Columbia Bicycle Model 105, 1903

Columbia Bicycle Model 105, 1903 - Connecticut Historical Society

Hartford-based inventor Albert Pope saw his first bicycle at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and was so impressed that he went to Europe to study how bicycles were made. He acquired the American patent rights, manufactured 50 test models in the empty wings of a Hartford sewing machine plant and in little more than a decade was making bicycles for the nation. An innovator both in terms of his products and the ways he marketed them, Pope continually looked for design modifications that would make his bicycles easier to use. By hollowing out the bike’s steel tubes and limiting wheel friction, he was able to make his bicycles lighter and easier to pedal, and thus expand the market for his bikes to women and children—and he was not slow to advertise that fact. Women in the late 19th century were quick to embrace the freedom and mobility that came with bicycling. So closely associated were bicycles to the concept of independence for women, that civil rights activist and suffragist Susan B. Anthony declared, “The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything in the world.”

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