The Bicycle

1886 tandem bicycle from NA

1817 - Karl von Drais demonstrated his 2-wheel draisienne in Paris.

1839 - Kirkpatrick MacMillan of Courthill, Scotland, built a treadle-driven riding machine to visit his sister 40 miles away.

1865 - The French carriage maker Pierre Michaux built a velocipede with pedals, but was a "boneshaker" ride.

1866 - American carriage maker Pierre Lallement brought Michaux's invention to the United States, received a patent for the velocipede, and began selling them to yale students who visited his shop in Ansonia CT

1869 - Calvin Witty of Brooklyn purchased the rights to Lallement's patent, sold velocipedes to circus acts.

1870 - James Starley in Britain developed his Ariel model, an all-metal high-wheel "ordinary" with pedals and rubber tires was first to be called "bicycle."

1871 - Pickering & Davis in New York made the "American Bicycle" with hollow steel tubes for lighter weight, and and with the first wheel brake.

Lawson 1873 safety bike, from uk

1873 - H. J. Lawson in Britain developed a chain-driven "safety" bicycle and obtained a patent in 1879.

1878 - Albert Pope of Boston bought up most bicycle patents and began to manufacture safety bicycles in Hartford CT under the name "Columbia.".

1880 - The League of American Wheelmen club was founded in Boston, with the help of Albert Pope, and began to olbby for better roads.

1884 - John Kemp Starley, nephew of James, developed the Rover safety bicycle with two identical wheels, diamond metal frame, chain-driven rear wheel, ball bearings, rubber tires.

1885 - The British army began using bicyclists as scouts during Easter Maneuvers, and in 1888 formally established the 26th Middlesex Cyclist Volunteer Corps.

1885 - Gottlieb Daimler built the first gasoline-powered motorcycle with an Otto-cycle engine. The first production motorcyle was the 1894 Petrolette made in France by Hilderbrand and Wolfmuller. The first production motorcycle in America was the 1898 Orient made by the Metz Company, in Waltham MA.

1887 - The French army formally added bicycles to military service in July, and by 1895 every corps and division was equipped with some bicycles.

1888 - John Boyd Dunlop in Scotland developed the pneumatic tire for bicycles. The drop frame model elimiated the center bar and allowed women to ride bicycles.

1890 - Humber pattern safety bike with front wheel steering fork bent forward, ball bearings, rear wheel adjustable chain, wire-spoked wheels.

1891 - The first military use of bicycles in the U.S. was the formation of the Connecticut National Guard Signal Corps, with the support of Albert Pope, manufacturer of the Columbia bicycle. However, Pope withdrew his support in 1900 after he switched to making automobiles.

1892 - In Japan, the Ministry of Communications used the bicycle to deliver telegrams.

1893 - The Wright brothers opened a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio.

25th Infantry Bicycle Corps

1895 - German immigrant Ignatius Schwinn began making bicycles in Chicago.

1895 - Capt. Gerard made a folding bike for French infantry that could carried on a soldier's back.

1896 - The 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps was formed at Fort Missoula, Montana, starting with 8 enlisted men under a white lieutenant, James A. Moss, with speical bicycles built by A. G. Spalding of Chicopee Falls, MA. In July, they rode 126 miles to Lake McDonald, in August 500 miles to Yellowstone, and in June 1897 20 riders went 1900 miles to St. Louis in 40 days.

1896 - The Hearst New York Journal and San Francisco Examiner newspapers sponsored the Journal-Examiner Yellow Fever Transcontinental Relay Ride that crossed the continent with 220 riders pedaling 15-mile sectors, at an average speed of 11 mph, starting in San Francisco Aug. 25, reaching New York Sept. 7, in 13 days, and concluding with a massive Saturday night parade in New York City Sept.12, an example of craze of the '90s.

1899 - Bicycles were use in Boer war for messengers, patrols, railway defense. Boer leader Danie Theron formed his 108-man Wheelriders in September. The British formed the 1000-man City Imperial Volunteers. By 1901, 13,000 cyclists had served in the Boer War.

1901 - In Britain, Vickers and Maxim built a two-man tricycle with two machines and 1000 rounds ammunition.

1901 - Bicycle racer George Hendee and Swedish immigrant Oscar Hedstrom founded the Indian Motocycle Company (Italian motorcycle names began with "moto-") in Springfield MA. Triumph began the next year and Harley-Davidson in 1903.

1902 - Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gear hub.

1909 - Police Departments in San Francisco and Portland Oregon began using motorcycle patrols. The Highway Patrol in New York began in 1911 with motocycles.

wireless set on Douglas motorcycles

1914 - At start of the war, British had 14,000 cyclists in a variety of bicycle regiments and battalions. In 1916, every corps was assigned 500 riders in three bicycle companies, By 1919, at least The British had 100,000 riders. The London Cyclist Battalion patrolled the coast of England to watch for a German invasion. After air attacks began in May 1915, bicyclists with signs "Take Cover" warned British citizens to find shelter.

1914 - On the eastern front Aug. 22, German scout patrols on bicycles found the Russian 2nd Army advancing on Neidenburg, beginning the events that would lead to the Battle of Tannenberg.

1918 Indian Motocycle Co. ad

1914 - After Mons August 23, British and French cyclists fought rear guard actions, dismounting from bicycles and lying prone to fire weapons, then retreating quickly on the bikes.

1915 - The Italian Bersaglieri rode bikes and fought as infantry soldiers against Austria-Hungary after the Isonzo battle began June 23.

1916 - Motorcycles were part of the motorized forces in the Pershing Expedition the chased Pancho Villa in Mexico.

1917 - The U. S. Army bought 50,000 Indian Powerplus motocycles by 1919, causing the company to devote its entire production to the military, and losing its domestic market. Harley-Davison sold 20,000 motorcycles to the military, but kept its domestic production.

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revised 2/1/07 by Steven Schoenherr | WWI Timeline | Links | Topics | Maps | 1890s | Reserve