As it is today, the bicycle at the turn of the 20th century was a form of transportation, recreation, amusement, and a creator of community. This exhibition looks at bicycles in all of these forms through printed matter in the collection of Northwestern University’s Transportation Library.

Early bicyclists documented bike culture in popular magazines such as The Wheel World. Taking advantage of the new-found mobility offered by the inexpensive form of transportation, many followed maps of cycling routes of the countryside–and the most adventurous among them circled the world on wheel, documenting their adventures in travelogues such as Across Asia on a Bicycle. Bike manufacturers distributed beautifully designed catalogs to showcase their wares, some of which were on display in the transportation hall of the Exposition Universelle of 1900, documented in the catalog that accompanied the exposition.

Flip through the gallery below to see some of the earliest forms of bicycles: vélocifères, draisiennes, boneshakers, Ordinaries, safety bicycles, early tricycles, and even a monocycle or two.

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Photographs and illustrations in the gallery are taken from Archibald Sharp’s Bicycles and Tricycles (1896) and L. Baudry de Saunier’s Histoire Générale de la Vélocipédie (1891).