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Sports Antiques 101

with Carlton Hendricks on

Vintage Athletic Display


found at shows, auctions and elsewhere


© Copyright 2003 Carlton Hendricks All rights reserved

Today's Feature

                                                             Photographed on location


Circa 1890

High Wheel Bicycle Figure

7 inches tall


OFFERED BY: Ronald E. Van Anda Antiques, Lititz, PA.
FOUND AT: February 2003 Hillsborough Antique Show, San Mateo, Ca.
MEDIUM: silver plate mounted on marble
PRICE TAG: $850.00



Carlton Hendricks


Based on it’s rarity, quality and era, today’s feature was an interesting find. It’s very rare to see a figure of a High Wheeler from the era it represents; that is, from between 1870 – 1890, as it appears this example could be from. Though it’s a little on the small side, being seven inches tall, you just don’t see many figural bicycle pieces, and the few I have seen are usually of the later safety models. Today’s feature wasn’t marked but from examining the base and the retaining nuts it appeared French and quite old. In an antique sports collection, whether graphically or three dimensionally, no better image represents the bicycle than the archaic High Wheeler, also called the “Ordinary”. 

The High Wheeler represents a link in the evolution of the bicycle. High Wheelers were hard to get on and off of and could be quite dangerous when felled, therefore were only popular from about 1870 to 1890; thereafter being replaced by the Safety model. 
Kirkpatrick Macmillian, a blacksmith from Dumfrieshire Scotland, invented what is considered the first bicycle in 1839; though other bicycle type inventions preceded it. By 1878 the bicycle was being made in the United States by Col. Albert A. Pope of Hartford Connecticut. In 1888,john dunlap on bicycle.jpg (17752 bytes) Dr. John Boyd Dunlop, a veterinarian of Belfast Northern Ireland, and who today’s Dunlap Tire Company is named for, invented the first successful inflatable pneumatic tire for his son’s bicycle.
That invention not only made the bicycle a more practical invention, but changed the course of transportation the world over. Here in the United States the bicycle has been treated more as a novelty than a transportation solution. In other parts of the world however, particularly Asia, it’s a common travel method for many people. Considering the congestion of our freeways today in major metropolitan areas, it’s safe to say that had the infrastructure of our country’s design been tempered with the bicycle’s pollution free benefits, we may have been better off in the long run…..Enjoy today’s featured token of history !



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