Velocipede Mania


Thomas Worth.  “The Velocipede Mania–What It May Come To!” From Harper’s Weekly.  New York: May 1, 1869.  Wood engraving.  9 x 13 3/4.  Hand colored.  Very good condition.

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This print was issued in Harper’s Weekly, a New York based newspaper in the last half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  In weekly issues, Harper’s presented a mixture of news stories, gossip, poetry, and most notably, wood-engraved illustrations.  These pictures remain one of the best sources for lively, informative images of nineteenth-century America.  With photographs in a primitive stage, and no television, it is through these illustrations that much of the country got its visual information about the events, personalities and places of the time.

This is a terrific image from the early days of “Velocipede Mania,” showing “What It May Come To!”  The image, drawn by one of the most talented artists working for Harper’s, Thomas Worth, is humorous, but also interestingly perceptive in viewing the future.  The street is filled with different sorts of characters on velocipedes, including business men, a farmer, a well-dressed lady, a soldier, a milkman and a baker.  They are riding by a number of shops, one of which, “J. Shanks LIvery Stable” is closed with a sign indicating the space is “To Let.”  This stands right next door to “J. Shanks Horse Meat Market”!  One door further along is a “Velocipede Manufactory,” which advertises a riding school and out of the door of which walks a man with a broken arm.  A wonderful image of the period!