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Shire velocipede, 1879Photographed in 1914 with Smithsonian Curator George C. Maynard

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Shire velocipede, 1879Photographed in 1914 with Smithsonian Curator George C. Maynard
Smithsonian Institution, Negative #: 56-795


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Bicycle Collection — The collection, about 1875-1881

Shire velocipede, 1879
Shire velocipede, 1879


Shire velocipede
Catalog #: 248,087, Accession #: 47,898
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

This velocipede was donated to the Smithsonian in 1907. It was built at a rather late date for this type of vehicle: the high, wire-wheeled Ordinary was already on the market by 1879. The machine bears a brass plate marked "J. Shire, Patent Reallowed May 10, 1879, Detroit, Mich." Patent Office records reveal the fact that John Shire of Detroit was granted Patent 216,231 covering "improvement in velocipedes" on 3 June 1879. The Shire velocipede in the collection is similar to the drawing accompanying the patent application. No patents were granted to Shire on the date appearing on the plate attached to the machine.

Physical Description

Artifact. The forked frame and the front-wheel fork are both made of wood with iron reinforcements. The front-wheel fork pivots at the front of the frame, straight wooden handlebars surmounting it. Also serving as a pivot point for the front fork is the upper end of a nearly vertical wooden brace, the lower end of which is connected by iron bars to the lower extremity of the frame. Both the wheels have wooden hubs, spokes, and felloes, with thin metal tires. Each wheel has 14 spokes staggered in the hub. The diameter of the front wheel is 38 inches and of the rear, 28 3/4 inches. Wooden crank arms, having a 5-inch throw but not adjustable as to their working length, are attached to the front axle. Spool-shaped wooden pedals are mounted at the ends of the arms. Oil cups are mounted at each end of the two axles. A wide wooden mudguard is affixed above the rear wheel. The saddle is made of wood, canvas, and leather. There is no brake. The finish on this velocipede is black with both gold and red striping. The mudguard bears a large piece of gold-leaf scrollwork similar to that found on Concord coaches and other horse-drawn commercial vehicles, and the front fork bears gold-leaf scrollwork that is more delicate.

Date Made:
Gift of C. Howard Buckler

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