Pierre Lallement and His Bicycle - La84

intelligent mechanic, of about middle age, speaking our ... and manumotive car- riages of various sorts, and was en- gaged most of the time on piece work,.
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PIERRE LALLEMENT AND HIS BICYCLE. Pierre Lallement was born the 25th There lives in Brooklyn, New York (or did until recently, for the writer has October, 1843, in Pont a Mousson, about not seen him for more than a year), a plain, eighteen and a half miles from Nancy, in intelligent mechanic, of about middle age, the east of France. Here he grew up, and speaking our language little and brokenly, after his school-days worked often at the working industriously at the trade he grape harvests, and lived with his parents. learned in youth. He is of rather less than Otherwise, he learned in Nancy the trade of medium stature, dark complexion, and carriage smith, and such blacksmithing as sincere countenance, of quiet demeanor, went into the construction of baby carriages but quick in thought and action. He and voitures des malades. At the age of designed, and put together, and rode the nineteen, he went from home and from first bicycle. He was the first teacher in Nancy, working a while in Neufchatel, to Paris, arriving there the art of bicycling. in the autumn of He was, it is be1862. Here he first lieved, the first to found employment discover that a velociwith M. Stromaier, pede having but two a manufacturer of points of support baby-wagons and could he steadily and carmanumotive continuously ridden. riages o f v a r i o u s He was first to folsorts, and was enlow up his experiments with improvegaged most of the ments, and to incite time on piece work, the confidence of or “contracts.” Afterwards he found others that the bicycle similar employment was a vehicle of practical value. He took with M. Jacquier,— the first country spin whose sign in Rue on the bicycle, and the St. Laurent read, first genuine “head“ J a c q u i e r , Fabrier.” He first gave it cant des voitures des to France, and there enfants et cheveaux it profited him little; mechaniques,”— he first introduced until his first leaving it to the United of Paris, to come to States and patented America. it, whereby he obIn Nancy, L’alletained some reward. pierre lallement. [From photograph, Paris, 1869.] ment had seen the Then England took aboriginal twoit without leave or license, made some im- wheeled velocipede ridden on the street. provements and borrowed others, snatched It was the “aid to walking,” contrived by the trade from France and America, and the Baron von Drais, but little improved. sent the “modern” bicycle nearly around Young men of the present day know it the world. The story of this mechanic and little except by history or tradition. It his machine has never been fully given to was patented in France in 1816, and the public1 ; but it is of much interest, with some modifications in England later, especially to wheelmen; and it is the pur- and in both those countries, as well as pose of this article to narrate it as correctly in the United States, came considerably and fully as reliable sources of information into use, became a subject of satire and and the space of an article in the Wheel- ridicule in paragraph and in caricature, man will allow. and, with some revivals, lingered in but 1 The writer regrets that two or three errors crept into the occasional public use until entirely supsecond chapter of his little book, “The American Bicycler,” planted, about 1868. There are still left which fuller information from various sources, not accessible to him then, would enable him now to correct. a few prominent Bostonians, wearing gray

PIERRE LALLEMENT. moustaches, who rode the Draisine in their youth; and the writer will reward well the junk-dealer who will produce the one on which Charles Sumner, in his yellow waistcoat, disported himself on the classic streets of Cambridge. The engraving here, drawn exactly from an old London print of 1819, gives the reader a better idea of the machine which suggested the bicycle to Lallement than any description; but it may be observed that the tandem wheels and spinal seat-


cheval mechanique having three wheels, two of them rear supporting and driving ones, and the other a front steering one. The rear wheels were rotated by means of hand-cranks and an endless chain; the front one was deflected to guide the velocipede by the feet resting on “footsteps” or pins in the swivelled fork or standard in which the fore wheel revolved, and placed one on either side about two inches above the axle. Lallement was quick-witted. He could

boulevard saint martin, in 1863.

