Initially introduced prior to safety bicycles, the adult tricycle offered not only freedom of movement and independence to the individual, but also dignity and safety for those not inclined to ride the high wheelers.

The elderly, women and the less adventurous could casually mount and ride a tricycle in everyday clothing (an issue that would raise quite a stir before the introduction of the women’s bicycle) and easily maintain both balance and decorum. Additionally, the image of the reckless youth cast a pall on the bicycle, further limiting ridership. Tricycles were regarded as the more sociable choice, as many accommodated more than one rider, allowing for easy conversation and carriage of luggage on an outing. These factors, coupled with the fact that tricycles were more expensive, led to a small-scale class war among cyclists, dividing bicyclists and tricyclists. The tricycle saw a variety of innovations, including the use of chain drive well before bicycles and the application of the differential gear, which allowed the rear wheels to turn at different rates when cornering. The tricycle was a constantly evolving vehicle, much like early airplanes. And like the airplane, development was always pushing for safety and efficiency although no two makers shared the same vision of how those ends should be met. By the late 1890s and early 1900s advances in the bicycle made them much easier and safer to ride and virtually obviated the need for adult tricycles. This Colson juvenile tricycle wheelchair features both foot treadles and hand levers, allowing its use by riders who have limited or no use of their legs. Steering is accomplished by twisting the right-hand grip to control the front wheel.

Accession no. 1992G60

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