Will the new craze of “Velocipede Riding” come to Newfoundland?

March 20, 1869

Try this on the hills in St. John's, NL

Try this on the hills in St. John’s, NL

There was much excitement in St. John’s during this week in 1869. The people of the town were anxious to see the “newly imported velocipedes”   that were available for viewing at the Fishermen’s Society Hall on Queen’s Road.

Edward Morris, General Manager of the Newfoundland Saving’s Bank was so fascinated by the phenomena that he recorded in his diary (March 20, 1869) that even the ailing Roman Catholic Bishop (John Thomas Mullock) was determined to leave his sick bed to see the “newly imported velocipedes.”

The velocipede was invented in France in 1865, upgrading previous bicycles with the addition of pedals to the front wheel. In 1868 E. B. Turner, an agent for Coventry Sewing Machine Makers, England,  was on holiday in Paris where he witnessed the new craze of velocipede riding. Having tried the machines himself he returned to Coventry, England with a new velocipede and persuaded the machine manufacturers to revive their flagging fortunes by manufacturing the bikes themselves.

These bicycles became known as `Boneshakers` due to the severity of the ride afforded by their solid wooden or metal wheels.

In 1869 the Franco-Prussian War broke out and all metal production in France went to the War effort, therefore the French bicycle industry ceased temporarily and English production took over.

In 1871 the penny farthing was invented and took over from the Velocipede, so ending its production.

Recommended Archival Collection: Diary of Edward Morris, Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese, St. John’s.

New Word: velocipede: French vélocipède, from Latin veloc-, velox + ped-, pes foot — fast foot.