bearing body, and the swivelled front-fork, with lever-attachment for guiding by the hands, were already there. This bestridden walking-stick on castors was almost ready and waiting for a cranked axle and pedals, to become a vehicle. No rider or maker, however, could yet see how to do this, or could trust to a carriage with but two points of support without one or the other foot or both to reach the ground for preservation of uprightness. Lallement had also seen in Nancy, what was made for boys, and was a carriage, a

differentiate, and put things together. If hand-cranks, why not foot-cranks? If foot steering by a front wheel, why not both foot steering and foot propulsion by the same? If that would do on a threewheeled velocipede, why not on a twowheeled, after gaining velocity enough? For the fact had been discovered with the “célérifère,” that at considerable speed, as in descending a hill, equilibrium could be maintained with the two-wheeled machine by deflecting its course according to its inclination. The idea stuck and grew in



his mind. He conceived’ his bicycle in 1862, and worked it out as his circumstances would permit, his struggle with it extending to 1866, and following him from Nancy to New Haven. Lallement was poor. His work in Paris brought him in small returns,—between five and ten dollars a week when there was enough to do. He managed soon, however, to purchase two small wooden wheels with iron tires; then he got a fellow-mechanic to make a curved perch of wood carved in the form of a

pedals of square wooden pieces with sheetiron on top, and screws for the feet to come against and a weight on the bottom, shaped like an acorn, to keep them rightside up. A seat was placed nearly midway between the wheels over the perch, and bestriding it one could touch the floor on either side with his foot. Having completed his first experimental machine, Lallement had before him the difficult task of riding it. Any one with a vivid recollection of his own first efforts, or those of others,—with the assistance of

the draisine in england. [From a print of 1819.]

snake, for which he paid a “little money and a good deal of drink”; then he bought pieces of iron from his employer, and, with occasional help at the anvil from a companion in the shop, he wrought out the remaining parts, on Sundays and out of working hours, and put them together. There were axles and bearings, braces from the rear axle to the perch, front forks, and cranks, and forged socket fitted to the perch, and spindle, and handle-bars. The handles were of wood, and the first pedals were round spools of wood; afterwards he made a pair of

instructors, too, the information gained from old riders, and the confidence inspired by knowledge that such machines are ridable,—can understand the persistence required by the first rider. He learned to handle it in the long hall-way and shop of M. Stromaier, and assisted his companions there to do it; and in the first days of July, 1863, or earlier, he rode it publicly on the Boulevard Saint Martin, “and all the people saw it.” Some examined and tried the new vehicle, many wondered at it, and probably more laughed at and derided it. Once shown how, it was easier



