Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Thomas McCall

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Thomas McCall (1834-1904) was a Scottish cartwright and early pioneer of the bicycle.

1834 Born in Penpont he came to Kilmarnock at around age 30, where he lived until his death

1861 Living at Pathead, New Cummock, Ayrshire (age 27 born Penpont, Dumf.), a Joiner. With his wife Mary (age 24) and their children Jean (age 2) and Thomas (age 3 months). [1]

He built, in 1869, two versions of a two-wheeled velocipede with levers and rods tossing a crank on the rear wheel, as published in the English Mechanic of the same year. This was a reaction to the French velocipedes, of the mid 1860s, with their front-wheel pedal cranks. In fact, this rear-wheel idea occupied five more inventors in that year. In 1869 he advertised his bicycle in the Kilmarnock Standard

1871 Living at Kilmarnock (age 37 born Penpont), a Joiner. With his wife Mary (age 34) and their children Jean V. (age 12), Thomas (age 10), James (age 8), Agnes (age 5), William (age 4) and Samuel (age 2). Also Charles Davidson (age 27), a boarder. [2]

When in the 1880s a rich corn-trader named James Johnston started a campaign to attribute the "first true" bicycle to his uncle Kirkpatrick MacMillan, he attributed the McCall designs to MacMillan and dated them as 1839. Why, at the behest of Johnston, McCall built replicas of his machines in the 1890s to be exhibited as MacMillan's can only be explained by the fact that he needed the money.

There is a sample of his bicycle in the London Science Museum

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1861 Census
  2. 1871 Census