The safety bicycle liberated women from both the home and restrictive dresses. Famous feminist Susan B. Anthony said, ‘I think [bicycling] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.’ Here’s another famous invention that Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad informs us about, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
German Baron Karl von Drais invented the first practical bicycle in 1817. Drais’ draisienne, velocipede, or hobbyhorse was a two-wheeled device with no pedals. The rider propelled it by pushing his feet against the ground. Drais’ velocipede inspired a French metalworker (either Ernest Michaux or Pierre Lallement) to add rotary cranks and pedals to the front-wheel hub around 1863, creating the first modern pedal-operated bicycle. In 1868, Michaux and Company became the first mass producer of bicycles.
Their rigid frames and iron-banded wheels gave them the descriptive nickname boneshakers. Later improvements included solid rubber tires and ball bearings.
Eugene Meyer in France and James Starley in England invented the high-bicycle, ordinary, or penny-farthing around 1870. It had a large front wheel which travelled further with every rotation of the pedals. Ordinaries were fast but very unsafe. Nevertheless, Englishman Thomas Stevens rode one around the world between 1884 and 1886.
In 1885, John Kemp Starley produced the first successful safety bicycle, the Rover. It featured a steerable front wheel, equally sized wheels, and a chain drive to the rear wheel.
By 1890, it had completely replaced the high-wheeler. Meanwhile, in 1888, an Irish veterinarian named John Dunlop had invented the air-filled, pneumatic rubber tire to make his young son’s tricycle comfortable. It was adopted for the safety bicycle, making it lighter and smoother.
By the start of the 20th century, bicycling clubs were lobbying for better roads, literally paving the way for the automobile. Adolph Schoeninger started the Western Wheel Works in Chicago where he pioneered mass production methods for his Crescent bicycles that dramatically lowered prices and later inspired Henry Ford. The safety bicycle liberated women from both the home and restrictive dresses. Famous feminist Susan B. Anthony said, ‘I think [bicycling] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.’
Frances Willard, another well-known feminist, said ‘I would not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.’ In 1895, Annie Londonderry became the first woman to bicycle around the world.
The derailleur (gear shifter) found in most modern bicycles was developed in France between 1900 and 1910. With electronic gear shifters and light, aerodynamic frames made of carbon fibre, today’s bicycles are very sophisticated and more popular than ever before.
Serialised from the book, Popular Triumphs of Human Innovation in Everyday Life by Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad
©Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad
Photos from the Internet
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