for others to put cranks to the Draisine, he had been trying to obtain financial and there were a few to make a note of it. aid. The artist has well reproduced one of This first bicycle spin proved both interthese scenes on the Boulevard St. Martin, esting and amusing. The route lay through as it was twenty years ago, and as the first a part of the main street in Ansonia, over bicycler returned from one of his short a long bridge, and the main country road rides. The view shows the historic Port south, to the thriving manufacturing village St. Martin and the corner of the Rue de of Birmingham (which nestles about a hill, Faubourg St. Martin, on which was the with a fine green near the centre and the shop of M. Stromaier and the inception of main street, and overlooks charming villages) and back again,—a distance of about bicycling. This experimenting, continued for a four and a half miles, by the more modern considerable time, satisfied Lallement that cyclometer. The grades were a little hard the idea was a practical one, and incited for our first voyageur on the out-run, but him to further effort to make it a popular correspondingly success. He found his machine wanting easy on the return. in rigidity, and not well enough made. He took it apart, discarded the wooden had There snake-like perch, and flung to the junkbeen rains, makheaps all the other parts except the wheels. ing rills in the He began to build anew, as he could gain gutters, and a time and money, at the shop of his new considerable employer, M. Jacquier. But he rush of water did not complete it here. Working under the culhard for small returns, with no revert at the foot sources but himof the long hill, self and a few —somewhat tools, it was a steeper then slow, hard outthan it is now look for working after eighteen up a new enteryears of filling prise. He looked at the bottom toward America, and reducing at whither so many the top,—first of his countryreached at the men had come, north of Birfor quicker and mingham. more profitable Lallement had opportunities. no brake, and the bicycle in 1865. Lallement came he could not to the United States of America by way back-pedal. Exhilaration at his easy and of Havre, London, and Liverpool, arriv- rapid approach turned to consternation as ing on the steamer “City of London,” his speed quickened to an uncontrollable in July, 1865. After some stay in New rush down the slope, and he saw that York he went to Ansonia, Connecticut, a jogging span of horses, holding back a manufacturing village in the beautiful a wagon and two men, occupied the Naugatuck Valley, about twelve miles roadway before him, unconscious of his west of New Haven, and found employ- advance. He yelled to the men, in foreign ment there at better wages. He had accent. They gave one look behind at the brought with him the two wheels, a new hurrying monster almost upon them, and forged wrought-iron perch, and cranks whipped their horses to a run. It was too partly done, from Paris. He continued his late for Lallement. His wheel, deflected work with them in the fall of 1865, com- to avoid a collision, struck the edge of the pleted and finished up his “veloce,” and culvert, and careened. The positions of was able to ride it some that fall for ex- rider and vehicle were. suddenly reversed, hibition, and to and from the shop where he and the rider still wears the scar of that worked. Soon he essayed a longer road too impulsive embrace of mother earth. ride, and one that he thought would test Our hero of the first “header” gathered the qualities of the machine for road himself and his bicycle together, rode on use, and convince the sceptics from whom to the main street in Ansonia, stopped at



the tavern, and, tilting his machine against a hitching-post, went in. There he found the two men, relating between drinks how they had seen the dark Devil, with human head and a body half like a snake, and half like a bird, just hovering above the ground which he seemed no way to touch, chase them down the hill, and, just as he was about to board their wagon, disappear in the water by the roadside. The barkeeper was smilingly incredulous, as, with

found at last a man willing to advance the money necessary for obtaining a patent and to take a half-interest; and on the 4th of May, 1866, his specification, model, and drawings were filed in the United States Patent Office, making the first public record of the bicycle in the world. But neither he nor Mr. Carroll had resources for working the invention and introducing it into public favor; nor was Lallement able, either in Birmingham, whither he

a street scene in ansonia.

the earnestness of amazement, they assured him it was true. “I vas ze diable,” exclaimed Lallement, advancing, and endeavoring with scant English and much gesture to explain. But they would not believe him until he had produced and again bestridden the mysterious machine. In the spring of 1866 Lallement went to New Haven, and there rode his novel vehicle on the “Green,” or public square, and on the streets. There was a tradition that he was once or twice arrested and put in the lock-up in that city, at the instance of irate drivers. At any rate he there

went for a time, nor in New Haven afterwards, to secure the means to make it profitable, even for some months after the patent was granted. He had brought his bicycle to a degree of practical success, induced some to try it, patented it, ridden it even from New Haven to Ansonia, tried American temper and capital; and then, after all, he left his still unappreciated vehicle in New Haven, and returned to Paris apparently as far from a fortune as when he left. Lallement did not see that precursor of the finer bicycles of to-day for about fourteen years. It has thirty-four-inch fore and

PIERRE LALLEMENT. thirty-two-inch hind wheels of wood, with iron tires, socket-head, solid wrought-iron backbone, and front fork and rear braces, twenty-five-inch curved handle-bars, fixed iron cranks with five and a half inch throw, weighted pedals, stuffed seat, and a linked spring, and it weighs seventy and a quarter pounds. The cuts heretofore published as representing Lallement’s velocipede were taken from the patent-office drawing which was made from the small wooden model filed with his specification, and do not ex-


tubular forks and perch, and the graceful curves and bifurcation of the latter, and the fine results of mechanical perfection, and every beautiful style of finish. But in it still are the really distinguishing features of the bicycle and all that made the subsequent improvements possible. Compare Elias Howe’s sewing-machine with the “Hartford,” or any of the fine mechanical seamstresses of to-day, and see how much was wanting. He had the essentials, however, and his reciprocating eye-pointed

birmingham green.

