Showing posts with label 1890s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1890s. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The President Gets the Credit (1897)

Puck Magazine - McKinley provides cheap bikes

Title-He did it all / F. Opper. From Puck Magazine

Summary-Print shows a vignette cartoon with President McKinley standing at center holding a hat labeled "Inexhaustible Prosperity Hat" and a magic wand, behind him are "Joshua" and "Moses" who has beams of light emanating from his forehead; surrounding McKinley are vignettes showing the wonderful tricks he has managed to conjur since taking office, these include friendly relations between the "Prince of Wales" and "rich Americans", the "Klondike boom" gold rush in the Klondike River Valley, Yukon, an "alliance between France and Russia", the decrease in the cost of bicycles bringing them into the price range of mostly everyone, and a good year for farm produce and high wheat prices which are a boom to the farmer.

Contributor Names-Opper, Frederick Burr, 1857-1937, artist

Created / Published-N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1897 October 6.

Puck Magazine - McKinley provides cheap bikes

Full two page illustration in magazine

Apparently President McKinley earned credit for some things that Puck Magazine considered unreasonable, including the decline in the prices charged for bicycles. "The price of bicycles has been reduced, and President McKinley did it, of course."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

After the [Bicycle] Ride (1897)

After the [Bicycle] Ride-1897
After the Ride

Title: After the ride
Creator(s): Harmon, F. T., copyright claimant
Date Created/Published: c1897.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Summary: Photograph shows man drinking from a glass and holding a piece of cake while sitting on door of icebox; bicycle at left.
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-11780 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: SSF - Interiors -- Kitchens -- 1897 [item] [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Title from item.
Eating & drinking--1890-1900.

Somewhat oddly, the subject headings don't include anything about the bicycle, but at least the bicycle is mentioned in the "summary" - "bicycle at left."

Apparently the cyclist shown was wanting some refreshment after an early "tweed ride" (or "tweed run" - where today cyclists dress up to evoke early cyclists and their attire).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Paying for his Fun" - Bike Repairs

Pays for Fun
Title: Paying for his fun

Summary-Man working on bicycle wheel.
Created / Published- [between 1890 and 1899]
Subject Headings
- Bicycles & tricycles--1890-1900
- Wheels--1890-1900
- Cleaning--1890-1900
Format Headings-Photographic prints--1890-1900.
Notes-Copyright by F.T. Harmon.
Medium-1 photographic print.
Call Number/Physical Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

It is a somewhat amusing notion reflected in this photograph from the 1890s that the bicycle rider "pays" for his fun - riding the bike - by spending time fixing the bike. Of course in the 1890s bikes were manufactured with lower tolerances and for a given amount of riding I would assume more repairs were required than for a good quality bike made today.

Still, for the most part I find working on my bikes to be relaxing, although I mostly do fairly basic stuff. I don't do anything with bottom brackets, headsets, or truing wheels. (I guess some people might say that doesn't leave much . . . )

Recently I had a little crash - I managed to end up with both the front and rear wheels out of true on the bike I was riding. I noticed the problem with the rear wheel immediately and got it fixed but it took me a while to realize the front wheel was a bit off - then I had it fixed also.

For me, paying someone to do certain repairs is better than the aggravation/frustration of trying to do it myself without having the right tools or much experience. I'm quite lucky since there is a shop about a mile away, Spokes Etc, where there is a dedicated wheel builder and "wheel mechanic", Bill Mould, who for 20 dollars will correct any true a wheel, putting in in one plane but also making sure it is still round.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Predicting Women's Attire After Bloomers Take Hold (1895)

"The Bicycle Dress" 1895

The Topeka State Journal. (Topeka, Kan.), 16 Aug. 1895. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

An illustration in a newspaper in 1895 shows what the future of women's bloomers may be into the 20th century (which then wasn't very far away).

Further down on the page, there is this short article (or more like collection of mostly snarky and contradictory observations):

Fate has decreed that the bicycle girl in bloomers shall become a spinster, observes the Salt Lake Tribune.

The bloomer gives to a shapely women says the Galveston News, a great opportunity; in fact, two of them.

A Boston girl started on a trip around the globe and before she had gone 1,200 miles she received 85 proposals, she says.

