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Adult's tricycle, about 1875

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Adult's tricycle, about 1875
Smithsonian Institution , Negative #: 72-5924


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Bicycle Collection — The collection, about 1875-1881

Adult's tricycle
Catalog #: 331,771, Accession #: 304,886
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection
This unusual, unidentified tricycle is one of the few adult machines of the velocipede era to be found in United States collections. It has tentatively been dated at about 1875 because its general construction agrees with that of early velocipedes and with patent drawings of the early and middle 1870s. It has not been possible, however, to identify it with any specific patent. It is a simple, yet well-constructed machine.
Physical Description

Artifact. This tricycle has wheels, front fork, handlebars, and twin backbones made of wood. The backbones join together at the front ends with an iron steering pin that engages a pair of iron fittings on the forks. The lower ends of the forks have split bronze bearings, with oil holes that are neatly inletted in the wood. Wooden spool-pedals are attached to the 5-inch iron cranks, as on a common velocipede. In the rear, the lower ends of the backbones are attached to the iron axle with a pair of ordinary axle clips of the type employed in the carriage-building trade. A leather-covered saddle stuffed with horsehair is mounted on the backbones, these being of bent wood to provide the only spring action for the rider's comfort. The diameter of the front wheel, 38 1/2 inches, is comparable with that of a velocipede; that of the rear wheels is 24 1/2 inches. All wheels carry 3/4-inch iron tires. The saddle is 37 inches above the ground and is so positioned behind the pedals that a rider's leg length of about 30 inches is indicated. Overall length is 67 inches.

Undoubtedly the maker of this tricycle patterned it on the velocipedes so popular in 1869, and added the third wheel for stability. However, the narrow track of 16 1/2 inches, in contrast to the machine's height, results in a vehicle that feels less stable to ride than does the two-wheeler. Thus, because it is an impractical conveyance, it appears likely that it was little used, and this, in turn, could account for its remarkably fine original condition.

The tricycle retains its original finish, which is black (though it sometimes appears to be a very dark green), striped with fine lines of light yellow, while the handlebar grips are unpainted. Black leather covers the lower part of the saddle, but the upper leather is tinted green, which lends some support to the possibility that the true color of the tricycle may be a dark Brewster green.

Date Made:
about 1875

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