Local News

December 11, 2013

Do You know what this is?


This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a velocipede.

No one ventured a guess about the identity of this week's artifact.

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact: “You may think it is a tricycle, but the all-knowing “Sears, Roebuck & Co., Catalogue” of 1902 calls this wheeled mode of transportation a Velocipede. Technically the term means human powered land vehicle – in this case one with three wheels. Sears advertised their tricycle for the less adventurous child, stressing safety and ease of operation for a little girl or boy. The “All Steel Velocipede” spoke of adventure and daring.

The catalogue description suggests to “give the boy all the fun he wants at the expense of a few pennies. An all steel velocipede . . .will stand in a heap of racket on the part of the restless youth.” Built entirely from steel with a small saddle seat made of unpadded leather on a coiled wire base, this velocipede indeed withstood many hours of rough play. The Nelson Pioneer Farm Velocipede certainly shows signs of wear, the enamel finish is chipped and the handlebar grips are long gone, but the small steel frame is still sturdy, stable and balanced. It rolls easily on its steel wheels, even if not smoothly, and would still delight any daring young child.

These small transports to adventure sold for as little as $1.35 to $2.25 depending on the size of the steel wheel. Rubber tires increased the price to $2.50 to $3.95.

The term “velocipede” was first used in 1818 to describe a two-wheeled man-powered vehicle designed by Nicéphore Niépce, an inventor and photographer. Relatively ignored until the mid-century, velocipede became a fashionable term from the 1850s though the 1890s, by which time bicycles became the more popular term. A bicycle is still the most common form of velocipede in use today.”

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