If "equal rights" means anything, it means a man's right to keep out of the way of a woman who is just learning to ride says the New York Mail and Express.

Chief Badenoch of Chicago punishes rowdies who assault women in bloomers. He shows gentlemanly instinct. The question of what is a proper costume for a woman is not to be settled by rowdies on the street.

The women of Osnaburg, O., set their dogs on a Canton wheelwoman because she wore bloomers, says the Cleveland World. The women of a Connecticut town about 40 years ago gave one of their sex an order to leave town when she put on the first hoopskirt they ever saw. In six months they were all wearing them.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Washington Boy Shows Joy of Cycling

Boy on Bicycle (in Washington DC, 1890s)

Digitized image from a glass plate negative that shows some degradation. It was likely taken at a studio in the late 1890s. The descriptive record does not have an exact date. Studios sometimes had a bicycle and subjects would be posed sitting on a bike that belonged to the studio, but this I think this may have been the boy's bike - you wouldn't think a studio bike would have a headlight, and the front tire is quite dirty. But that's just a guess. He looks quite happy!

Title-Boy on bicycle
Contributor Names-C.M. Bell (Firm : Washington, D.C.), photographer
Created / Published-[between 1873 and ca. 1916]
Format Headings
Glass negatives.
Portrait photographs.
Portrait photographs
Glass negatives
- Title is unverified name of sitter or person who ordered the photograph, from handwritten label on negative sleeve or negative.
- Date based on span of years of C.M. Bell Collection.
- Negative number assigned by Library.
- Gift; American Genetic Association, 1975.
- General information about the C.M. Bell Collection is available at
- Temp note: Batch 55.
Medium-1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in.
Source Collection-C.M. Bell Studio Collection (Library of Congress)
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Folding Bikes Now and Then

citizen bike
My new cycling acquisition (a gift at no cost)

The folding bike has been around longer than you might think . . . . .

Folding Bicycle 1895
St. Paul daily globe. (Saint Paul, Minn.), 30 June 1895. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.

It May Be Doubled Up So As To Occupy Half Its Ordinary Space

Bicycle inventors come thick and fast. American inventive genius apparently has concentrated upon the wheel. Every week some inventor comes forward with some new device designed to make cycling easier or safer or faster or to make a wheel lighter. In France, however, the inventors. are experimenting with petroleum-driven bicyclettes. Why petroleum is better than the human leg, and why the "machine should be dubbed bicyclette are questions only a plausible Frenchman can answer. The petroleum bicyclette participated in the recent road race between Paris and Bordeaux. It gave a good account of itself.

A folding bicycle is, the newest novelty in the steel steed line. By a simple and ingenious arrangement the connecting rods of the frame may be folded until the machine is reduced to the size of one wheel, as shown in the illustration.

The inventor claims for the folding bicycle the possibility of storing it in one's room, the ease with which it may be carried up or down stairs or hoisted in dumbwaiters or elevators. It can be readily, doubled up for carrying on the shoulder up and down bad roads. Such a bicycle can be readily placed in a carriage or other vehicle for transportation. Doubtless, also, the policeman who has had an experience in leading the bicycle of a prisoner to the stationhouse will appreciate the merits a machine that can be folded up and carried under the arm, where it is powerless to work injury.

The inventor claims further that in its folded shape, the bicycle may be securely locked, but seems to forget that in its portable shape it presents an extraordinary inducement to the intending thief.

The folding bicycle is one of the things that, now that it has been invented, will cause people to wonder why it had not been thought of before. Dwellers in flats, however, where there are tenants given to storing their wheels in the lower hallway will be inclined to send their personal thanks to the genius who has shown how the most unwieldy thing ever invented - that is, while in state of repose — may be made less obtrusive and less dangerous. There is no reason why it shouldn't be hung up on a peg out of everybody's way.

The man who invented the baby carriage which could be flattened out and jerked under the bed or stool against the wall behind a sofa worked a great benefaction. It was the best thing since the jointed fishing rod. Then a Brooklyn man invented a piano which could be readily be taken apart and carried up the narrow stairways of an apartment house and, then set up in a little room, instead of being swung into an outside window, as a safe is generally put into an office building. But there are more bicycles than there are either baby carriages or pianos in New York, so for the present the inventor of the folding, bicycle is entitled to a seat on the right side of the throne.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Women as Early Bike Commuters

I copied a long first person description of the work of a NYC "bike cop" from 1896 into a blog post, Adventures of NYC "Bike Cop" of 1896.

