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Bicycles = Liberation

Left: Tintype, 1890s. Top right: Tiffany & Co. customized bicycle from 1896 with the bejeweled monogram of its owner, Mrs. M.N. Wiley of Montgomery, Alabama. Bottom right: Bicycle lamp, 1890s. 

From the 1880s to the 1910s, Americans took to the wheel, sparking a nationwide bicycle craze. In the era before automobiles, bicycles were a means of affordable personal mobility. Americans awheel went to new places and felt differently about themselves.

Explore bicycle objects through primary source materials: 

Firsts in bicycle manufacturing

Fellowship on the road?

Women on the move

Out after dark

Strike a pose

The first freedom rider?

Read more about bicycles in a companion essay:

In "Adventures with Objects," author Rob Walker explores how venturesome consumers have given cultural meaning to a variety of innovative objects, including bicycles, in sometimes unexpected ways. (Note: This illustrated essay is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.)

Learn more about bicycling on our blog: