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A Bicycle NOT for Two

The Pantagraph headline one hundred years ago was "TUG OF WAR TO DECIDE PROPERTY RIGHTS." Sam Prest was a window cleaner and H B Hostetler was the owner of

Bloomington Bicycle Company. Sam Prest was cleaning windows for Judge White when he left his bicycle at Hostetler's for repairs. When he returned to reclaim his bicycle, Hostetler informed Prest that the bike was stolen goods and that Hostetler would not be returning it to him. Hostetler had sold the bike to a farmhand some weeks earlier, and the agreement was that the bike would be Hostetler's until the full price for the bike was paid. The farm hand never did pay for the bike, but sold it to a second person, who sold it to Prest.

Prest promptly brought an action of replevin (an action to decide disputed ownership) and a writ was served by Constable Hanson. Hostetler still refused to give up the bike and was engaged in a tug of war with Constable Hanson witnesses by many. He was finally persuaded to visit Justice White's courtroom and was convinced to give up the bike to the officer.

The case was to be decided on the following Tuesday, but the Pantagraph failed to print this story over the next two weeks. However, the outcome can be predicted -- seller of goods can only pass on what rights they have the property. So when the bike was sold by the farmhand, he could not pass on the rights to the bicycle and the bike remained Hostetler's. Of course an equally probable settlement of this case was that Mr. Hostetler would realize that the bike WASN'T his and admit his mistake.

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