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Exhibitions > 1876

 

The Coventry Rotary

As early as 1680, a paralyzed German watchmaker named Stephan Farffler invented a three-wheeled machine that provided him with mobility and freedom. The accelerated development of the tricycle, however, began only in the late nineteenth century with the appearance of the Coventry Rotary model made in Britain by James Starley. Between 1881 and 1886, the number of tricycles produced in Britain exceeded that of bicycles.

Tricycles were considered safer than the high Penny-Farthing bicycles, and were quickly adopted by the upper classes. The mass production of bicycles beginning in the late nineteenth century significantly reduced their price, and led to their rising popularity as a means of transportation among the middle classes. In order to distinguish themselves, members of the upper classes preferred to ride tricycles, which were significantly more expensive.

Tricycles were often purchased by ministers and lawyers and were also highly popular among women, whose dresses hampered their ability to ride a bicycle. In 1884, some 120 different tricycle models were produced in Britain by 20 different companies. Several years later, in 1900, this trend ended and many bicycle factories closed down. In the United States, tricycles were mainly used by the elderly, while in Asia they served above all as a means of transporting commercial goods.

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