Cycling Hipsters, if you were truly worth your ironic sideburns and artisanal grease stains, you'd abandon that fixie and mount one of these bad boys. The Smithsonian honors National Bike Month with a dive into the image archives for this photo, the forerunner of the modern bicycle: a draisine from around 1818. More about this "dandy horse," below.
In 1817, Karl Drais, a young inventor in Baden, Germany, designed and built a two-wheeled, wooden vehicle that was straddled and propelled by walking swiftly. Drais called it the laufmaschine or “running machine.”
A forester for the Grand Duke of Baden, Drais used his laufmaschine to inspect the Duke’s forest. The laufmaschine soon became a novelty among Europeans, who named it the “draisine.”
By 1818, the draisine craze reached the United States. Charles Wilson Peale, a well-known portrait artist, helped to popularize the draisine by displaying one in his museum in Philadelphia. Many American examples were made, and rentals and riding rinks became available in Eastern cities.
By 1820, the high cost of the vehicle, combined with its lack of practical value, limited its appeal and made it little more than an expensive toy. The two-wheeled vehicle would not become sustained until pedals were added in the late 1800s.
Donated to the Smithsonian in 1964, this draisine is the oldest cycle in its collection of 61 cycles. They reflect social trends and technological developments that have shaped the growth and popularity of riding since 1818.
Lots more wonderful old things like this in the Smithsonian's exhibition, "America on the Move."
(thanks, Jessica Porter Sadeq)
In Medusa’s Web, fantasy grandmaster Tim Powers presents us with another of his amazing secret histories, this one of Rudolph Valentino. In this guest editorial, Powers — author of many of Boing Boing’s favorite novels, including the World Fantasy Award winning Last Call, Hide Me Among the Graves, and Dinner at Deviant’s Palace — explains the genesis of his latest book, and takes us with him for his field-research.
Vulture presents a lengthy (and very funny) annotated history of “100 jokes that shaped modern comedy,” with embedded audio (and sometimes video) of the jokes themselves, going all the way back to 1906’s Nobody by Bert Williams — transferred from wax cylinder to shellac disc to Youtube.
Jo Walton (previously) is one of science fiction’s great talents, a writer who blends beautiful insight about human beings and their frailties and failings without ever losing sight of their nobility and aspirations.
Remember back to the time when people thought java was just a hip way to talk about coffee? Or you vaguely remembered from geography class that it’s an island in the South Pacific? We’ve come a long way since then and now that we’ve rocket blasted into the tech future, you’re going to need to […]
Plastic is so 2013. You don’t want to buy something only to throw it away or lose it and barely care. You like nice things and want to hang onto them. The Plazmatic lighter here is a high quality, high tech alternative to the typical cheap, plastic lighter you get at the old gas station. […]
Real engineers build things. Super cool engineers build things with their hands and fingers, like our engineering forefathers did. No idea where to even begin to do that? This step by step Arduino course is now 92% off and is going to get you up and running, from zero to hero, in no time. So […]