A Bicycle for Ladies (1869)

We present a bicycle for ladies, lately invented and patented by Messrs. Pickering & Davis of New York City. It will be seen that the reach or frame, instead of forming a nearly straight line from the front swivel to the hind axle, follows the curve of the front wheel until it reaches a line nearly as low as the hind axle, when it runs horizontally to that point of the hind wheel. The two wheels being separated three or four inches, allow of an upright rod being secured to the reach; around this is a spiral spring, on which a comfortable, cane-seated, willow-backed chair is placed. This machine, with a moderate sized wheel (of thirty to thirty-three inches) will allow being driven with a great deal of comfort and all the advantages of the two-wheel veloce. In mounting, a lady has to step over the reach, at a point only twelve inches from the floor, the height of an ordinary step in a flight of stairs., A machine for ladies has also been invented by S. T. Derry of Boston and patented by Messrs. Sargent and Derry, which in construction and appearance is very similar to the one just described. Its saddle is of velvet on springs, giving a perfectly elastic seat; it is furnished with mud fenders in front and behind and is complete in every respect. Both these machines have been examined by experts and pronounced satisfactory. It will be readily seen that they obviate many of the difficulties, embarrassments and objectionable features of the bicycle. They will, doubtless, become popular. While young men have been dashing about on velocipedes, many young women have looked on with envy and emulation. They have not been satisfied with the tricycle designed for their especial use; and have felt it hard that they should be denied the exercise, amusement, risk, dash and delightful independence, which the bicycle so abundantly affords. It is possible that our young ladies will rush into velocipeding as they have into skating and other athletic amusements. It would be a substitute, in many cases, for the expensive luxury of horseback exercise and has the advantages over it, of convenience and pleasure as well as cost. Velocipeding will be particularly nice for suburban ladies, who have smooth roads around them, over which they may bowl to their hearts’ content and drive themselves from house to house on morning calls. It will not be necessary to keep an ostler, nor to have an attendant to assist in mounting and to accompany the rider. When ready for her ride, a lady may take her horse from the front hall, clean and fresh, mount and be off. It would be a bright and beautiful day for our land, should a laudable and reasonable ambition once fairly get possession of our young women, to cultivate and develop their physical natures and to become strong, healthy; robust, and enduring. A short time since, “The Revolution” published an able article recommending the use of the bicycle to ladies. It has been used by them for some time in a quiet way and to a much greater extent than is generally supposed. There are classes for ladies in almost every large city; and many are waiting for fine weather, to enjoy the art in the open air, instead of a closely confined room; and to “Witch the world with noble horsemanship.” The idea has been conceived from seeing experts ride side-saddle fashion and drive the machine with one foot, that ladies might begin by learning the art in that way. This would be well nigh impossible, though it is easy enough after one is proficient. But with a proper teacher of their own sex and with suitable dresses for preliminary practice, ladies can soon obtain such a command over the vehicle, that they can ride side-saddle wise with perfect ease. A lady must begin with great moderation and train her muscles to the work of propulsion, or they will cry out vehemently at first. Above all, she must avoid getting cold, rheumatism and neuralgia, after being heated by the exercise. The best school for ladies is established in Boston and is conducted in a properly private and exclusive manner. It is supplied with a number of lady teachers and assistants, all under the direction of the best “velocipedagogue” in the city. It is in a large hall in a good locality and is provided with the best French machines, dressing-rooms and other conveniences. Many good old Boston names are to be found upon the list of pupils. The lessons are twenty-five dollars for a course of instruction, with a guarantee of proficiency. There is also a school especially designed for ladies, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth Street, New York, at what is known as the Somerville Art Gallery. This has two halls of an area of 3,000 square feet. One of the halls is set apart for beginners and the other for those more advanced. Ladies, in riding the bicycle, commonly use the modest and appropriate costume worn by them in calisthenic exercises and in the gymnasium. Another very suitable dress for the velocipedestrienne has been thus described: —

“Let the outer dress skirt be made so as to button its entire length in front; the back part should be made to button from the bottom, to a point about three eighths of a yard up the skirt. This arrangement does not detract at all from the appearance of an ordinary walking costume. When the wearer wishes to prepare for a drive, she simply loosens two or three of the lower buttons at the front and back and bringing together the two ends of each side, separately, buttons them in this way around each ankle. This gives a full skirt around each ankle and, when mounted, the dress falls gracefully at each side of the front wheel.”

Miss Carrie Augusta Moore, well-known in amusement circles as “The Skatorial Queen,” has been riding the bicycle in public in “Washington, Boston and the Western cities, with much success. Her riding is described as finished and graceful and her costume as neat and modest.

The velocipede: its history, varieties, and practice, J. T. Goddard (1869)

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