Tricycle, ca. 1875

This unusual, unidentified tricycle is one of the few adult machines of the velocipede era to be found in United States collections. It has tentatively been dated at about 1875 because its general construction agrees with that of early velocipedes and with patent drawings of the early and middle 1870s. It has not been possible, however, to identify it with any specific patent. It is a simple, yet well-constructed machine. Undoubtedly the maker of this tricycle patterned it on the velocipedes so popular in 1869, and added the third wheel for stability.
This tricycle has wheels, front fork, handlebars, and twin backbones made of wood. The backbones join together at the front ends with an iron steering pin that engages a pair of iron fittings on the forks. The lower ends of the forks have split bronze bearings, with oil holes that are neatly inletted in the wood. Wooden spool-pedals are attached to the 5-inch iron cranks, as on a common velocipede. In the rear, the lower ends of the backbones are attached to the iron axle with a pair of ordinary axle clips of the type employed in the carriage-building trade. A leather-covered saddle stuffed with horsehair is mounted on the backbones, these being of bent wood to provide the only spring action for the rider's comfort.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1875
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
overall: 49 in; 124.46 cm
front wheel: 38 in; x 96.52 cm
rear wheels: 24 1/2 in; x 62.23 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
America on the Move
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Add a comment about this object