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Hobby Horse, about 1818

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Hobby Horse, about 1818
Smithsonian Institution, Negative #: 61-347


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Bicycle Collection — The collection, 1818-1869

Hobby horse
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection
One of only a few original Hobby Horses to be found in the United States, this machine is unidentified, but is believed by the donor to be possibly of French origin. It was donated to the Museum in 1964.
Physical Description

Artifact. The frame, or backbone, is a 47-inch wooden bar, curving upward at the rear. This bar was probably originally made of one piece, but now has a splice near the front, and is reinforced at this point with iron plates. The saddle is mounted on a separate bar which is elevated above the main bar by three adjusting screws, the two forward screws being fixed between two short crossbars situated near the front of the saddle. On the saddle bar is a firmly padded seat, covered with maroon mohair that is believed to be either original, or an early replacement that is contemporary with the machine's use. An upright post at the front of the saddle supports the rest for the rider's forearms. Three curving iron rods brace this rest. The saddle assembly can be elevated from 30 to 33 inches above the ground. A two-arm iron fitting is bolted to each side of the frame in the rear, thus forming the fork in which the rear wheel is mounted. The front wheel is held by an iron fork that terminates above in a tong, backward-curving stem on which the curved wooden handlebar is mounted. A coil spring around the stem bears upward against a pin through the stem, to take up any vertical play in the steering head. Both of the 10-spoke wooden wheels are 24 inches in diameter and carry a 1-inch iron tire. Wheelbase is 38 inches. Traces of the original light green finish are visible, bearing both yellow and black striping.

Date Made:
about 1818
France, possibly
Gift of Preston R. Bassett
Bicycles were known by many names in the late 18th and early 19th century. In the early 19th century, what was then called a velocipede migrated from France to England, and was known variously as a Draisine, Swiftwalker, Hobby Horse, Dandy Horse, or Pedestrian Curricle. Hobby Horses were popular from a brief time in the late 1810s and early 1820s. They then fell out of fashion.

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