Mania attacks young England (1869)


How long before the velocipedestrian mania attacks young England? Franco revived the obsolete machine and gave interest and excitement to its use by altering its form from the four-wheel species, safe as a three-legged stool, to the graceful two-wheeler that demands skill and dexterity from the trundler. From our neighbours across the channel the furore migrated to our brethren across the Atlantic, passing over us. The go-ahead vehicle is exactly suited to American ideas. Walking, say the New York wags, is on its last legs. Schools with the imposing name of “Velocinaeiums,” for teaching the young idea how to gyrate, are being established; races are being rolled; men and boys are whizzing here, there and everywhere at the speed of twelve miles an hour. Inventors are improving the machines and manufacturers are making them wholesale the supply at present falling short of the demand. Our turn may come yet.. Or have we had it? There was a considerable rage for velocipedes in England some 30 years ago. There may be those living who can recollect seeing no less a man than Michael Faraday spinning one up Hampstead Hill; he was very fond of the exercise, and, we may infer, saw good in it. Did he originate his own machine? The velocipede appears to have had several inventors. Nicephore Niepce, one of the fathers of photography, has been set down as the first. But he was not. An old Paris newspaper, bearing date July 27th 1779, tells of some novel feats of locomotion performed by MM. Blanchard and Masurier with a machine whereof the description exactly represents the old form of velocipede, only it was ornamented with a figure-head in the shape of an eagle, whose outspread wings served as tillers to the steering wheel. But this may not have been the earliest of pedal locomotors. It is natural to suppose that the idea would suggest itself to the first man who turned alternate into circular motion – to the inventor of the crank.

Gentleman’s Magazine.

The Times, Feb 01, 1869; pg. 4

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