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Dandy horse

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Subject: Balance bicycle, History of the bicycle, Bicycle, 1817 introductions, Bicycle touring
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Dandy horse

Wooden draisine (around 1820), the first two-wheeler
Original draisine made to measure.

The dandy horse is a human-powered vehicle that, being the first means of transport to make use of the two-wheeler principle, is regarded as the forerunner of the bicycle. The dandy horse was invented by Baron Karl Drais and his chief game-keeper Otto Schillinger in Mannheim, Germany, and patented in January 1818. It is also known as a Laufmaschine (Drais' own terminology, German for "running machine"), velocipede, or draisine (a term now used primarily for light auxiliary railcars regardless of their form of propulsion), and in its French form draisienne.

The dandy-horse was a two-wheeled vehicle, with both wheels in-line, propelled by the rider pushing along the ground with the feet as in regular walking or running. The front wheel and handlebar assembly was hinged to allow steering.

Several manufacturers in France and England made their own dandy-horses during its brief popularity in the summer of 1819—most notably Denis Johnson of London, who used an elegantly curved wooden frame which allowed the use of larger wheels. Riders preferred to operate their vehicles on the smooth sidewalks instead of the rough roads, but their interactions with pedestrians caused many municipalities to enact laws prohibiting their use. An apparent further drawback of this device was that it had to be made to measure, manufactured to conform with the height and the stride of its rider. No manufacturer appears to have taken up Nicéphore Niépce's 1818 invention of an adjustable saddle for his 'velocipede'.[1]

However, in the 1860s in France, the vélocipède bicycle was created by attaching rotary cranks and pedals to the front-wheel hub of a dandy-horse.

In popular culture

Buster Keaton rides a dandy-horse in his 1923 film Our Hospitality, which is set in the 1830s. Keaton's technical crew were unable to obtain a vintage dandy horse, so they built one to match existing drawings and prints. Keaton later donated the machine to the Smithsonian Institution, which had lacked an authentic example.

Disraeli, rides a dandy-horse through a London park until he collides with a woman pedestrian. This occurs in the opening scene of the film, set in the 1830s, when Disraeli was still a writer and a famous dandy.

A citizen is briefly seen riding a Dandy Horse through a forest trail in the 1997 film "Amistad" when the Slave Escapees first land on American soil.

A bi-annual magazine called, dandyhorse, based in Toronto, Canada, promotes art, fashion and cycling culture.

See also


  1. ^ Nicéphore Niépce Museum, Other Inventions - The velocipede

External links

  • New Scientist issue 2484, 29 January 2005, "Histories: Brimstone and bicycles"
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