1870s-1880s Metal Velocipede Tricycle
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. (Compare it with the velocipede bicycle further down the page). 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, and in my opinion it is French rather than an American import.
It’s likely that it was made by a company that built, or had previously supplied, adult bicycles. The original French velocipede manufacturers closed down as a result of the Franco-Prussian War (1871), and it took some time before the French cycle industry recovered. The remains of the original paint suggest that this was a well-finished riding toy. A tricycle of this design would have been expensive to manufacture – not far short of an adult bicycle. So it’s possible that it was sold by one of the leading Paris department stores.
Its age is hard to determine: its design and components are contemporary with mid-1870s manufacture – American companies started to make wooden children’s tricycles from 1875 onwards, peaking around 1880. After mass-produced castings and parts became more easily available in the USA (by 1880), the lower manufacturing costs meant that distribution – including export – increased and an expensively produced local model such as this may have been priced out of the market. Its design – reminiscent of the 1860s adult velocipede – would have been antiquated by the 1880s. However, children did not buy tricycles, and adults no doubt liked to be reminded of older styles when choosing a new tricycle for their child.
Logically, I think that late 1870s or early 1880s is most likely, simply because that was the peak manufacturing time for the first children’s tricycles. If I manage to find any catalogue pictures of a similar tricycle, I’ll update this page.
1870 ENGLISH ‘TRANSITIONAL’ VELOCIPEDE FOR COMPARISON