Bike to Work Day

In celebration of Bike to Work Day, here are some wonderful images of bicycles from our collection.

George Cruikshank, Hairbrain. London, 1818.The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philaedelphia.1954.1880.0880

This image dates from around 1818, when early bicycles became popular in England. The sheet refers to the man as riding “a velocipede,” a word imported from France and derived from the Latin roots for “fast” and “foot”. This was only one of many names applied to this early pedal-less bike. In an February 1819 letter, Keats described the machine: “The nothing of the day is a machine called the velocipede. It is a wheel
carriage to ride cock-horse upon, sitting astride and pushing it along
with the toes, a rudder-wheel in hand.”

George Cruikshank,” London, 1818.The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.1954.1880.0880

Another term for this early bicycle was the “Hobby Horse;” the original inventor, Baron Karl Drais, intended it as a way to move people faster than walking without expensive horses. This print depicts “The (Hobby) Horse Dealer.” The buyers in the foreground are evaluating the new machine in the same way as they would a horse, while in the background the outmoded horses are alarmed  since the placard indicates that they will be sold cheap for dog meat.

George Cruikshank, Tittup, London, 1818.The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philaedelphia.1954.1880.0879

This sheet pokes fun at the fashionability of bicycles, but the woman’s side-saddle pose also highlights the continuity with horses.

George Cruikshank,A P****e, Driving his Hobby, in HERDFORD.” London, 1819. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. 1954.1880.1127.

This caricature features a bicycle built for two as the Prince of Wales canoodles with Lady Hertford.

Philip Phillips, photograph of O’Connell. Dublin, 1950. Gift of Sayre P. Sheldon and Lady Richard Davies. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. 2006.0004.051   

Moving forward 130 years from the early hobby horse, here are some 20th-century Dubliners going about their business on bicycle.

Here at the Rosenbach, many of our staff use bikes in their commute. Here is our facilities manager Christina Doe with her loaner bike (her own is in the shop). You can also see our bike rack in this picture; it’s conveniently located right in front of our door so you can easily ride up and park. There is also an Indego station located at 19th and Walnut for your biking convenience.

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog