Customized: the Art and History of the Bicycle


Going through the files and came across pictures from this wonderful exhibit at the Sonoma County Museum a few years ago. Somehow I never got around to posting them, but then I don’t think I made it to the exhibit until the last weekend it was up so there you go. Anyway, it really was fantastic, so I can’t resist putting them up, even at this late date.

As the title says, it was art and history. The form of the bicycle can be really wonderful, and there was some great eye candy. Fun posters and some bicycle inspired art. The history was really informative as well, with some displays about bicycle development in general, and some focusing on Sonoma County in particular.

Some of the tidbits I particularly enjoyed:
– In 1891, 150,000 safety bicycles (essentially “modern” bike – what most of us think of when we hear “bike” – chain, same size wheels, pneumatic tires, diamond shaped frame) were purchased in the US, effectively doubling the country’s cycling population.
– The “new” safety bikes were $150 when they started being sold in the late 1880s, vs. $100 for a high wheeler.
– The League of American Wheelmen formed in the 1880s and initiated the Good Roads Movement to improve roadways for cyclists. Ironically this paved the way for automobiles.
– The Model T automobile was introduced in 1908, initially costing $850. This decreased to $290 by the 1920s. Bicycle prices had also come down, but even at $50 had a hard time competing with the autos that could carry the entire family.
– In 1899 Ben Noonan raced a locomotive from Sebastopol to Santa Rosa, and beat it with a time of 16 minutes. (It did not say how long the locomotive took.)
– Early Santa Rosa bicycle mechanics had other claims to fame. George Schelling built Santa Rosa’s first automobile in his shop in 1899, and Fred Wiseman built the first airplane constructed in California in 1911.
and then, of course, from a newspaper of the time: “The bike has worked mischief in other ways than cutting off the inoffensive horse. It has paved the way for the bloomer and a whole lot of discussion as to the propriety of adorning one’s limbs in the said garment. The bike has been the best argument in favor of the modern woman, and as long as it stays the bloomer seems destined to remain as a necessity to female comfort and not as a luxury.

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