This is one of 1122 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are, second edition. The book is available from Amazon for $20.95 print and $9.95 Kindle and also as an ebook from Apple, Kobo, and Scribd for $9.95. It’s fixed format so it’s better with a tablet, laptop, or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog here. And there is a book preview website .
7000 BICYCLES carried over from 1897 must be sacrificed now. New High Grade, all styles, best equipment,guaranteed, $9.75 to $17.00. Used wheels, late models, all makes, $3 to $12. We ship on approval without a cent payment. Write for bargain list and art catalogue of swell ‘98 models. Bicycle free for season to advertise them. Send for one. Rider agents wanted. Learn how to Earn a Bicycle and make money.
This is an ad from the J.M. Mead Cycle Co. of Chicago in the April 2, 1898 Literary Digest. Regular prices for bicycles were $35-50, 2-3 weeks pay. Sears advertised a $19.75 “Special Wheel” that is “equal to any bicycle you can buy anywhere at $40 to $50.”
This was during the bicycle craze of the 1890’s.
The high-wheel bicycle, the one with the huge front wheel and tiny back wheel, (also called the “ordinary” or the “penny-farthing” from the relative sizes of those coins) was dangerous: if you fell off, you had a long way to fall. The “safety” bicycle with two wheels of the same size, pneumatic tires, and a chain drive was invented in the 1880’s and ushered in the golden age of the bicycle.
There was a bicycle show in Madison Square Garden in 1896. The New York Times reported extensively on it:
An Enormous Crowd Throngs the Madison Square Garden
A Wonderful Exhibit of Wheels
Never So Many Machines, Bicycle Accessories and Appointments Shown Before
The Garden Brilliant with Electric Illumination—Pretty Decorations and Designs Continue reading