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Columbia Chainless Bicycle Poster

Columbia Chainless Bicycle Poster  About 1897 Broadside CollectionAbout 1897
Broadside Collection

This lithographed poster in Art Nouveau style advertised a gear-driven bicycle made by Pope Manufacturing Company in Hartford. The blank area at the bottom was for local vendors to add their own information.

Pope had been making bicycles in Hartford since 1878, but early high-wheelers were expensive and difficult to ride. It was only when Pope began producing “safety bicycles” with two wheels the same size that bicycles became practical and safe for women and children too. At the height of the bicycle craze in the 1890s, Pope was the city’s largest employer, with 4,000 workers producing 600 bicycles a day.

Ladies Cycle Club of Hartford, 1890. Gift of Honiss Oyster House Company, 1982.80.61B.

Susan B. Anthony once claimed, “The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.” Bicycle riding was recommended as healthful exercise but would have been impossible in tight corsets and floor-length skirts. The loose-fitting trousers promoted by Amelia Bloomer had once been criticized as indecent, but the bicycle’s new popularity brought divided skirts and bloomers into mainstream fashion.