Towards the end, there is this paragraph:

Teamsters [here meaning the drivers of horse-drawn wagons, the the-equivalent of trucks] make most of our trouble. The manner In which heavy trucks and freight wagons of all kinds swarm to the Boulevard in the morning hours, when there are thousands of cyclists, four out of five of whom are ladies, is most exasperating. On Sunday, when the asphalt is covered with wheel riders, what satisfaction can there be in driving a carriage or buggy into their midst? It looks like sheer contrariness. The hostility shown by many truck and wagon drivers against cyclists is of that mean nature that is found in envy of those who seem to be getting some pleasure out of life.

While the "four out of five" is not a scientific survey, it suggests many women in 1896 were commuting to work by bicycle, since it is doubtful they were out on weekday mornings for some other reason.

This 1899 film of employees leaving a Parke Davis factory in Detroit suggests also that women were bicycle commuters in those pre-automobile days. Presumably most of the manufacturing employees were men and the women in this video (given their attire) were the clerical staff? So their percentage of the total number of commuters is likely relative to their percentage of the number of workers there overall.

Monday, July 4, 2016

To Enjoy the 4th of July - a New Bike! (1897 Ad)

To enjoy the 4th of July - a bike! (1897)

From The Evening Times newspaper. (Washington, D.C.), 03 July 1897. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
To Enjoy the 4th of July
See that your outfit is complete. It is immaterial what your sport or pastime is, you will find something that will be invaluable to you in our monster Fourth of July and Vacation Sale that will commence today.

BICYCLES. We are offering the best Bicycle bargain of the year, new 1896 Spalding Bicycles, fitted with 1897 tires and 1897 Christy saddles, at $50 for men's and $60 for women's models. We will attach to the 1896 Spalding the Hygienic Cushion Frame device, which makes riding over all kinds of roads a pleasure, for $10 extra. We have a few 1897 Tandems left at $50 each, sold for cash only, fully guaranteed by the maker, and it is a genuine bargain.

BICYCLE CLOTHING. We are offering exceptionally fine values today in complete Bicycle Golf Suits-just the kind to knock about in for cycling, seashore, or mountain. The fact that we manufacture all our own clothing makes it possible for us to offer you better bargains than anyone else.

BICYCLE SUNDRIES We are headquarters for Bicycle Sundries. Have everything required by the cyclist. The famous Christy Anatomical Saddle will make your vacation trip a pleasure if you are going riding. See that your bicycle is fitted with one.

1013 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

July 4th - Let's Sell More Bikes

The holiday themed advertising campaign is an American tradition - here is an example from a little over a hundred years for a July 4th bike sale:

July 4th Bike Sale 1913

From The Pioneer Express newspaper. (Pembina, Dakota [N.D.]), 27 June 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

The marketing approach in the ad's text is amusing (or something) suggesting immediately the second class nature of cyclists to motorists by this time (1913):
We are giving away an electric automobile horn to the best decorated automobile in the proce ion on July 4th, but thee are no prizes to bicycle riders. So I have concluded to donate to new riders handsome presents in the prices of new wheels. . . . We have a shipment of new, standard bicycles which will be on sale July 4th, while they last at twenty per cent off the regular price. This includes the regular $22, $25, $30 and $35 kind, from the single tube to Dunlop and G. & J. tires and coaster break [i.e., brake]. We have seven new bicycles to dispose of at these prices, and no more, and they will be sold for cash only.
Probably seven bicycles for sale in 1913 was quite a few in 1913 in North Dakota. ?

With no connection to the previous other than that it was published in a digitized newspaper, here is an Uncle Sam graphic with him riding a bicycle to celebrate the Fourth of July:

Uncle Sam on a bicycle for July 4th

From the Willmar Tribune newspaper. (Willmar, Minn.), 29 June 1897. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

It would seem this was originally published in the St. Louis Chronicle but was republished in this Minnesota paper.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Official Handbook [of 1890] of the League of American Wheelmen

Official hand-book / League of American Wheelmen
Published in New York City in 1890. From the collections of the Library of Congress.

