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|Title: ||Wheels and Wheeling: The Smithsonian Cycle Collection|
|Authors: ||Oliver, Smith Hempstone|
Berkebile, Donald H.
|Issue Date: ||1974|
|Citation: ||Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology; 24|
|Abstract: ||The bicycle, with a history that spans nearly two centuries, has frequently been looked upon in the United States as a child’s plaything. Recent trends seem to indicate that Americans may come to follow the example of those other nations where the bicycle is an important means of transportation, extensively used by businessmen and workers traveling to and from their jobs. In the United States, during the late 19th century, the cycle’s greatest use was likewise among adults, and this use sparked the early good-roads movement. Of equal importance was the role of the bicycle in demonstrating the possibilities of independent personal transportation, thus creating a demand that facilitated the introduction of the automobile.
The first known bicycle was shown by the Comte de Sivrac, who in 1791 was seen riding a two-wheel "wooden horse" in the gardens of the Palais Royal in Paris. Called a célérifère, the machine had two rigidly mounted wheels, so that it was incapable of being steered. To change direction, it was necessary to lift, drag, or jump the front wheel to one side. In 1793 the name was changed to vélocifère, and, as these machines became increasingly popular among the sporting set of Paris, clubs were formed and races were run along the Champs Elysées.
At some time during the first decade of the 19th century the vélocifère lost favor temporarily until, in 1816, Nicéphore Niepce of Chalons, better known as the "Father of Photography," demonstrated an improved type in the Luxembourg Gardens. Niepce’s machine, still not steerable, was considerably lighter, and the larger wheels helped smooth the ride and permitted greater speed.
A revolutionary improvement in the vélocifère occurred in 1817, when Charles, Baron von Drais, of Sauerbrun, devised a front wheel capable of being steered. As chief forester for the Grand Duke of Baden, von Drais found the machine useful in traversing the forest land under his supervision. He also gave it a padded saddle, and an armrest in front of his body, which assisted him in exerting force against the ground. Granted a patent in 1818, he took his Draisienne to Paris, where it was again patented and acquired the name vélocipède, a term that was to continue in use until about 1869 when the word "bicycle" came into use.|
|Appears in Collections:||Smithsonian Contributions to History and Technology|
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