Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Michaux Velocipede

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1865. Michaux Velocipede. Exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool.

Pierre Michaux (June 25, 1813 - Paris - 1883) was a blacksmith who furnished parts for the carriage trade in Paris, and made perambulators, during the 1850s and 1860s.

He started building bicycles with pedals in the early 1860s. He, and/or his son Ernest Michaux, may have been the inventor of this machine, by adapting cranks and pedals on the front wheel of a draisienne (or hobby-horse).

In 1863 the first machine with pedals (acting directly on the front wheels) was produced in his workshop[1].

In 1868 he formed a partnership with the Olivier brothers under his own name, Michaux et Cie ("Michaux and company"), which was the first company to construct bicycles with pedals on a large scale, a machine which was called a velocipede at the time, or "Michauline" .

The design was based on the previous model, the only difference being that on the bicycles of the new company the serpentine frame was made of two pieces of cast iron bolted together, instead of wood, which made it more elegant and enabled mass-production.

In 1865 a blacksmith from Lyon named Gabert designed a variation on the frame which was of a single diagonal piece of wrought iron and was much stronger - by that time Pierre Lallement had emigrated to America, where he filed the only patent for the pedal bicycle.

It soon became evident that the serpentine cast-iron frames were not sturdy enough, and with competing manufacturers already producing bicycles with the diagonal frame, the Oliviers insisted that Michaux follow suit.

The partnership was dissolved in 1869, and Michaux and his company faded into oblivion as the first bicycle craze came to an end in France and the USA. Only in England did the bicycle remain popular, and England was the site of all of the next major improvements to the machine.

Michaux is often given credit for the idea of attaching pedals to the dandy horse, and thus for the invention of the bicycle - however, bicycle historian David V. Herlihy thinks that it was Lallement who deserves that credit.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Story of the Bicycle, by John Woodforde