Explanation of the contents on the title page:

In my previous blog post I linked to a book "Tourists' Manual and Book of Information of Value to all Bicyclers" published in 1892, two years after this time. The illustrations of the two books show the evolution during this brief period so that by 1892 a "safety bicycle" already looked much like a modern bicycle, as opposed to the safety bicycles of 1890, which look a little odd or strange by comparison.

Bicycle design is still evolving towards what we would recognize as "modern" in 1890

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Presidential Candidates Seeking Cyclist Vote - 1895

Illustration from Puck [magazine], v. 37, no. 953, (1895 June 12), centerfold - click on image for a more detailed view

Title: Presidential aspirants take to the wheel! / C.J. Taylor.
Summary: Print shows the interior of the "Bicycle - Academy" which offers "Special Facilities for Presidential Candidates", and trying out bicycles are several candidates labeled "Harrison, Sherman, Allison, Morton, Tom Reed, McKinley, Stewart, [Hill], Flower, Cullom, [and] Peffer". Morton rides a motorized bicycle, Allison rides a tricycle, Flower has put his head through the front spokes, Stewart hangs onto a column, McKinley appears to be hanging onto Reed, and Hill's tires are leaking air. On the wall is a poster for an "1896 Scorcher".
Contributor Names: Taylor, Charles Jay, 1855-1929, artist
Created / Published: N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1895 June 12.

Presidential aspirants take to the wheel! The bicycle vote has got to be catered to, and the best wheelman will make the best run.

At this point, the bicycle craze of the 1890s was building up - many cyclists went to indoor training programs to learn how to ride. Here, the presidential candidates are depicted learning how to ride in order to get the "wheelman" (cyclist) vote. Surprising number of candidates, although compared to what we have been through now . . .

Of course, at this point there were zero automobiles.

Also, looking at these presidential candidate names - Harrison, Sherman, Allison, Morton, Tom Reed, McKinley, Stewart, [Hill], Flower, Cullom, Peffer - most are completely unfamiliar a little over one hundred years later.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

1896 Bicycle Map for DC and Area

Roberts' [bicycle] road map of the District of Columbia and adjoining portions of Maryland and Virginia.

Cover title: Bicycle road map : Roberts' road map of the District of Columbia and adjoining portions of Maryland and Virginia : with tables of distances ... character of roads.
Created / Published - Washington : W.F. Roberts, c1896
Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division

Roberts Bicycle Map Washington DC and area 1896
Click here for zoom view of this 1896 map

Roberts Bicycle Map Washington DC and area 1896 - detail
Detail showing Washington DC and then-Alexandria (not Arlington) County

Roberts Bicycle Map Washington DC and area 1896 - road quality
Indicators for quality of roads (for use by cyclists)

Roberts Bicycle Map Washington DC and area 1896 - Rides in VA
Runs (ie, rides) into Virginia from downtown Washington

Distances are from the U.S. Treasury Department building and not the U.S. Capitol.

I found a similar, but not the same, map from 1896 published in the Washington Times that I blogged about.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tandem Penny Farthing - 1892

Illustration from an 1892 book on cycling

The 1892 book Wheels and wheeling; an indispensable handbook for cyclists, with over two hundred illustrations is from a time when the "Ordinary" (or Penny Farthing, a bicycle with a large front wheel and a very small rear wheel that was driven directly by pedals attached to the front wheel) was still somewhat in competition with the "Safety" - a safety bicycle being much more like the bicycle we know today.

The page with the description includes the following:
Muller Tandem Bicycle. The tandem roadster of the Muller pattern has been given a thorough trial by many different riders in and about New York, and in spite of its 64-inch gear with only 51-inch cranks, it climbed in good time all the hills ridden by the ordinaries and safeties, and went ahead of every-thing encountered on the road. The frame (on which Mr. Muller holds his patent) can be applied to any size wheel, and made its appearance about three seasons ago, when, fitted with two 56 Expert wheels, Mr. V. H. Muller and his brother rode it, defeating all tandem teams of prominence. Last spring they gave the frame a thorough trial on a pair of 50-inch Springfield Roadster driving wheels,and on it made a tour of Europe, where its novel lines attracted much attention among the cycle manufacturers.
Be that as it may, one doesn't see any of these around now. Apparently this is one of those ideas that just didn't catch on. One can imagine it had something to do with these being a paired fixed gear arrangement - no coasting. On the upside, it does appear that the rider in the rear has a brake. This would result in an unusual partnership, with the front rider responsible for steering and the rear rider for braking.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Riding with Horse-Drawn Traffic the Library of Congress A cyclist appears about 2/3 through this short film, riding in with the horse drawn carriages. Riding in traffic with carriages and horses almost makes riding with automobile traffic look relaxing.

