1870s Metal Velocipede Tricycle – possibly an 1870 LAGRANGE FILS ‘No 4’
21.5″ Front Wheel
19″ Rear Wheels
Every tricycle with pedals in the front wheel is known as a ‘velocipede tricycle’. The style continued into the 1960s. But this is the first example I’ve come across that actually resembles one of the first Michaud velocipedes of the late 1860s. The ornate hinged backbone with flowing curves and a curly ‘moustache’ on the front is the most elegant design I’ve seen. I found it in France.
It’s likely that it was made by a company that built, or had previously supplied, adult velocipedes. ‘Lagrange Fils’ of Autun, Saone-et-Loire, published advertisements in the magazine ‘Le Velocipede Illustree’ on 12 June 1870 illustrating their adult velocipede tricycle, and on 7 April 1870 listing their range of different size children’s tricycles (without illustrations). Their ‘No 1’ was suitable for children ages 2 – 4 years old, and the ‘No 2’ for children aged 4 – 6 years. The ‘No 3’ is also for 4 – 6 year olds, but had a saddle. The ‘No 4’ was for children aged 6 – 8 years. The size of this example would appear to suit that age group. Its price was 38 francs.
Though the adverts confirm that children’s velocipede tricycles were manufactured in 1870, I can not prove this to be an 1870 model, nor that it was made by Lagrange. The original French velocipede manufacturers suffered as a result of the Franco-Prussian War (1871), and it took some time for the French cycle industry to recover. By the mid-1870s, the US company ‘Western Toy Co’ started making wooden velocipede tricycles, and the availability of mass-produced castings and parts by the 1880s increased the manufacture and popularity of wooden velocipede tricycles (and later types of metal tricycles) in Europe too.
The remains of the original paint suggest that this was a well-finished riding toy. It would have been expensive to manufacture, and if it was made later – in the 1870 style – rather than in 1870, it would most likely have been sold by one of the leading Paris department stores.
LAGRANGE FILS JUVENILE TRICYCLES: 7 APRIL, 1870
LAGRANGE FILS ADULT TRICYCLES: 12 JUNE, 1870
1869 ENGLISH ADULT VELOCIPEDE TRICYCLES