 they had a rear-wheel suspension, something that BMW had to wait for, 20 years after the birth of their first model.
One shouldn't see at these vehicles as pitiful. After all, their owners were in a position to cross through Germany lengthwise, and if need be, also through the neighbouring countries. Admittedly, these tours took several days and were over cobblestones or even worse but with runs of approx. 200 kms per day. The engines held (of course with more care than they need today), the (flat) tyres were responsible for a lot of forced interruptions. The good comradeship among the two-wheel riders and the wonderful experiences more than compensated for the hardship.
The pedals still had the compulsory connection with the engine. The cycles had to be started by pedalling, and should something go wrong, then sometimes also for miles. If one could not find and repair the defect, it was better to cut the belt or remove the chain so that one could return home with a bit less effort. Of course, ones progress could not be compared to that of a normal bicycle. What a blessing, that from 1913 onwards Wanderer also had motorcycles with a kick-starter.
In the meantime of course, an enourmous performance increase had taken place with e.g., two cylinders in V-form and from now on, 500cc displacement. The up to 3 kW (4 hp) and 85 km/h engines could not assert themselves. Due to the fact that Wanderer already placed a great deal more importance on quality than on a lower price, motorcycles which cost more than the yearly income of the average worker, were simply unaffordable. Apart from that, the government laid a tax on the bigger engines, whereby, the 200cc engines remained tax-free. 05/12