Velocipede Hoax (1819)

Velocipede Hoax”

Some mischievous wag on Saturday last, caused printed hand-bills to be distributed, announcing that on Monday at five o’clock precisely, a velocipede would start from the head of Chatham Square and proceed to St. Paul’s Church in less than two minutes and that it would afterward be exhibited in the Park, etc. Notwithstanding the rain on Monday, the people began to collect at an early hour, so that before five o’clock Chatham Street was literally crowded from one end to the other. Every window from the basement to the attic was thrown open and filled with the beautiful heads of ladies and children, exposed to the incessant searching mist, which robbed their lovely tresses of every curl which the morning’s industry had created. But female fortitude and curiosity combined are not to be shaken by wind and weather. For more than an hour did the throng continue to increase, until it was almost impossible to pass the street with or without a velocipede. In the mean time, the Park was also crowded and the City Hall exhibited the appearance of a gala-day. It is needless to say that no velocipede appeared. Since that time down to a recent day, when M. Lallement, of France, took it in hand, all experiments to render the machine subservient to practical purposes appear to have been unsatisfactory and it has only been used as a toy, with the modification of a third wheel. M. Lallement succeeded in affixing to the front wheel of the two-wheeled machine, treadles which should be acted upon by the feet. His success attending his endeavours to ride it was beyond his most sanguine expectations. After becoming a thorough master of the tandem team, he appeared upon the Champs Elysees and created a genuine furore. People not only wondered that such a strange machine should run so swiftly, but that it should run at all upon two wheels in a line. He obtained a patent upon his velocipede and sold it to Messrs. Michaux & Co., of Paris, who have since improved much upon it. M. Lallement, with James Carroll, of New Haven, Conn., obtained a patent in this country in 1866. The machines now in use are so radically different from those of fifty years ago, so perfect in propelling power, so easy to ride, so swift of motion, so useful as a means of conveyance, that it seems impossible for history to repeat itself with regard to the present mania.

The Ladies Literary Cabinet, August, 1819

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