Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bicycle Institute of America and "Bicycle and Trick Riders"



Have been looking for, among other things, the elusive 1890s bike pin-up cards heading each chapter of Robert A. Smith's thoroughly-researched and very interesting A Social History of the Bicycle (1972). He credits them to the Bicycle Institute of America, an industry mouthpiece that performed such diverse tasks as tracking bike sales, collecting information on the history of the bicycle, and publishing pamphlets relating to safety and bike advocacy. They're often cited as experts by magazines like Popular Mechanic and Popular Science in the 1960s (see "Start Something in Your Town: Teach Bicyclists How to Live," PM May 1958, "Look What's Happening to Bicycles," PS Aug 1965, "Only One Wheel to a Customer," PS Jun 1967, all available online), with sales figures and bike ridership numbers attributed to their director of information, James Hayes, in the 1965 article. They are also cited, though somewhat more cynically, in John Forester's Bicycle Transportation: A Handbook for Cycling Transportation Engineers (1994), as the successor group to the Bicycle Manufacturers of America and as an organization that believes that "constructing bikeways is the best way to generate sales of bicycles." Strangely, however, though Forester's account seems to have the organization alive and well in the mid-1990s, they've apparently gone defunct since then, and I have yet to find any record of where their archives might have gone or who might have been involved with them since the 1970s.

Nevertheless, google prevails: as it turns out, the cards are part of a series of cards issued by the American Tobacco Company in the early 1890s called "Bicycle and Trick Riders" (See Ben Crane, "Bicycle and Trick Riders," here.) You can look through them here.
*Picture above, "Riding Backward," is from the slideshow on Crane's page.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,nice to hear about it.Appreciated. Though it was an industry mouthpiece that performed such diverse tasks as tracking bike sales, collecting information on the history of the bicycle, and publishing pamphlets relating to safety and bike advocacy but the motive of the research is perform able cycling.

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