This Harvard highwheeler, with its 51" front wheel, was made by the Byliss Thomas Co., Coventry, England, and sold by Cunningham & Co., Boston, Mass. The highwheeler craze began with the 1870 Starley and Hillman Ariel Highwheelers.

Highwheelers were called ordinaries, or the ordinary bicycle, after the creation of the safety bicycle, as highwheelers were the typical, or ordinary type of bicycle people were used to seeing on the roads. The large front-drive wheels meant greater distance and speed per turn, allowing the rider to travel a greater distance with each turn of the pedal. The length of the rider’s leg to the bottom of the foot determined the diameter of the wheel best suited to that rider. The ordinary, highwheeler, or penny-farthing (after the similarity of the cycle’s wheel diameters to the penny and farthing coins of the day) dominated the cycling scene through the mid-1880s. It ushered in the age of cycle touring, organized cycle racing and cycling clubs, which were instrumental in the push for the creation of better roads.

Accession no. 1994G02

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