Title - South Spring Street, Los Angeles, Cal.
Summary - From Edison films catalog: Various equipages pass, including a tally-ho and six white horses. A peculiar, open-end trolley car comes along; bicycle riders and pedestrians. 50 feet.

Advertised as part of the "Southern Pacific Company Series" (Edison films catalog): The Southern Pacific Company ("Sunset Route") offers special inducements to winter travelers, by reason of its southern route, thereby avoiding the extreme cold of the winter months. Its course lies through a section of the country that presents a variety of beautiful and picturesque natural scenery. It is also the direct route to the popular resorts of Southern California, thereby making it a favorable route for tourists. The following subjects were taken by our artist while traveling over the very extensive lines of the Southern Pacific Railroad Co., to whom we are indebted for many courtesies, and without whose co-operation we should not have been able to bring before the public these animated photographs of interesting and novel scenes (p. 43).

Created / Published - United States : Edison Manufacturing Co., 1898.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Bicycle Race as Analogy for Federal Budget-Making (1898)

From the cover of Puck magazine, 1898 (cropped version)

Image of the full cover.

Item record from the Library of Congress
Title: A handicap needed / Dalrymple.
Creator(s): Dalrymple, Louis, 1866-1905, artist
Date Created/Published: N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1898 January 12.
Medium: 1 print : chromolithograph.
Summary: Print shows a bicycle race on the "National Track" with the man in the lead labeled "National Expenses" easily outstripping the second bicyclist labeled "National Revenue"; a man labeled "Dingley" is giving the second bicyclist a push.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-28769 (digital file from original print)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: Illus. in AP101.P7 1898 (Case X) [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Perhaps not surprisingly, I am more of a Krugman-ite in my economic views so I don't actually see that some imbalance in this race is a problem. It seems reasonable to me that some of our economic thinking today could be more advanced than the economic thinking of 1898, right?

I think it is correct that this is an analogy, but like most semi-educated folk (I have two masters degrees but was never able to open the door behind which I would have found a PhD) I am not always right in the simile-metaphor-analogy parsing process.

The illustration shows the Capitol dome off to the left; perhaps this "National Track" is supposed to be on Hains Point?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Will Bradley Poster - Three Women on Bicycles

This is a digitized version of a color slide reproducing the original item

Title: Victor bicycles, Overman Wheel Company, Boston, New York, ... / [by] Will H. Bradley
Date Created/Published: 1895.
Medium: 1 print (poster) : color.
Summary: Three women on bicycles.
Reproduction Number: LC-USZC2-1760 (color film copy slide) LC-USZ62-14990 (b&w film copy neg.) LC-USZ62-28424 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory: Rights status not evaluated. For general information see "Copyright and Other Restrictions..." (
Call Number: POS - US .B732, no. 25 (B size) [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
* Lithograph printed by Harper & Brothers, New York.
* Reverse: cover by M. Parrish for Harper's Weekly, Christmas, 1895 [can't see since encapsulated with backing sheet].
* Promotional goal: US. D41. 1895; US. K22. 1895.
* This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.
Collections: Posters: Artist Posters
Bookmark This Record:

For some reason this item has not been "evaluated" for its "right status" so the higher resolution images are not generally available for download off site. However obviously 1895 is before 1923.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Innovative Bicycle Design Not Appreciated (1893, today)

Image from page 89 of "The Wheel and cycling trade review" (1888)
Caption: First annual run of the International Crank Inventors Cycling Club

This is something a cartoon in the March 3 1893 issue of the "Wheeling and Cycling Trade Review". At this point inventors were constantly developing, patenting, and trying to sell innovative new bicycle designs of all sorts. For the bicycle trade generally this was likely a little tiresome, thus the attempt at something like humor.

