Penny Farthing Bicycle 1878

James Starley enny farthing bicycle coventry machine company 1878

A James Starley "Penny Farthing" bicycle from 1878. Made by the Coventry Machine Company England

Our new year began with a gorgeous new addition to the museum! The “boys” drove to an auction way down in southern Ontario and came home to Fenelon Falls with this extremely rare and interesting Penny Farthing Bicycle from 1878!!!!
Dad had been waiting years to find just such a bicycle to further round out the “transportation” element of Horseless Carraige Museum. Luck shone on Dad and Steve that day, and they beat out many international bidders, including a major collector’s auction house. Thus this important part of history gets to stay in Canada!

This type of bicycle was known by many alias’,  the high-wheelerordinary, and penny
farthing
. The idea of the large front wheel was to attain greater speeds as gears were yet to be invented.

The following is an excerpt from : A Short Illustrated History of the Bicycle by Carsten Hoefer

Around this time British engineers and mechanics came up with several crucial
inventions that reduced the weight of the frame and increased riding comfort –
including solid rubber tires and the use of hollow steel tubes as the material
of choice for lighter, yet reasonably safe frames. Wheel design was much
improved with the invention of spokes and ball bearings.
The king of ordinaries was a Briton, James Starley (1830-1891). He started
out as a manufacturer of sewing machines in Coventry, but is now considered the
father of the British bike industry. His ordinaries were luxury items affordable
only for the rich, featuring such niceties as nickel-plated handlebars. Design,
workmanship and the materials used were exquisite, and a Starley cost more than
a worker earned in a year. Starley’s most popular model was the Ariel
(apparently named after the sprite Ariel in the Shakespeare play The
Tempest
), which featured wire-spoked wheels – called spider wheels at the

time.

 

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