Today we think of trikes/tricycles as a child’s first bike. Or perhaps for older folks. So put on your nineteenth-century spectacles and explore this cycling boom through Victorian eyes.
Bicycles caught on in a huge way in the United Kingdom, and the sport quickly followed in the United States. Cycling may have originated with wealthy young (and athletic) men but adaptations for women soon followed.
NOT JUST FOR KIDS
|Smartly dressed couple seated on an 1886-model bicycle for two. U.S. National Archives; unrestricted use.
|Note this illustrated ad shows how the Coventry Convertible Sociable becomes a conveyance for one.
|American and English Bicycles and Tricycles for sale in the United States, 1883.
Tricycles were seen as ladylike and fashionable both in Europe and the Victorian-era United States. Women could take outdoor, fresh-air exercise (even in their corsets) and did so with increasing fervor.
As the mid-nineteenth century gave birth to the safety bicycle, the decade of the 1880s saw the rise of the proper lady’s tricycle. Note the following reports of respectable women out on their own, buzzing around town on their tricycles.
|Respectable women ride tricycles anywhere and everywhere.
Despite ladylike styles of tricycles, men rode them too. In fact, men raced tricycles!
Midst races upon safety bicycles, other purposes emerged. United States Patents for advancements upon various elements of bicycles/tricycles explain that the tricycle was developed for slower rates of speed than racing bicycles. With three legged stool-like stability, ladies’ tricycles allowed them to sit, steer, pedal, and hold on in a manner fitting their gender.
|Victorian woman on tricycle. From Pinterest.
Women found increasing freedom as they took to the wheel. Women rode bicycles (usually safety bicycles) and tricycles, finding the exercise and ease of movement to be a newfound kind of liberty.
As the decades passed, bicycles became more readily available, and affordable by those not of the wealthy upper classes.
I've had a wonderful time exploring the joy of cycling among our nineteenth century forebears. Please see the list of related articles, below, for far more information.
Have you read an enjoyable book set in the nineteenth century where bicycles of any kind play a role? Please scroll down and share in the comments.
Copyright © 2020 Kristin Holt LC