A fascinating visit to the Nationaal Fietsmuseum Velorama in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, home to an extensive bicycle history exhibition (including Europe’s largest collection of Draisiennes, getting ready to celebrate their bicentenary from 2016) as well as the archives of Royal Dutch Gazelle. It was a great privilege to meet museum volunteer and former Gazelle advertising director Cees van Wijk, who introduced me to the work of illustrators Ko Doncker and André Vlaanderen, patiently translating and commenting their cartoon strips and other prewar advertising material. A big thank-you to Cees and the rest of the teem for their time, generosity and warm welcome!
From 1912 to 1997, Gazelle’s advertising featured the quintessentially playful figure of Piet Pelle, a young boy whose encounters with bulls, angry farmers, brick walls, trains and cars on an indestructible Gazelle bicycle were depicted in cartoon form in a small booklet originally illustrated by Doncker and only slightly updated over the years — to the extent that new adventures, including a journey to the Moon and a retelling of the Hare and the Tortoise fable, were not nearly as successful as the original. Piet Pelle went on to become a sub-brand for children’s bicycles, although (like Piet Pelle himself) it was never exported beyond the Dutch-speaking world. Above is an extract from Theo Güsten’s 1930 animated film version of Piet Pelle op zijn Gazelle, available on the history section of the Gazelle website.