The French marque Gladiator was established in Paris in 1891 by Alexandre Darracq and Jean Aucoc, Darracq being the later car manufacturer.
They made bicycles for the working man and soon surpassed Clement as the main French factory, writes the Dutch author Jan Boesman in his book 'De fiets van Lautrec' (Lautrec's bicycle). Boesman also writes that Humber UK pointed the finger at Gladiator for copying their bicycles. they even made an advertisement or poster showing monkeys trying to copy a Humber. I must say, I have never seen that one.
Fact is that Clément, Gladiator and Humber France merged in 1896 into one firm, that kept the old brand names alive.
Knowing that: when was this bicycle built? It is clearly a Humber: can't miss with the patent bracket adjustment and the hubs are also typically Humber.
The names on the Gladiator plate say Aucoc & Darracq, Rue Lafayette. But I've got a catalogue of january 1895 giving the addresses of 3 Rue Francois Henri / 58 Grande Rue (factory) and 18 Boulevard Montmartre. The famous poster with the flying naked lady (click here) also mentions Boulevard Montmartre 18.
But I also found a poster with 46 Rue Lafayette (click here). This looks a bit older, looking at the fork crown.
So: it could be that this is an older (1891-1894) Gladiator, and indeed a perfect copy of a Humber. The names Aucoc & Darracq indicate that.
Or: this is a later Gladiator, after the 1896 merge.
Looking at the open fork crown (double plates), the 'modern' lamp hook, and the sort of chain used, I would say this bicycle dates around 1895-1896, not earlier. Especially the crank length, which is not adjustable , dates it after 1895. So, this bicycle with its (in 1896) old-fashioned cushion tires is in fact a badge engineered Humber????
Who helps me out?
Thanks Boleslav Pára for the pictures of your interesting bicycle!
(click picture for more pictures on my Flickr account)