Roper Steam Velocipede, about 1869

Description
Sylvester Roper, a machinist and inventor in Massachusetts, built this steam velocipede and demonstrated it at fairs and circuses. It is believed to be the oldest existing American motorcycle. With its forged iron frame and wooden wheels, it resembles a velocipede, a popular bicycle of the late 1860s. The saddle served as a water tank for the boiler, which was heated by a firebox that burned charcoal. Twisting the handlebar controlled the throttle and brakes. Roper built several other steam vehicles, including another motorcycle in 1895, but he died just before the motor vehicle manufacturing industry got underway.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
bicycle
date made
ca 1869
maker
Roper, Sylvester H.
Measurements
overall: 3 15/16 ft x 2 1/8 ft x 6 9/16 ft; 1.1936 m x .64008 m x 2.0065 m
place made
United States: Massachusetts
ID Number
1956.209499.01
catalog number
314809
accession number
209499
subject
Road Transportation
Transportation
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Road Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of John H. Bacon

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