1872 Youth’s 40″ Transitional Velocipede

 

The first English velocipede patent of 1869 was taken out on 2 January and over a hundred were filed by September …Although over 120 suppliers jumped into the market, by the end of the first year the new craze was already on the wane. The Manchester Evening News carried no advertisements in the spring of 1870, compared with over 200 the previous spring.

– The Birth of the Bicycle, by Nick Clayton, pages 37-8

Though the velocipede craze was short-lived, and not many new machines were built after 1870, the velocipede itself did not disappear. Secondhand machines were welcomed by those who couldn’t afford them the year before; and even when the penny farthing took over in the late 1870s, velocipedes were used for helping new enthusiasts to learn to balance and ride.

Also, for several years, makers tried various innovations to improve its handling, and these machines are now described as ‘transitional velocipedes’ in that they are not machines with metal wheels and wire spokes – ‘penny farthings’ – but they are also not exactly the same as the original 1869 velocipede pattern. They retained the early style wooden wheels, and many had rear wheels that were smaller than a velocipede but larger than a penny farthing.

Another offshoot of the 1869 velocipede craze was children’s bicycles. It cost as much to make a child’s velocipede as a full size adult version, and as there was less demand for them they were expensive and not many were manufactured. Many were made to customers’ orders. I’ve never seen one with its makers name. This example has wooden velocipede wheels with metal tyres. The wooden backbone attaches to the steering head in an efficient fashion with metal fittings. An indication of its early construction is the fact that most of these fittings appear to have been made by a blacksmith rather than being cast in a foundry: by 1875, in America, patents had been lodged for children’s velocipede designs with the result that cast iron parts were manufactured for them which created a new industry in children’s bicycles and tricycles. The advertisement in the July 1869 edition of The Ironmonger, below, shows wheel sizes available and you can compare the cost of a youth’s velocipede with that of an adult size.

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 1872 Youth’s 40″ Transitional Velocipede

40″ Front Wheel

25″ Rear Wheel

 

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