|There once was a Baron von Drais [pronounced “Drice”]
Who observed some swift skaters on ice;
“If they balance on steels
Then why not two wheels –
Yes, a Laufmaschine, that would be nice!”
Roger Street, 1823
The German Laufmaschine for the two-wheeled construction did not refer to its speed but to the way of its propulsion. In French it was called draisienne after the name of its inventor, while in English – in the version improved by Denis Johnson in 1818 – hobby-horse or dandy-horse.
The prefix of the English name is justified by the large number of cartoons on which the contemporary illustrators depicted the users of the vehicle and its ways of use.
for the Suppression of Vice
Besides the not very flattering cartoons, the news on the new inventions were also distributed on more serious flyers and printed books.
The first significant change in the way of its propulsion occurred only in 1862, when the just 19 year old Pierre Lallement, a stroller maker in Nancy – everything is connected! – mounted a pedal on the first wheel. However, he did not start the mass production of this prototype, unlike another stroller maker of Paris, Pierre Michaux, who invented this same innovation at the same time and independently of Lallement (that is, already for the third time since the Knights of the Sun and the Moon).
US Patent No. 59,915, granted on November 20, 1866
The Michaux bicycle, whose name in France was velocipède, while in the USA the eloquent boneshaker, was further improved in by Eugène Meyer in France and James Starley in Britain. As a result, by the 1870s they created the well-known velocipede wich had wire-spoke tension wheels instead of wooden spokes, and pneumatic rubber tire instead of iron, and whose front wheel was much higher, for the sake of speed, than the rear ones, and so it is called “penny-farthing” in the literature on after the proportion of the contemporary British coins. Starley’s nephew, John Kemp Starley will be the one who in 1885 would create the prototype of a rear-wheel-drive, chain-driven cycle with two similar-sized wheels, known as „safety bicycle”, thus reaching the height of the knowledge of the Knights of the Sun and the Moon – but this is already another story.
As the last picture shows, women’s clothing did not allow them to drive “regular” bikes for a long time. One solution was to lower the framework of the hobby horse, while the other the construction of tricycles (or quadracycles) in whose saddle the lady could sit as on a small triumphal charriot.
However, “safe bicycle” attracted more and more women since the 1890s, and consequently there was no other solution but the transformation of women’s garment and making it similar to that of cycling men. The fighters of the emancipation of women noticed this, and enthusiastically welcomed the new invention: “I think bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.” – said American civil rights movement leader Susan B. Anthony.
“My dear Jessie, what on earth is that bicycle suit for!” “Why, to wear, of course.”
“But you haven’t got a bicycle!” “No; but I’ve got a sewing machine!”
But since we mentioned the stroller, it is worth noting its common feature of with the bicycle, namely that both were imagined and shaped for a long time on the model of a traditional means of travel. In the case of children’s stroller it was the horse carriage, while in that of the bicycle the horse itself, as it is shown by the early names “hobby horse” and “dandy horse”. While this is observable only in a stylized form on the vehicles of the adults, on the 19th-century (and even later) hobby horses for children this connection was graphically shown:
For the first hobby horse riders traditional “riding schools” were organized, and the early cartoons show the scene of the purchase of hobby horses on the model of the traditional horse fair (and of course also the competitor, the traditional horse-dealer who suspects the black future with sinking heart).
And finally the era experienced and announced the triumph of the velocipede as its victory over its traditional rival, the horse: