High-wheeled bicycles, also called penny-farthings, were a craze of the 1880s, when this child’s bicycle was manufactured. They were popular with all ages despite design flaws: They sent riders headfirst over the handlebars when braking or hitting obstacles, and they easily tipped sideways. By the late 1880s and early 1890s the twin-wheeled “safety bicycle,” thus called for its safety in comparison to high-wheelers, replaced this design, and the bicycle craze continued unabated. Susan B. Anthony said in 1896 that the bicycle had done “more to emancipate women than anything else in the world ... It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance ... away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” (See American Spirit’s May/June 2010 issue for more on the history of bicycles.)
The bicycle was a Friends of the Museum purchase.