A Kickstarter for an innovative bicycle design that is a little too innovative, apparently, judging by its lack of success.

It probably would have surprised the cyclists and bicycle sellers of the 1890s to learn that people are still trying to overhaul the basic design of the bicycle today.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

How Bicycles Are Built (in 1896)

How Bicycles are Built. (article)
Author: Monroe Sonneschein
Publisher: [Chicago : : R. Sonneschein], June 1896.
Journal title: American Jewess : Vol 2 : Issue 9.; Page(s) 457-465.

This article provides a surprising type and amount of information compared to others I have seen from this period, particularly since it was intended as a tutorial for women readers assumed to know little about bicycles who would use this information to inform purchase of a bicycle. (While I think it is a interesting article, I'm not so sure that much of what is covered would be useful for a successful bicycle purchase, however.) I think it is worth looking at the entire article - here are some highlights:

HOW BICYCLES ARE BUILT. This article is written with a view of enlightening the purchaser of a wheel, who, as a rule, knows nothing about the construction and mechanical advantages of one bicycle over another.

Scientific men who have made bicycle-building their study all agree that the construction of a modern safety is one of the most delicate and intricate problems in mechanics, easily taking rank with locomotive or bridge-building. In most high-grade wheels there are about one hundred separate and distinct parts. Including duplicates, there are some seven hundred and fifty pieces in all. The puzzles and conundrums propounded by the wise men would seem easy of solution in comparison with the task of assembling the parts of a bicycle into one compact, rigid and smoothly-running machine. It is an undertaking requiring the highest degree of mechanical intelligence.

In a gun,"the factor of safety," as it is termed by engineers, is never lower than 12, which means that it is designed to be 12 times stronger than the strain it is calculated to withstand. In general machinery, the "factor of safety" is from 4 to 5; but in a bicycle it is but 1 1/4, in order that the machine may be as light as possible. It can therefore be readily understood that the greatest care must be exercised in its manufacture.
Guns are designed to be safer than bicycles?? Apparently.

Image from the book "A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Ricycle. . . " by Frances E. Willard, 1895. This book is available here -

More from "How Bicycles Are Built:"
A bicycle frame must be designed to withstand all manner of strains, such as longitudinal, tortional and vibrational, and their many combinations. It must stand up well in collision and the shock consequent to a fall at high speed. And right here let me state that too much rigidity in a frame is almost as faulty as not enough of it.

The bearings of a bicycle are perhaps its most interesting feature. The wear upon these parts is almost constant, and the material used should be of the finest steel tempered in oil all the way through, and not only case-hardened, because casehardening is merely hardening the outside of the metal. When such a temper is used, the hardened surface soon wears through; and the balls, reaching the softer metal of the inside, in a very short time eat away the bearing.

After the frame, the putting together of a bicycle wheel is the most important step in cycle-building. Each spoke is tested to support a hanging weight of not less than 1,000 pounds. The hub-the foundation of the wheel-is turned from a solid bar of steel. A hole for the axle is bored lengthwise through its center, as well as many smaller holes in the flanges around the outside of its ends, to hold the spokes.

In the wooden rim there is, of course, a hole for each spoke. These holes are "countersunk," and "washers" are introduced to prevent the spokes from pulling through the rims; for it is an interesting fact that, while the weight in a wooden wheel stands on the spokes, in a bicycle wheel it hangs on the spokes, the spokes above the hub supporting most of the weight. Were it otherwise, the wheel would quickly collapse; for while the tiny wires are capable of bearing an enormous lengthwise strain, they would immediately bend under a trifling compressional one.
Wheels with rims made from wood were still common at this point.
There is no device known to mechanics which minimizes friction to so great an extent as the ball-bearing. Running parts equipped with it may truly be said to possess the poetry of motion; yet how few among the thousands of wheelmen understand its magical workings!
The complete articlehas additional details about bicycle manufacturing practices of the 1890s.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Denmark and Cycling in 1898

Evening star. (Washington, D.C.), 16 April 1898. has this short item on its page featuring a variety of stories about cycling for the many in those days who were interested in the topic, towards the end of the cycling craze of the 1890s. This was arguably more for business types interested in selling bicycles in Denmark but has some interesting description, from an American perspective, of cycling in Denmark at the time.

