Photo of the Week: Penny-farthing

[Boy with bicycle], 1886, V1974.7.49; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Boy with bicycle], 1886, V1974.7.49; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts Eddie Tepper posing with a penny-farthing bicycle in 1886. This is one of my favorite photographs in the BHS collections. I love the boy’s pose and how the circular wheels are echoed in the circle frame.

Penny-farthing is a type of bicycle that was popular from roughly the 1870s until the 1880s. They were faster and lighter than previous bicycles, but they were also very dangerous. The wheel height and location of the rider yielded frequent head-first falls. Any minor road obstruction could cause a rider to fall. The safety bicycle (what we consider bicycles today) became a safer alternative to the penny-farthing with wheels closer in size.

This photograph comes from the Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection comprised of lantern slides and photographs taken by Martense between 1872 and 1889. Adrian Vanderveer Martense was an amateur photographer and a descendent of early Dutch settlers in Brooklyn. He was a longtime resident of Flatbush, one of the original six towns in Brooklyn. The subject of Martense’s photography is primarily Flatbush, including street scenes, friends and neighbors, and homes. To view more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

 

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