“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
– Arthur Conan Doyle, Scientific American, 1896
In the 1890s the bicycle took over the hearts and minds of Americans. By the early twentieth century, almost 300 bicycle manufacturing firms were established in the US. Swept up in the craze for cycling, the Lightner Museum’s historic building, the Hotel Alcazar, offered its own bicycle academy, allowing its guests to tour Gilded Age St. Augustine on two wheels.
First developed in Europe in the early nineteenth century, the bicycle took decades of design and engineering to make it safe and convenient for the average rider. The first popular models of the bicycle were high-wheeled and dangerous for unskilled riders because of the frequency of falls. However, with the invention of the “Safety” bicycle, the vehicle became a safer and more popular mode of transportation. The women’s safety bicycle, allowing for women’s dress, helped boost the bicycle’s popularity even more. By the 1890s, the safety bicycle was widely used in the U.S. by everyone, regardless of age or gender, for both transportation and recreation.
Drawn from the collection of St. Augustine bicycle aficionado Keith Pariani, Ride On! features bicycles selected by Pariani as important examples of design in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century bicycle manufacture.