This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The bicycle craze of 1896

While looking for something else in old newspapers using the Library's microfilm reader, two advertisements caught my attention. The first was a huge ad for bikes. Ellis & Murray mostly sold clothing.
 The second was a bit smaller.
 Seventy five and a hundred dollars do not sound like a lot to pay for a bike today, but that was a huge amount in 1896. According to this site, the average wage in the 1900 Census was a mere $450. (The site also says that there were only 10,000 millionaires in the world in 1900.)

I also stumbled on the item below. Earl or Earle Reynolds is one of Rensselaer's "almost famous" persons—people who were fairly well known nationally in their time but forgotten today. He was a skater who toured with a skating act, mostly with his wife. More info is here.
 Can you imagine learning to ride a bike as an adult? As for Melba and Calve, info on them is here and here.

I checked the Internet for information on the history of the bicycle to see if I could discover why suddenly there are big ads for bikes in the Rensselaer paper. I found this article that gives a lot of detail about the development of the bike. It was not until the late 1880s that the chain and pneumatic tires made the bike look like the bikes we know today.  Another article, The Bike Boom, specifically mentions 1896 as a year of bike craze: “In the year 1896, there was simultaneously an increase in bicycle popularity and a severe economic depression. Bicycles were one of the few areas of the economy where sales were growing; people were buying bicycles ‘whether they could afford them or not’. This attracted hundreds of manufacturers into the bicycle business.”

In the United States the bike mostly disappeared as a means of adult transportation after 1900, replaced by the auto. However, in other parts of the world the bike is still an important means of getting around.

One other ad caught my attention. I will show it without further comment.


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