Recent reports received at the State Department give some interesting facts in regard to the bicycle in European countries.
Vice Consul Bloom in Copenhagen says: "All classes, from the royal princes and princesses to the poorest workmen, use the bicycle in Denmark. The number now in use is estimated at about 100,000 for a population of 2,300,000). The roads through out the kingdom are excellent. Denmark is a flat country, with hardly any hills, and must be considered ideal from a cycler's point of view. If American exporters ship frames and wheels separately, they are sure to be on the safe side, or they can stipulate that they will not have anything to do with the duty, and leave that question to be settled by the Danish importers. There are no differential duties. The retail prices are from $25 to 100. The demand is mostly for the cheaper grades, and large quantities have been sold recently at $10 free on board New York."

From the National Museum of Denmark - in 1940 King Christian X could have chosen a bike, but certainly everyone else here seems to have done so

This situation is contrasted with that of Germany, also describe:
Consul General Cole at Dresden says: "Bicycles are used in Dresden by the wealthy and the middle or well-to-do classes. The lower and poorer class could hardly hope to accumulate enough money to buy them, although the remarkable reduction In the prices of American wheels may place them within reach. The streets of Dresden lire paved with asphalt and stone blocks, or macadamized, and are kept hard and smooth by constant rolling. They are clean, and furnish delightful avenues for wheeling. In the Grosser Garten are many miles of dirt roads, level and smooth, and, besides these, roads are being made in the park exclusively for cycling. Throughout Saxony the roads are hard smooth, and kept in good repair. Americans supply the largest number of wheels sold In this market, but there is considerable traffic in English bicycles."
The article goes on to describe the situation in similar detail for selected regions of Italy, France, Spain, and (somewhat oddly - since it is not part of Europe) Canada. (The article starts on the bottom of the page, fourth column from the left.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Book about Schwinn HIstory in the Pubic Domain

Schwinn Roadster
Page from this company-sponsored history of Schwinn from 1945

Fifty years of Schwinn-built bicycles: the story of the bicycle and its contribution to our way of life. Arnold, Schwinn and company, Chicago. 1945. No author is given on the title page, but the dedication is from Frank Schwinn, son of the company founder, Ignaz Schwinn.

Typically books published after 1922 in the U.S. are still covered by copyright, but if published before 1964 (I think) then copyright has to be renewed after 28 years or the book goes into the public domain. Or perhaps the University of Michigan where this was digitized cleared the copyright otherwise somehow. Anyway, the full book is viewable through HathiTrust.

While primarily a book about Schwinn, looking back from 1945, there is quite a bit of general cycling history in this too (albeit presented in summary). There are some interesting photographs comparing a Schwinn factory in 1895 and 1945, and some discussion of the development of bicycle technology as it relates to technology in (then) automobiles and even airplanes. In many ways it is more interesting for someone interesting in Schwinn and bicycles than the much more recent No Hands that was published in 1996 but is more about Schwinn as some kind of extended business case study. (350 pages, published by Henry Holt & Co.)

Schwinn Family On Bike
The Schwinn family on a bicycle built for three

Schwinn's introduction of the balloon tire in 1933 is described in detail and makes clear that the bicycle industry in the U.S. following the initial craze of the 1890s had been negatively affected by the "single tube" tire that was difficult for individuals to repair but cheap for bicycle makers to sell.
The antiquated single-tube tire had been standard equipment on American bicycles from the 90's to 1933. Small double-tube tires were available, but expensive and little used. Everywhere else in the world only double-tube tires had been used for a generation, because they were readily repairable, while the single-tube tire was not. Small punctures in the single-tube tire could be repaired by makeshift methods, but large punctures could not be repaired satisfactorily, and a cut of any size meant the purchase of a new tire. The fiction that the American cycle buyer just wouldn't pay the additional cost of the practical, repairable, double-tube tire had taken root, and no serious attempt was made to encourage their use.

Schwinn Balloon Tire Ad 1933
Ad for Schwinn's 1933 bike featuring a balloon tire in the U.S.