'Rudge-Whitworth - The Truth Behind the Hand'
An Article Written for the Rudge Club Journal "The Radial"
As Rudge Enthusiasts Club Archivist, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is "where does the Rudge red hand come from?". This question has come up several times in recent months, both from members, and a general non-member enquiry through the website, so I thought I should give some details.
There are various misconceptions of where the hand comes from, & they all seem to circulate around the "Red hand of Ulster". The most common, being that it was added to the Rudge logo because they won the Ulster Grand Prix ! This is probably compounded by the fact that the 'Ulster' is arguably Rudge's most famous model, its easy to see why so many people would think this.
Another 'Ulster' race which some people would believe the hand is associated, is the "Tour of Ulster" cycle race, and interestingly that event never began until 1956 !!
One of the most imaginary stories I've seen however was that on the "Borrani Americas" website, the United States main agent for the modern day Borrani wheel company. They did at one time have a whole article on their website about the history of Borrani wire wheels & when referring to the hand in the trade mark they quite elaborately told a story of how Dan Rudge was related to Irish descendants & that the Red hand was a link back to this !
However the fact is the hand has nothing to do with Dan Rudge at all!
In order to find the truth behind the hand, we need to go back to 1891 and the birth of the Pugh family's "Whitworth Cycle Company". The open hand superimposed on a bicycle wheel is in fact Whitworth's trade mark & is regarded as "the open hand of honesty".
When Rudge & Whitworth amalgamated in 1894 to form Rudge-Whitworth Ltd, the Whitworth trade mark was carried over to the new company & remained right through to the end, including the Raleigh take over in 1943.
It is not clear whether or not the hand was originally red, or if this came about later, as most illustrations of the Whitworth logo are shown in all black, and early versions of the Rudge-Whitworth logo show an almost real hand.
Interestingly, I politely contacted the "Borrani
Americas" website & informed them of their error. They responded by showing
how clearly out of touch they were with history, by telling me I was wrong,
& that the hand had come from Dan Rudge. By trying to prove their point they
included a copy of a mid 1950's (Raleigh) Rudge cycle advert which had no
mention of Whitworth, but had a large hand in the background!
Archivist - Rudge Enthusiasts Club