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Anecdotes from the Archive

Anecdotes from the Archive


Intriguing finds from Scientific American's past
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Slow and steady (almost) wins the race

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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The "Inventions" section of the December 27th, 1919, issue of Scientific American featured a new model of the bicycle invented by Mr. C. H. Clark that seemed rather strange to those who saw it debut at the six-day bicycle race in New York City. Onlookers "were astonished one day at the appearance on the track of a rider, peddling away on a machine whose wheels had apparently shrunk to the size of a small dinner plate [sic]."

New bike with rider

The small bicycle rider was able to keep up with the leaders of the race, only having trouble reducing his speed to stay on the inside of the curve when making a turn. While he did not win the race, he made it much more interesting to watch.

3 types of bicycles

According to the article, Mr. Clark paid a visit to the offices of Scientific American with his invention and offered the editor a ride. The editor questioned the inventor about the advantages of his strange looking vehicle, soliciting the following response:

"I did not have to leave the wheel at the curb and invite you down to the street to see it. I brought the machine up with me, not in the freight lift, but in a crowded passenger elevator, and neither the starter or the operator offered the slightest objection."

One can still spot these "city bicycles" today, now made with the advantage of being able to be folded for easier storage.

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  1. 1. jtdwyer 2:42 pm 04/12/2011

    The original article quoted the Mr. Clark:
    "…I brought the machine up with me, not in the freight lift, but in a crowded passenger elevator, and neither the starter or the operator offered the slightest objection."

    I even recall riding in an elevator with an operator as a child in a small town during the 1950s, but I wonder: what is an elevator "starter’s" job?

    Link to this
  2. 2. Wayne Williamson 6:51 pm 04/19/2011

    They’re the ones that get to push the button;-)

    Link to this

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