Boys Clothing Worn with Bicycles and Tricycles


Figure 1.--The highwheel bikes that appeared in the 1870s were not sutiable for children. It was not until the saftey bike was developed that younger boys began biking. This boys wears shorts with tights with his bike. While this is a studio shot, it probably reflects the costume he wore when biking.

The bicycle is a wheeled vehicle having a tandem arrangement of the wheels with a saddle for the rider, a steering handle, and gear for propulsion by the feet. The modern bicycle is the result of a long history of technological development. Bikes were originally developed for adults. Bikes at first were quite expensive, too expensive for children. Versions for children appeared by the late-19th century, but because of the cost, these were only for children from wealthy families. After World War I the bicycle became more afordable and in some countries such as America became a standard play item. Boys in particular liked to be photographed with their bikes. Thus many photographs exist of boys in casual clothes with their bikes. Early photographs, however, are staged shots, some times with the boys wearing their sunday best suits.

Historical Background

The bicycle is a wheeled vehicle having a tandem arrangement of the wheels with a saddle for the rider, a steering handle, and gear for propulsion by the feet. The modern bicycle is the result of a long history of technological development. Crude, two wheeled vehicles propelled by the feet have been known as early as Ptolemic Egypt. Not until the 17th century did bicycles begin to appear with any frequency. A basic knowledge of the development of the bicycle can be helpul in dating images, especially as boys so liked to be photographes with their bikes. French and German inventors took many of the crucial technical strps leading to the modern bicycle. The term bicycle was first used in 1869, previously they were commonly called velocipede, a French term dating from the late 18th century. The fashion quickly passed to England where the machine was dubbed the bone maker. An Englishman in 1869 submitted a patent for a bicycle with steel rims and solid rubber tires. In 1870 the first all metal machine appeared. Another Englishman, James Starkey, in 1873 produced the first ordinary, or high wheeled bicycle--the front of which could have a diamter as much as three times that of the rear wheel. Other improvements followed with better rubber tires and wire wheel spokes. The front wheels became larger and larger as makers realized that the larger the wheel, the farther you could travel with one rotation of the pedals. You would purchase a wheel as large as your leg length would allow. This machine was the first one to be called a bicycle ("two wheel"). The saftey bicycle, wheels of equal size, was universally adopted by American manufacturs who introduced hollow steel tubing, coaster breaks, adjustable hande bars, and other imprivenents made bikes a familiar site on American streets.

Children

Bikes were originally developed for adults. Bikes at first were quite expensive, too expensive for children. Versions for children appeared by the late-19th century, but because of the cost, these were only for children from wealthy families. After World War I the bicycle became more afordable and in some countries such as America became a standard play item. Boys in particular liked to be photographed with their bikes. Thus many photographs exist of boys in casual clothes with their bikes. Early photographs, however, are staged shots, some times with the boys wearing their sunday best suits. We are not positive about the time-line yet, but I believe tricycles for children became available for children in the 1880s. This was actually before bicycles were available. I believe this was in part because the trikes were inherently safer than bucycles, especially early bicycles. I believe that trikes were intially built for a wider age range of children than were to use trikes after saftey bikes suitable for children aooeared. The post World War I boom of the 1920s created properity in America. Wages grew. Many families purchased automobiles. The prices of bikes fell. Bikes became within the reach of a wide range of American kids. Another key factor was the improvements which made them safe enough for children to use. Parents began purchasing bikes for their children in large numbers. I am not sure when the convention of different men's and women's bikes developed, but it must have been fairly early given the voluminous dresses women wore at the time. Now that women mostly bike in shorts and jeans, the difference is moot, but through the 1950s, girls commonly biked in dresses and skirts.


Figure 3.--Jacques, the son of Emile Zola, is being helped by his sister to ride his bike in this turn of the century photograph. Notice his long hair and above the knee knickers.

Countries

Bikes were popular throughout Europe and America. Before World War I few children had bikes. They were quite expensive and mostly rode by adults. Rich children might have bikes, but it was not something that most children had. After World War I they became much more common. Many American children had bikes. I think this was primarily a factor of the greater affluence of American families. They were not quite as comon in Europe, but many children had them. They were certasinly items that were very popular with boys. Every boy wanted them. We believe that they were more commo for boys, but especially after World War I, girls also had them. Styling seems to have been very similar in Europe and America. he lothese the children wore, however, could be very destinctive.

Clothing

Bikes were originally developed for adults, but by the late-19th century versions appeared for children. Boys in particular liked to be photographed with their bikes. Thus many photographs exist of boys in casual clothes with their bikes. Early photographs, however, are staged shots, some times with the boys wearing their sunday best suits.

References

Pryor Dodge, The Bicycle, Flammarion, publisher, 224 pp., 341 illustrations, 1996.






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Created: September 2, 1998
Last updated: 9:08 PM 8/25/2007