The first machine to be called a bicycle was the “Ordinary,” a contraption with a very large front wheel and smaller back wheel. The front wheel was made larger so that the rider could achieve a greater distance with one push of the pedal, riding faster and farther than ever before. Bicycles were sized to the length of a man’s leg, much in the same way that a pair of pants is sized today. The Ordinary was most popular in the 1870s and 1880s although a few models were produced after that time.
See a pair of these historic bicycles from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, wheeled out from the Historical Society’s collections. These bicycles were commonly called “ordinary bicycles” or “penny farthings.” They have a connection to suffrage, too; can you guess what that might be? Visit and find out more.