When the pedal propelled velocipede was invented in the 1860s, it was seen by the general public as a ‘difficult’ machine which required great skill in order to master the balance and propulsion. Circus performers rapidly adopted the velocipede and, by 1869, there were troupes of velocipede performers in the music hall and in the circus in many countries in Europe and in the United States.
By the 1870s these acrobats found that it was possible to balance on a single wheel and performances on a unicycle were given by a circus performer, Señor Scuri, on a solid-tyres unicycle specially constructed for him by Focke of Liepzig and now in the Technisches Museum in Vienna.
– Scotford Lawrence
A ‘Giraffe’ is a generic term for a tall unicycle. Unicycles are an interesting – though generally overlooked – part of cycling history. The first unicycles were penny farthing bicycles with the rear end detached. Circus performers became skilled at adapting bicycles to suit their individual requirements. By the 1890s, after penny farthing production ended, performers turned to building more versatile unicycles with smaller wheels, driven by chain and separate pedals.
Initially ridden almost exclusively by performers, Schwinn and other manufacturers discovered the sales potential of unicycles in the 1960s and made them readily available to the public. As a result, children started to master the art of unicycling.
c1910 extra-tall ‘Giraffe’ Unicycle
c1900 UNICYCLE 7ft TALL v 1973 SILLY-CYCLE