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Patent 633,745 for Military Bicycle, issued to James C. Anderson in 1899. Bicycle built about 1900.

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Patent 633,745 for Military Bicycle, issued to James C. Anderson in 1899. Bicycle built about 1900.


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Bicycle Collection — The collection 1896-1927

Patent 633,745 for Military Bicycle, issued James C. Anderson, p. 2
Patent 633,745 for Military Bicycle, issued James C. Anderson, p. 2

Anderson "Military Bicycle"
Catalog #: 309,686, Accession #: 107,860
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

This bicycle was donated to the Smithsonian in 1929. It is apparently the only bicycle of its kind, and was probably built for James C. Anderson, the patent holder, by a local machinist. In spite of the quality of the workmanship, this is a most awkward machine, and those accustomed to riding conventional cycles find it almost impossible to balance. Anderson, of Highland Park Illinois, was granted Patent number 633,745 for a "military bicycle" on 26 September 1899. Subsequently such a machine was built, following closely but not exactly the drawings of the patent application.

The application says of it: "In a machine for personal locomotion, propelled wholly by the human body, whether used for transportation in of the rider only or for the, additional service of a carrier, especially for carrying the necessary equipments of a soldier, it is not only desirable that the machine should be compact and small as possible, but it should, as it were, fit the rider mounted thereon in an upright soldierly position, which position is manifestly best suited to the human anatomy and best conserves the human force of the body in propelling the machine, as well as in maintaining the proper equilibrium." In other words, the articulation of the body of the rider and of the machine should compensate each other, and in such a wheel it is also desirable that the rider should be able to mount in front and when occasion requires to dismount forwardly or in the direction of the motion of the wheel, and hence it is important that his movements should not be obstructed by the usual arrangement of handlebars in front of him.

Physical Description

Artifact. This "military bicycle" weighs approximately 45 pounds. The color, black, is customary for the period. It is somewhat like a small Star bicycle designed to go backwards, as the tubular, triangular frame has two wheels of different sizes, with the small one mounted in a fork for steering purposes. However, the fork and steering wheel are at the rear of the machine, rather than at the front as on the Star. The upper end of the steering post is fitted with a small gear sector worked by a similar sector fitted to the axis of the curved, tubular handlebars so that turning the handlebars will turn the small wheel. Adjustable cork-covered grips are fitted to the handlebars which are located behind the rider's legs.

A Christy saddle, bearing patent dates ranging from 15 January 1895 to 19 April 1898 is located directly above the gear sectors. The saddle is made of leather and horsehair on a metal frame, and faces in the direction of the larger wheel. A rider, seated on the saddle, would find his hands on the handlebars at a level slightly below that of the saddle. On the patent application appears the suggestion that the saddle post be geared to the steering post, so that by swinging the body and saddle the machine could be steered. The example, however, does not employ this interesting feature.

The wheel rims are made of laminated wood and are fitted with single-tube, pneumatic tires. Tangentially laced wire spokes are used. The front wheel is 20 inches in diameter and the rear, 11 inches. Each is marked "Fairbanks Boston laminated wood rim, Bradford, Penn., Bedford, Mass., Pat. May 9, 1893." The original tires, bearing a patent date of 23 May 1893 and the words, "Newton Upper Falls, Mass.," were so badly deteriorated that they were replaced in 1969, with tires donated by Henry W. Mathis, of the Southeast Cycle Shop. The front wheel is driven by means of pedals and gearing, three revolutions of the wheel occurring for each turn of the pedals. The convertible pedals have both serrated steel edges and rubber pads, either of which may be turned upward at the discretion of the rider. Manufactured by the Lavigne and Scott Manufacturing Co., of New Haven, Connecticut, the pedals bear a patent date of 21 July 1896. The pedal throw, nonadjustable, is 6 1/4 inches.

There is no operating brake, the machine being retarded by holding back on the pedals, but a parking brake, the lever of which is accessible only when the rider is dismounted, can be flipped against the tread of the front tire. This brake was necessary to prevent the cycle from drifting forward or backward off the free swiveling, telescoping tubular stands, located on each side of the cycle.

Within the triangular frame is a sheet-metal hanger for carrying a rifle, pointed forward arid so situated that the rifle can be quickly seized by the rider. The framework of adjustable tubes and braces attached to the upper rear of the frame was apparently intended to carry equipment.

A leather tool bag marked "Eclipse" is located beneath the framework.

Date Made:
about 1900
Gift of James C. Anderson, through Russell A. Conn

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