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Olde Timey Bike Fest: the Velocipede Campaign

Date: Thursday, August 7
Time: 5:00pm - 7:30pm

For more information go to:


The Maryland Historical Society and Baltimore Heritage are starting a campaign to put Baltimore on the map as the rightful birthplace of American cycling and we need your help! With the aid of the International Cycling History Conference, a 25 year old celebration of cycling studies, we will write a new chapter in Baltimore’s centuries old love affair with the bike.

On Thursday August 7th, we want you to join the cycling cause!
• Visit the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) for FREE from 10:00 AM – 7:30 PM and experience the special one-day exhibition: American Wheels to the Front: The Involution of American Bicycles (1868-today)
• Enjoy a FREE Young Defenders First Thursday Happy Hour in the Courtyard at MdHS from 5:00 – 7:30 PM
• Eat from local food trucks and imbibe beer and wine (cash bar: $3/beer; $5/wine)
• Witness demonstrations of historic bicycles by modern high-wheel men starting at 6:00 PM
• Take part in a celebratory bike ride led by Baltimore Heritage departing MdHS at 7:00 PM

Our Worthy Cause:
Baltimore is known as a “city of firsts,” but few know that Charm City gave birth to the first American bicycle!

Invented in Germany in 1816, the velocipede was an early ancestor of the modern “safety” bicycle. The velocipede caught on quickly among reckless urban “dandies” in France and England. Growing interest in the United States prompted a writer in the Baltimore Morning Chronicle to remark acidly, “Every species of transatlantic nonsense, it would seem, is capable of exciting curiosity, no matter how ridiculous.” Where some only saw a chance for ridicule, Baltimore piano-maker James Stewart saw an opportunity. In late 1818, Stewart crafted the first velocipede manufactured in the United States and, in February 1819, put it on display downtown at the Concert Hall (built around 1813 on South Charles Street).

A polarizing debate followed. The Federal Republican and Baltimore Telegraph sneered: “A curious two-wheeled vehicle called the Velocipede has been invented, which is propelled by Jack-asses instead of horses.” 80 year old Charles Wilson Peale stopped by to see the velocipede on his way back to Philadelphia after painting portraits of President James Monroe, Henry Clay and black freeman Yarrow Mamout. The velocipede quickly won Peale’s heart and when he arrived home in Philadelphia he commissioned a local blacksmith to make him one of his own. Stewart’s invention led to the Dandy-operated velocipedes that terrorized many a society lady throughout the late 19th century as well as the road bikes citizens of today use to get to work or just enjoy the fresh air.

The International Cycling History Conference:

In 2014 the International Cycling History Conference is celebrating its quarter century. The Conference has been notable for bringing together academics, curators, collectors, and enthusiasts to debate and present new knowledge on all aspects of cycling history. The Conference has a notable track record in bringing to light critical, interesting, and previously unappreciated stories from the history of cycling. Examples include such diverse subjects as exposing the fraudulent ‘Leonardo’ claims to invention of the bicycle, to the role of Col. Albert A. Pope in formation of the bicycle monopoly in 1899, to discussion of the role of cycling in women’s liberation.

For more information on the conference, see here:

To restore Charm City’s clout as the mother of this cherished past-time, the only course of action is to gawk at antique cycles in the action then jubilantly ride our own modern contraptions through the city.

Help us launch our new campaign to win national recognition for Baltimore’s unique place in the history of American cycling. You can support the cause by picking up a button, sticker or free commemorative spoke card at the ride and spreading the word online!

August 7, 2014 5:00 PM
201 West Monument St
BaltimoreMD 21201
United States
Phone: 410-685-3750 ext. 377