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Man and woman riding a tandem bicycle. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto (Anthony Angel), May 1959.

Bicycles: A Lasting Trend in Pictures

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The Prints & Photographs Division’s collections include many images that feature the humble bicycle. This familiar, ingenious transportation technology appears in pictures in multiple formats, including photographs, prints, and drawings, produced across decades.

This popular graphic art print showing the scene at the 1883 Bicycle Camp-Exhibition & Tournament in Springfield, Massachusetts gives a sense of how popular bicycles were in the late nineteenth century. The prominent style of bicycle in the image seems to be that of the penny-farthing, which features an impressively large front wheel.

Colorful lithographic print shows birds-eye view of bicycle tournament, showing racetrack, crowds, people racing on bicycles with large front wheels, with train and tracks in foreground and river with boats in background.
Springfield Bicycle Club–Bicycle Camp-Exhibition & Tournament, Springfield, Mass, U.S.A., Sept. 18, 19, 20, 1883. Lithograph by Milton Bradley & Co.

Another print made from around the same period — this time a Japanese woodcut — features a bicycle in use at center, surrounded by people employing many other modes of transportation:

Colorful Japanese woodcut print shows examples of different transportation modes in 1870.
Kuruma zukushi / Melange of vehicles. 1870.

Using the bicycle metaphorically, this political cartoon, referencing the 1912 U.S. presidential election, features Woodrow Wilson speeding ahead toward victory on two wheels, with incumbent president William Howard Taft looking on.

On the road to the White House : W.H.T.: I think I’ll take to riding the wheel! it seems to be a good way to get to where you want to go. Drawing by McKee Barclay, 1912.

The boy in this photograph is putting his artistic skills to use while preparing his bike for the “best decorated bicycle” contest at the National Rice Festival in Crowley, Louisiana:

Boy decorating bicycle for entering contest for best decorated bicycle, National Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana. Photo by Russell Lee, October 1938.

These two bicycle-themed images can be found among Anthony Angel’s many photographs of New York City in the middle of the twentieth century:

Man and woman riding a tandem bicycle. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto (Anthony Angel), May 1959.
Man working on a bicycle. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto (Anthony Angel), May 1954.

Bringing us closer to the present day, this photograph by Carol M. Highsmith of cyclists riding through Grand Teton National Park shows us that the popularity of the bicycle shows little sign of waning.

Bicyclists in Grand Teton National Park in northwest Wyoming. Other relatively small portions of the scenic park spill into Montana and Idaho. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2015.

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