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Joseph Pennell Penny-farthing Sketches 1891.

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Sketches by Joseph Pennel in 1891.

Is This a Farthing-penny Bike?

sketch drawing: Two High-bikes.

Sketch by Joseph Pennell 1891: Two men riding different designs of High-bike or Penny-farthing.
With an alternative description for non graphics or blind users.

I've only recently become interested in the history and development of cycling. Experts from the friends' volunteers have told me about the many strange cycle type vehicles that have appeared over the years, including the High-bike or Penny-farthing with the small wheel at the front. Well here it is. Only a sketch; but from a well known American artist, so I believe it.

Should this cycle be properly called the "Farthing-penny"? I don't suppose anyone stayed up there for very long and I bet it was called worse names than that!

Big Wheels Race Small Wheels.

sketch drawing: cycle race.

Sketch by Joseph Pennell 1891: A cycle race showing different designs of cycle including High-bike or Penny-farthing, safety (the low ones) and tandem bikes.
With an alternative description for non graphics or blind users.

If this is all one cycle race then it looks like any design of vehicle was allowed to enter. I'm not an expert; but I can see at least one High-bike or Penny-farthing, many smaller and I suppose safety-bikes, and in the distance a tandem. I don't know who won; it certainly looks exciting.

A Trio of Tandem Trikes.

photograph: Two men riding an old fashioned  tandem tricycle.

Sketch by Joseph Pennell 1891: A group of three different designs of tandem tricycle.
With an alternative description for non graphics or blind users.

I was tempted - but not a lot- to call these machines Tuppence-farthings.

As an observer and not an expert I think that these are three different designs of tandem tricycle. I assume from the attitudes of the riders that the two at each side of the sketch look to be standing still whist the trike in the middle is moving. I also notice that the rear cycle on the right of the sketch is different from the other two by having its large wheels on the front and small wheel at the rear.
All three have the woman in the front seat and the gentleman sitting behind. Was there a reason? In two of the cases it looks like the women did the steering! Could they be trusted?

The machine in front, on the left of the sketch, seems to have a tiller mechanism for steering and both riders have their feet on pedals. The man at the rear has his hands down at seat level where there could be some support such as a handle.

The tricycle in the middle shows each rider with recognisable handlebars to hold on to and the woman is definitely doing the steering.
On the rear machine the lady is sat between the two big wheels. What's that in front of her feet; surely not her little dog? One must assume that she is also going to pedal the machine but her long dress is hiding any details of the propulsion mechanism on the cycle such as pedals and rods or chains. The man looks to be standing behind the trike.

It's always interesting to see original photographs, of people and machines, taken at the time they were being put to everyday use. But, it's also important to use the information contained in the many artists sketches and paintings of the period to be found in libraries, galleries and antique shops or even car-boot sales. Keep your eyes open!

My thanks to for supplying the sketches.

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