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Velocipede, about 1879

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Velocipede, about 1879
Smithsonian Institution, Negative #: 797.5-A


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Bicycle Collection — The collection, about 1875-1881

Shire velocipede


Catalog #: 180,131, Accession #: 22,583
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection
This velocipede was donated to the Smithsonian in 1889. No marks of identification have been found on this velocipede, yet the general construction very strongly resembles that of the 1879 Shire, while the steering head is very much like that of an early Columbia. For these reasons its date is believed to be the same as that of the Shire, which is rather late for this type of machine.
Physical Description

Artifact. This velocipede has a frame that consists of two wooden members attached to an iron fitting at the front, a broad wooden mudguard, and a steel single-leaf spring reminiscent of the lower part of the nearly vertical wooden brace of the Shire velocipede. Similarly, from a point near the rear hub a pair of iron braces runs to the rear mudguard and another pair to the lower end of the steel spring. Thus, the wooden frame alone does not bear the rider's weight, being assisted by the mudguard and spring. A Shire-type suspended saddle has horsehair padding on a heavy canvas base, and is covered with enameled cloth. The front fork of this velocipede, unlike the Shire, is of iron, having an open head that accommodates a long steering spindle. There is evidence that there was once a brake, operated by the right hand, similar in design to that of a Columbia Ordinary, but none of the parts remain. The 24-inch handlebar is of turned wood. The 30-inch rear wheel has 14 staggered spokes, and the 40-inch front wheel has 16 spokes. Both have 7/8-inch iron tires. The spokes, unlike those of carriages and most other velocipedes, are turned round over their entire length, and are slightly tapered. The axles of both wheels are fixed in the hubs, and turn in split bronze bushings equipped with oil holes. These bushings are retained in the clevis-like ends of the front fork, and in iron fittings bolted to the rear frame, but a single bolt for each. Triangular wooden pedal-blocks are fitted to the 5 1/2-inch cranks on the front wheel. The finish of this machine, now in very poor condition, appears to have been red, ornamented by gold striping.

Date Made:
about 1879
Gift of Joseph Z. Collings

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