The velocipede has now fairly conquered the entire world. San Francisco has entered the lists, and we understand has produced some improvements that will, when they are made public, reflect credit upon the ingenuity of its inventors. So much for the Far West. What of the Far East. The Shanghai Umix-Ldtcr states that velocipedes have ceased to IJC a novelty in the streets of that city, and even the untaught Chinese ponies have become so used to them that they are no longer frightened. A correspondent sends us also a copy of the Japan Gazette, published at Yokohama, which states that a gentleman well known in that settlement lately took a trip to Yeddo on a velocipede and returned in safety, meeting with no annoyance on the way. Rumor says that many persons have sent home for these locomotives, and that some are on their way out Civilization no longer advances solely with the locomotive and telegraph. It has called to its assistance the velocipede. We find in Howitts Visits to Remarkable Places, published in 1841, a description of a velocipede seen by the author during a visit to Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England, as follows: Among the curiosities laid up here are also two velocipedes —machines which, twenty years ago, were for a short period much in vogue. One young man of my acquaintance rode on one of these wooden horses all the way from London to Falkirk, in Scotland, and was requested at various towns to exhibit his management of it to the ladies and gentlemen of the place; he afterwards made a long excursion to France upon it. He was a very adroit velocipedian, and was always very much amused with the circumstance of a gentleman meeting him on the highway by the river side, who, requesting to be allowed to try it, and being shown how he must turn the handle in order to guide it, set off with great spirit, but turning the handle the wrong way, soon found himself hurrying to the edge of the river, where, in his flurry, instead of turning the handle the other way, he began lustily shouting woh woh and so crying plunged headlong into the stream. The Dukes horse, which is laid up here for the gTati-fication of posterity, was, I believe, not so very unruly; yet I was told its pranks caused it to be disused and here stabled. It is said that the duke and his physicians used to amuse themselves with careering about the grounds on these steeds; but one day, being somewhere on the terrace, his graces Trojan steed capsized, and rolled over and over with him down the green bank, much to the amusement of a troop of urchins who were mounted on a wall by the road to witness this novel kind of racing. On this accident the velocipede was laid up in lavender, and a fine specimen of the breed it is. I asked the old porter if the story was true, but he only smiled and said, Mind I did not tell you that. Dont pretend to say, if you write any account of this place, that you had that from me. We herewith reproduce an engraving of an ice velocipede from Harpers Weeldy. The frame of this velocipede is built like those which are commonly in use in this city. It has but one wheel, steered with a bar as in the land machine, but armed with sharp points to,prevent its slipping. Instead of the two wheels behind are two sharp steel runners, like those attached to the ice boats. This velocipede is propelled with astonishing rapidity. The Troy Times gives the following description of a vehicle which has appeared in that city : The latest vehicular invention (but still like a great many inventions of the earliest known) is the property of a Milesian of this city. He calls it a wheelosipede. It has the advantage of only needing one wheel, and is not only the most useful of this description of vehicle, but absolutely the safest. The operator rests his feet upon the ground, and guides the arrangement by means of a pair of bars. It is capable of being used in building operations, for the conveyance of earth, sand, and such materials, and will doubtless supersede in the end, all the bicycles and other descriptions of velocipedes. A machine somewhat like the one described by our Trojan cotemporary,. has been seen several times in the streets of this city. It has, however, three wheels, one in front and two behind. It is propelled precisely in the same manner as the above, but in turning the front wheel is raised from the ground by the operator throwing his weight more upon the bars than he does at other times. It needs no bridging of gutters; in fact, it is capable of surmounting such obstacles as curbstones, etc., and is coming rapidly into use by porters in delivery of goods. But while some laugh, as they will at everything new, there are many who regard the velocipede in its improved form as worthy of permanent favor, and who, like ourselves, predict that it will secure it. Whoever visits one of the large halls devoted to instruction in the art of managing these beautiful little vehicles, will, we think, after beholding the ease with which they can be propelled at a rate double or treble that at which a person could walk, admit the decided gain in the application of muscular power attained by them. The following letter, from a scientific gentleman of Philadelphia, is appropos to this point and contains good suggestions: MESSES. EDITORS :—So far as I have seen or heard of these machines, the real power of the human frame is not brought out by them. They therefore do not afford the measure of use, nor exercise, nor pleasure which they might with a different, application of force. Any one who will take a seat in a chair and move his lower limbs as they are exerted in the present velocipede, will see how little power there is in the muselea 150 that are thus brought into play. Nature is a good teacher, and she does not teach us to expect much from that movement. Tlie momentum derived from the weight of the human body, is a large force; but it is entirely wasted while the man sits down. The arrangement ought to be such as to place him in a standing position, between the fore and aft wheels, his feet playing upon treadles which connect with the axle of the front wheel, his hands upon a cross-bar with the same connection, serving both as a rest and a guide to direct the course. This would be a natural walking motion, but