This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 print, $9.95 Kindle and also as an ebook from itunes, Kobo, and Scribd for $9.95. Also from Tolino in Germany. 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.
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