Out after dark

Young adults rode their bicycles far from the front-porch oversight of parents and nosy neighbors, challenging—and eventually disrupting—conventions of inter-gender socializing, including courtship. And with bicycle lamps, both men and women were free to pedal off to socialize unsupervised even after sunset.  

Coed cyclists, 1910s

Coed cyclists, 1910s

From the Collections of The Henry Ford

“You have conquered a new world and exultingly you take possession of it.”

–M. E. Ward in Bicycling for Ladies, 1895

Bicycle lamp, 1880s-1890s

Bicycle lamp, 1880s-1890s

Lamps often had red and green side lenses, designating left and right, just as on watercraft

Bicycle lamp, 1880s-1890s

Bicycle lamp, 1880s-1890s

Lamps often had red and green side lenses, designating left and right, just as on watercraft

Bicycle lamp, 1880s-1890s

Bicycle lamp, 1880s-1890s

The top of the bicycle lamp reads, "solar"

 

One common bicycle lamp burned kerosene via a cotton wick. Another burned acetylene gas produced when water in a controlled drip from the upper chamber of the lamp moistened crystals of calcium carbide in the lower chamber; gas flowed through a small burner jet. Both forms were lit with a match; a reflector behind the flame and a lens in front helped intensify and focus the light.

 

Manual, 1895

Manual, 1895

"Bicycling for Ladies" By M. E. Ward

Ad, 1899

Ad, 1899

This Criterion Acetylene Gas Bicycle Lamp advertisement reads, "Its perfect ray turns night to day and makes secure the roughest way"