with a vast increase of ease and speed over an ordinary walk, unaided by the rotation of wheels. If too long continued, it would indeed become merely a treadmill; and, therefore, to afford a pleasant change, the power of the amis should be brought in. This force is also lost in the present machines. Let there be, then, a seat provided, into which, after the operater has made his first mile or two by his feet, he may settle down, throwing his feet off the treadles, and, grasping another cross-bar having the crank movement, work himself along, and guide himself pretty much as the childrens machine is propelled. When tired of this, the rider would be ready to stand up again. This double gear would add somewhat to the expense, but a man can afford to pay pretty well for a horse that never eats, and the progress of manufacture must bring down the price. Let this noble recreation, in which a man can be rider, horse, and groom, be open to every suggestion of improvement. W. E. D. Another correspondent from Hudson City, New Jersey, has been searching the Scriptures for information upon the velocipede movement, and finds that the cherubs mentioned in the first chapter of Ezekiel were velocipedestrians, and moreover that their machines were of the one-wheeled variety. Acting upon the hint thus obtained he proposes a one-wheeled velocipede, and communicates his ideas to us as follows : MESSRS. EDITORS :—I notice that all the world have got their heads turned with this new velocipede movement. I, too, have conceived an idea—a one-wheel idea—suppose a wheel any hight, with broad tire, say twelve inches, of india-rubber, set vertical to a weight hung from the axle to counterbalance the weight of the person sitting over the wheel. The weight might be a sort of pocket, and would answer to carry necessary articles; the other adjuncts might be the same a3 are usually applied to velocipedes. Of course I do not contend for speed, as a light weight would, I presume, be preferable for that; but for comfort, stability, and ease I fancy it would be the ne plus ultra. I am aware of some drawbacks, but not more for this wheel than for any other of the same kind. I have not made up my mind as to the best method of going- up hill. I fear some difficulty. As for going down hill, there would be no trouble. Indeed, I flatter myself it would be quite a velocipede. Another trouble would be, how to turn a corner. Difficulties of j this sort would, I am sure, be got over by dexterity. It is a rule laid down by some, that nature is the best teacher; if so, a one-wheel movement is rather outre. I really cannot, call to mind any one thing in nature that would instance a single movement, they are all in pairs or corresponding parts. Still, we are not left without example of a one-wheel movement two thousand years ago, shadowed forth in the dreams of Ezekiel, a true velocipede and locomotive, for the life was in the wheel (see Ezekiel i.); but Ezekiel must have seen the difficulty of taming a corner, for he makes his wheels go straight forward. This onn-whoel movement of Ezekiel is certainly a very bold idea, unless we are to suppose such a thing actually was in use, or that he had seen such a thing. Dreams, as a usual thing, partake of the ideas impressed on the mind by actual existen-ces.and in all the visions (excepting the wheel) the actual existences of nature or art are represented only in contorted or ex-ajrsorate.l fancy. It is true history nowhere mentions a one-wheel movement, but that is not strange; history does not detail the minutiae of every day life. But if there were no such thing, then, when we consider the many different modes of progression adopted by the ideal, such as clouds, vapors, foam of the sea, the winds, etc.; or the chariots, animals, etc., of less poetic fancy from which he could have chosen a symbol, wo are left in wonder at the adoption of so singular a movement for the cherubs. Even admitting the astronomical allegory, which undoubtedly it is, it doe? not lesson the singularity of placing living-symbolical beings, having feet for progression, upon one wheel instead of two. W. K. Wyckoff of Ripon, Wisconsin, also writes us that he has demonstrated the working principle of a new velocipede having two wheels which will not overturn even when not in; use. It has an adjustable chair seat, for ladies as well as gents, also children, not astride. Power is all applied both with hands and feet—a shifting axle that can be changed without dismounting, from alternate or reciprocating movements to continuous or simultaneous. Guided with the body of the rider. He wants some one to take hold of the improve- : ment with him, j Messrs. Crawford & Co., of Philadelphia, have opened a school at the N. E. corner of Eighth and Callowhill streets. They write us that they use a bicycle, steered by the hind wheel, it, instead of the fore wheel, being pivoted and connecting with the steering lever by rods running back and connecting with a lever which turns this hind wheel. These rods cross under the saddle, thus rendering the operation of [ the steering lever the same in direction as in other machines. By this arrangement at least two important advantages are gained; 1st, the front wheel is held steady and does not have a tendency to swing in alternate directions in obedience to the j pressure of the feet upon the stirrup rod, in consequence of which fact the lever is much more easily held steady, and be- i side the wheel never turns against the legs of the rider. j The latest use for which the velocipede has been proposed is that of the Republican published at Stillwater, Minn. It says, We are going to have one if it takes the last cent. We j find it necessary to have something of the kind to drum up a j few delinquents on our books, and we are too poor to buy a I horse, hence this recourse to our ingenuity. Neednt laugh, reader, we are going to do it, for we know we can. Any one that can run a newspaper without money can do it, and we have done the latter, any way. PATENTEES who desire to have the patent claims, as they are issued, can obtain them by inclosing $5 to the Commissioner of Patents at Washington.
This article was originally published with the title "Velocipede Notes" in Scientific American 20, 10, 149-150 (March 1869)