For me, getting my first bicycle was my ticket to freedom!
We lived in
Portland then, and my best friend lived
down the street; I actually learned to ride on her bike, then got one of my own
for my birthday; we rode all over the West End
If my eighth birthday had been in 1902, I probably would have received a Sears “Josephine” bicycle (the boys’ model was called “Napolean”). It had wheels made of “the very finest swaged piano wire spokes,” high-quality hubs, bearings, an adjustable handle bar (with “internal expander,” whatever that was); it had a drop curved frame with dress and chain guards – can you imagine catching your 1902 long skirt in that chain mechanism? Also had handsome front and rear crown forks, double tube pneumatic tires; it weighed 28 pounds and came with a ten days’ trial period.
In 1916, the Charles William Stores in
New York (another mail order house) carried the “ Overland Special” for only $23.95. It was available in
three sizes (20, 22 or 24 inches), had rubber extension grips for the handle
bars, a “saddle that is different,” and was “smashing all records for
tremendous popularity.” Front sprocket had 26 teeth, rear had 8 or 9. Came in
smoke or battleship gray with a red head and red hairline striping. Also had
mud guards – a great improvement over the earlier models. London
But if I’d turned eight in 1930, it would have been a
Streamline bicycle – all models were named for birds – suggesting freedom,
flight. Boys could have a Cardinal or a Blue Bird for $32.25; less expensive models were the Red-bird
or the Oriole. Women and girls were limited to one model (why am I not
surprised?) called the Swallow. Elgin
The boys had options of headlamp, horn, luggage carrier and bike stand; they also had a choice of either a red or blue bike.
Girls were limited to blue (see my comment above), but they got to have a “laced skirt guard,” which seems to me a rather dubious plus.
I guess I was lucky: I turned eight in 1954, and by then, girls were allowed to wear pants for outdoor recreation – I never had to worry about catching my skirt/dress in the chain.
I probably would have done it on purpose.