They brought three bicycles from SCHS’s collection and a table top exhibit about this history of cycling in Akron.
All three of the bicycles were the hits of the show and the experts at the Bicycle Museum were able to share a great deal more about them. The oldest bicycle in the collection is a Velocipede or “Boneshaker” that dates from about 1865-1870. It is made of hand forged iron and wood. The wheels are wrapped with thin metal “tires.” This style is the first type of velocipede to have pedals. Previously, they were propelled by “walking” along while straddling the vehicle. These were commonly known as the “dandy horse.” When the pedals where developed, the boneshaker replaced the Dandy Horse. It received its nickname because of the bone shaking ride the early cyclists had on the rigid wooden machine on the bumpy roads. The experts at the Bicycle Museum believe our boneshaker was built by a local blacksmith for a child since it is smaller than the other surviving models. They were very impressing with its condition.
The second bicycle is what is called an Oridinary, Penny Farthing, or High Wheel Bicycle. These are the most recognizable of the antique bicycles because of the large front wheel and the smaller rear wheel. This is the first two wheeled vehicle to be called a bicycle. The Ordinary expert at the museum knew all about SCHS’s bike. It is a Royal Mail that was built in either 1885 or 1886 in Birmingham, England. The Royal Mails were imported to the United States by William Reed & Sons. According to our records, it was purchased in 1889 for $135 (over $3, 200.00 today!). At the time, the Royal Mail was considered to be the top of the line bicycle. It was one of the first to have tangent spokes and what is known as a ball head, cutting edge advancements in cycling technology. According to the experts, with a few adjustments, this bicycle would be rideable today!
The third bicycle brought to the meet was a “Quad” or four person bicycle. It was hand built in Akron by Leonard Grismer in 1950 and hung in his North Hill Bicycle Shop for many years. They had quite the time getting this bicycle in and out of SCHS’s cargo van and up the stairs at the Bicycle Museum, but everyone enjoyed seeing this unique Akron piece, especially the children.
The table top exhibit focused on the history of cycling in Akron, especially the original Akron Bicycle Club and its members. The 1885 team roster highlights the elite membership of the renowned team that raced at Akron’s Fountain Park and traveled to Cleveland and Canton for regional competitions. Some of the members included Charles W. Seiberling, Charles and Clarence Howland, Kenyon Conger, William T. Sawyer, Bertram Work, and Jay Steese.
The Bicycle Museum of America is home to hundreds of historic, rare, and unique bicycles dating from time of the Dandy Horse to today. There are also many other bicycle related items on display on the three floors of the museum. For more information on the Bicycle Museum of America, please visit their website.
It is located on the historic Main Street in New Bremen, Ohio just beside the Miami and Erie Canal, a perfect place to take a bike ride. For more information on the Ohio Wheelmen and their events, please visit visit ohiowheelmen.org and for information on the national organization, The Wheelmen, please visit thewheelmen.org.
SCHS’s bicycles and the exhibit will be featured at the Akron History Exhibit at Lock 3 this season, so please stop by to learn more about Akron’s rich cycling history.
Also, beginning in June, The Summit County Historical Society is partnering with Metro Parks Serving Summit County for Akron History Walks in downtown Akron and History Bicycle Rides along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Visit our events page for more information.