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Fowler tricycle model, 1880

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Fowler tricycle model, 1880
Negative #: 784-D


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Bicycle Collection — The collection, about 1875-1881

Van Anden Dexter velocipede

Fowler tricycle model
Catalog #: 309,257, Accession #: 89,797
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection
Francis Fowler, of New Haven, Connecticut, was issued Patent 224,165 on 3 February 1880, for a tricycle equipped with a ratchet connection in the hub of each driving wheel. The purpose was to enable the outer of the two driving wheels to rotate freely on the crankshaft when the machine was making a sharp turn, thus performing the function of a modern automobile differential unit. This model of the Fowler tricycle was transfered from the U.S. Patent Office to the Smithsonian in 1926. It is not known that this tricycle was ever manufactured.
Physical Description

Artifact. This model, measuring 11 inches long, 10 inches high, and 11 inches wide, is constructed of metal, with the exception of wooden grips on the handle bars and leather straps on the pedals of the cranks on the front axle. The frame consists of a curved bar at the rear, upon which a saddle is located, and a vertical forked frame at the front, pivoting in the steering head of the bar. At the top of the fork a horizontal bracket supports a rod serving as the handlebars. This rod is free to be rotated within its supports in the bracket. Rotating the rod tightens a cord running down the curved bar and causes a brake shoe to bear against the single rear wheel mounted at the lower end of the bar. This wheel is 2 3/4 inches in diameter and has eight spokes. On each end of an axle mounted at the bottom of the fork is a wheel 7 3/4 inches in diameter and having 10 spokes. The wheels are 8 3/4 inches apart. Cranks connect the axle and the wheel hubs. Each front-wheel hub incorporates a pair of double-crown ratchet gears held together by a spring in the hub. Forward movement of the axle drives the wheels, but when the cranking is halted and the axle is stationary the ratchets open and the wheels coast.

Also, as stated before, the outer wheel slips when the machine is making a sharp turn. Each intermittent opening of the ratchets would cause the wheels to be forced slightly apart and would occasion considerable wear of the teeth, as well as a clicking noise, deficiencies not found in the 1869 Van Anden velocipede, with its pawl-and-ratchet device in the hub of the front wheel.

Date Made:
Transferred from the U. S. Patent Office

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