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If you found this page via a search engine, you probably realize that there is not very much information about the history of tricycles available.  We've tried to piece together a brief history, based on information we've received, things we've read and things we've observed.  If you have any info that you would like us to include, please contact us:




Tricycle History:  The Beginning - 1860's

By the mid-nineteenth century bicycles were becoming a very popular method of transportation and recreation.  Safety concerns were likely to have led bike builders to add a third wheel in hopes of gaining stability and preventing serious head and neck injuries from headers taken from early boneshakers.  The first documented adult tricycles seem to have started appearing in the 1860's.  Before the end of the 1860's, variations of tricycles started appearing with the seat further back which helped correct the safety problems that tricycle riders still faces.  Lever driven tricycles appeared before the end of the 1860's.

      As a child's riding toy, this seems to be about the same time wooden tricycles started to show up.  Very little info is available about when or where or how the first wooden tricycles were made.  But judging by photographic evidence, it seems clear that there were tricycles of some sort, made of wood, around in the 1860's and possibly earlier.  These first children's trikes were most likely homemade, possibly from parts of goat carts, judging by early photographs. 





1870's - Chain Driven Tricycles Emerge

The 1870's was the first time that a chain was used to drive tricycles.  The Coventry "Rotary" tricycle was one of the first to have a chain drive, with a chain attached to a large drive wheel.  Problems with traction on the one-side drive tricycles led to the double chain drive tricycles in the late 1870's.

      By the 1870's children's wooden tricycles were becoming part of American life.  Publications from the 1870's with many engravings and prints show that wooden tricycles were common.  Steel framed tricycles probably started being produced in some manner by the late 1870's.



1880's - Bicycle-Type Tricycles

The 1880's saw the invention of the rear steering tricycle.  But they were still quite unstable due to their single chain drive.  Once again, models began to be outfitted with double chain drives, which improved stability to some degree.

      By the mid-1880's the early tricycle makers finally realized that front steering chain driven tricycles would be the best bet for stability and efficiency.  Around 1885, the first bicycle-type tricycles were produced.  They were basically bicycles with two wheels in the back that were chain driven - much like the simple adult tricycles of the 1900's.

       Sociables became popular in the late 1880's where two riders could ride at the same time, either beside each other or one behind the other.

       Children's tricycles during the 1880's began to be made mostly of steel.  Both cast iron and forged steel were used.  During this period all steel tricycles had either full steel wheels or a combination of wood rims with steel spokes and tread strip over the wood.








1890's - Early 1900's:

        During this period, the velocipede type tricycle became more popular and more mass produced for both children and adults.  During this time more and more tricycles started having wire tied rubber tires.  Although there were some different designs during this period, most tricycles produced had very similar designs.



1910 - 1920's: Transition

During the teens there was a transition in tricycle building.  Mass production was in full swing and the old full cast & forged tricycles started seeing lugged tubing integrated into the design.  By 1920, virtually all production of velocipede tricycles stopped.  By the mid-1920's lugged & tubular frames had replaced all flat steel production.  It was during this period that makers started production of tricycle without lugs as well.


1930's - 1940's: Art Deco & Streamlined Modern

The 1930's really marked the first time that tricycle manufacturers offered frame designs that went beyond simplicity and functionality.  The Art Deco and Streamlined Modern design movements played a major role in tricycle design of the 1930's and 1940's.  The tricycles of this period that show streamlined designs to their frames and fenders are some of the most sought after tricycles today.  Not only did manufacturers use Streamlined Modern design, but some very famous designers of the time were responsible for the new look of tricycles in the 1930's era.

      Later in this period Machine Age and Space Age designs started to appear on tricycles.  The Machine Age brought about designs and materials that had previously been used very little.  The Space Age saw some manufacturers playing on the space-race craze with tricycles designed like rocket ships or models named with Space Age names.


1960's - 1970's

The 1960's started a period in America where toys were more abundant and cheaper to buy.  This trend is reflected in the many novelty type tricycles that have been produced since then.  For many children, a tricycle needed to be more than a riding toy - it also had to have other functions or have character tie-ins to their favorite shows or characters.  This period also marked the first time that plastics were used for tricycle frame construction.  With the emergence of plastics, the Big Wheel was introduced by Marx in the 1970's.  Tricycles made today come in many shapes and styles that draw largely from the previous 150 years.



Tricycle Fetish is the only online source for antique tricycle and vintage tricycle information. We have spent numerous hours collecting information on tricycle manufacturers to provide you with a history on your old tricycle. We have included hundreds of antique tricycle photographs from the early 1800's, vintage tricycles from the 1940's to contemporary tricycles of today. We've answered thousands of questions over the years and will continue to help you in your research well into the future. We adore these tricycles just as any child would and collect them ourselves. If you find any helpful information on your tricycle here, please let us know. We love to hear from other tricycle enthusiasts. Send us photos your tricycle restorations or a photo of the trike that is special to you and we'll include it here on the site. We'd also like to include a link to your site if you provide tricycle parts, supplies, repair kits, restoration or any other type of tricycle related service.
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