Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Celebrating All Things Bicycle

May 20, 2016 Archive Insight
In 1902, the U. S. adopted Rural Free Delivery. Americans in the countryside would no longer need to go to town to get their mail -- the mail would be brought to them. Rural letter carrier, Orville J. Murphy, pictured here circa 1905, used a bike to deliver mail to outlying households around New London, Iowa. THF 201311

Since 1956, May has held the honor of being designated as National Bike Month. The holiday celebrates cyclists of all kinds across the United States and encourages everyone to get outside and hit the road on two wheels. Within the month of May one week is all about biking to work. This year National Bike to Work Week is May 16-20 and today, May 20, is Bike to Work Day.


Here at The Henry Ford, bicycles are a big part of our staff members' work day, from our employees arriving by bike to our campus in the morning to using antique bikes to travel around Greenfield Village during the day as part of their daily routines. Online, our digital collections offer hundreds of artifacts all related to bicycles, from photos of bicycle races to a shot of  Walt Disney trying out a high-wheel safety bicycle inside Henry Ford Museum in the 1940s, shown above, to this 1869 miniature bicycle used by Tom Thumb. 


When you think about bicycles you can't help but think about the Wright Brothers and the Wright Cycle Shop found within Greenfield Village. Thinking of aviation AND cycling, our Curator of Transportation Matt Anderson found this image within our collections of astronaut Neil Armstrong riding a bicycle through Greenfield Village in 1979 during a visit focused on the Wright Brothers, just ten years after his historic Moon walk in 1969. 


Trick cyclist Nicholas Kaufman is an example from our collections of someone who made biking his daily work. He was a world famous trick bicyclist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In this 1884 photograph, found by our own Brian Wilson, Digital Access & Preservation Archivist for Archives & Library Services at The Henry Ford, Kaufmann balances on a monocycle -- one of many wheeled props he used to entertain audiences. He won numerous medals for his mastery of the bicycle. A showman as well as an athlete, he later traveled the theater circuit and managed other bicycle acts.

Take a look within our digital collections and some bicycle research of your own - what's your favorite find? - as we celebrate a month celebrating all-things bicycle.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

by Lish Dorset, bicycles

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