Bicycle, reproduction, Draisine or 'hobby horse', timber / metal, maker unknown, 1900-1920
This bicycle is thought to be a well-made reproduction of the first type of rudimentary bicycle, known as the hobby horse. The most startling feature of this bicycle is that it has no pedals or brakes and the rider gained propulsion by merely pushing his feet along the ground. It was invented by the German-born Baron von Drais (1785-1851) and was patented in France in 1817. He called his invention the 'running machine' but to the French public it became known as a Draisine or Draisienne. It was a breakthrough in personal transport and became enormously popular, with special riding schools established to teach the art of cycling. Machines could also be hired, and a ladies' model with a drop down bar was devised.
The idea was a great success and quickly spread to the United States of America, Germany and Britain. In 1818 a coach builder, Denis Johnson of Long Acre in England, made his own version, which he called the 'Pedestrian Curricle'. It was soon dubbed the 'hobby horse' or 'dandy horse'. The English hobby horses were an improvement on the Draisine. They were made of iron instead of timber, featured an adjustable seat and a cushioned arm rest and had a different arrangement for the handles.
The hobby horse was enthusiastically adopted by rich young men around London's parks and became the subject of caricaturists and satirists. Like any fashion, it was short lived after the novelty had worn off, and it disappeared but acted as a stepping stone for the next development in the bicycle, the invention of the first practical pedal or treadle driven two-wheeled machine attributed to a Scottish blacksmith, Kirkpatrick MacMillan in 1839.
Beeley, Serena. 'A History of Bicycles', Wellfleet Books, New Jersey, USA, 1992.
Information supplied by Paul & Charlie Farren
Assistant Curator, Science & Industry
This type of bicycle was invented in 1817 by Charles Baron von Drais de Sauerbrun of Mannheim in Germany. It operates by 'leg power' only - the rider sits on it and runs, and it has no pedals and no brakes.
This reproduction Draisine was probably made early in the twentieth century.
The bicycle was purchased by the Museum in 1954. It was one of nine bicycles and tricycles from the collection of Richard G. J. Nash of Weybridge, Surrey, England. Richard Grainger Jeune Nash (1910-1966) was born in Ireland but grew up in Weybridge, Surrey. During the 1920s he became an automobile engineer at the famous Brooklands racetrack nearby. Brooklands was the world's first purpose-built motor racing circuit and opened in 1907. It was also the venue for early bicycle racing and soon attracted pioneering aviation manufacturing companies as well. In 1932 Nash established a hill climb record in his Frazer Nash, "The Terror", up the Brooklands test hill. During the 1930s he was actively building up a collection of old aircraft, automobiles and bicycles which was known as the International Horseless Carriage Corporation. In 1939 motor racing ceased at Brooklands and during the Second World War the site was taken over for military aircraft production.
In 1952 Nash offered to sell his entire collection of some 23 veteran cars, 46 pre-1900 bicycles and seven pre-1918 aircraft to the Museum. At that time his address was noted as The Beeches, Hangar Hill, Weybridge, Surrey. Nash had family members in Australia and apparently felt his collection would be of value to show the history of technology in the colonies. Because of the prohibitive transport costs from England to Australia, the Museum was only in a position to purchase 9 bicycles from the Nash collection. The Museum's Director, Mr A.R. Penfold, inspected the bicycles in a hangar/store at Brooklands while visiting England in 1953. The bicycles were subsequently shipped to Australia on board the "SS Orion". Unfortunately, the bicycles came with no provenance. Much of the remainder of the Nash collection appears to have been dispersed to museums throughout Britain.
After the War civilian aviation continued at Brooklands with several Concordes later built on the site. After the British Aerospace factory closed in 1986 the Brooklands Museum Trust was formed and a museum of the site opened in 1991.