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Velocipede, about 1868

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Velocipede, about 1868
Smithsonian Institution, Negative #: 73-368-CN


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Bicycle Collection — The collection, 1818-1869


Catalog #: 247,884, Accession #: 47,725
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

This velocipede was donated to the Smithsonian in 1907. The donor of this machine, which is of the French pattern, stated that it was made by either Sargent or French, carriage builders of Boston, Massachusetts, about 1868, and that it sold for $160.00. It seems likely it is from the period: An illustration of an almost identical machine is captioned "American velocipede of 1869" on page 22 of Charles Pratt's The American Bicycler (1880). Another similar machine, illustrated on page 28 of Harry Griffin's Cycles and Cycling (1890), is described as an "Improved Boneshaker of 1870," made by Charles Pomeroy Button, of 142 Cheapside, London.

Physical Description

Artifact. A heavy forged bar, terminating in a fork at its lower end, serves as a frame. A vertical iron fork, topped by a horizontal handlebar mounted in brackets, swivels in the front of the frame. A forward projection of the frame carries a pair of footrests for use while coasting, and ends in an ornamental scroll. Wood-spoke wheels with 13/16 inch-wide iron tires have, respectively, diameters of 37 inches in front and 31 1/2 inches in the rear, and 16 and 14 staggered spokes. Weighted bronze pedals hang from the cranks, adjustable from 4 to 7 inches, that are secured to the live front axle. Twisting the handlebars in the mounting brackets winds up a cord whch presses a brake shoe against the tire of the rear wheel. A padded, pigskin-covered metal saddle is mounted on a flat steel spring, on which it can be adjusted forward or backward to suit the length of the rider's legs. The frame and wheels are a rich, medium blue, heavily striped with gold leaf. The long spring supporting the seat, the front fork, handlebars, and pedal cranks are highly burnished. The wooden grips of the handlebars are fitted with brass ferrules and brass tips, and the counterbalanced pedals are of polished bronze. This velocipede was restored in 1972 by Dale C. Price, of Cambridge, Maryland, who duplicated the original finish.

Date Made:
about 1868
Gift of William Sturgis Bigelow

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