actly represent the original machine in form or proportions. The latter is fortunately fairly well preserved, and has been the object of amateur photographs and sketches for these illustrations. Compared with what we of this decade know as the bicycle, it is a crude affair. It is without brake, or trouser-guard, or means to limit the motion of the front wheel; it has not suspension wheels, with all their improvements, nor the round contractile rubber tires, nor the familiar saddle, nor adjustability of crank throw or seat, nor antifriction bearings, nor the elastic free and ever-ready pedal; here are absent the

needle, which would serve the double function of needle and hook, was his chief specific contribution. So Lallement’s solution of the chief difficulty lay in putting foot-cranks on the front wheel, and making it serve the treble functions of guiding, balancing, and propelling the velocipede. When Lallement returned to Paris he found that the new velocipede and the art of riding it, which he had taught in the shops of Stromaier and Jacquier and on the Boulevard St. Martin, had not been forgotten. Other mechanics were repeating his experiments; and not only was there employment for him, but other makers of



mechanical carriages, Michaux et Cie., and M. Magee, were willing to make vélocipèdes a pédales, as they began to be called. Exhibition of them was made at the World’s Fair of 1867. In 1868 they were making them in earnest, and riding them widely in France, and one or two were taken to England. In April of that year Michaux patented a break, applied to the rear wheel, and in the circulars of his firm

cycles, or three-wheeled,” etc. In 1868 and 1869 the French were using an immense number, and France was supplying other countries with the most and the best (prices for export being £25 and even higher), as England was a few years later. The spread of bicycling in France, and its check by the disastrous war of 1870, have been well sketched, only too briefly, by the veteran wheelman and journalist,

the first header

the new vehicle was le vélocipède a pédales et a frein; his patent and subsequent additions covered improved cone-bearings, and other details of improvement. The price that year ran up to 400 francs. Although the name bicycle was applied to them probably as early as 1867, it was not until 1868 that it obtained much use; and in 1869 it was the common term. Even then in French price lists printed in English, as those of Lallement, Shand, and Michaux, the explanation was carried out, under the general head of velocipedes, —“Bicycles, o r two-wheeled,”—“Tri-

M. Paul Devillers, in The Wheelman, Vol. 1., p. 307. Whilst others in Paris were improving the construction of the bicycle, Lallement, though at first retarded by want of means and by the hesitation of’ others to aid him, was doing some of that needful work too. It is noticeable that the first public prints to show the rider in position, with the ball of the foot, instead of the hollow of the foot, on the pedal, are in Lallement’s illustrated price-lists; and there, too, was the first direction to intending purchasers that it is necessary to “give

PIERRE LALLEMENT. the length of the person’s legs,” for selection from different sizes. Whilst the few riders in France in 1867 and the more in 1868 were making the bicycle frequent on the roads, in the latter year riding, two of them, at least, an average of seventy-five miles a day for six days, and two others making one hundred and five miles in a day, and another cover-


Lallement’s by the same; and the other makers paid a royalty of twenty dollars a machine to Mr. Witty. Lallement received ten thousand francs for his half of his American patent. One quarter of it was paid down first, and the other three quarters after an exhaustive search, in 1868, in France and elsewhere, to ascertain the validity of the patent, and

in the naugatuck valley.

ing one hundred and twenty-three miles in twenty-three hours of a tour,—the art was being pursued in America more on the stage, by the Hanlons and others, and in the shops and rinks, at first; and the use and construction, of bicycles grew with rapidity until the climax of 1869. Meanwhile many patented improvements were made, and the original Lallement patent became valuable. The half-interest of James Carroll was purchased by Mr. Calvin Witty, a New York maker, and then

of Lallement’s claims to be the inventor. That sum was a large one for him, enabled him to strike out well in his business in Paris, and was the only direct pecuniary reward he ever got for his invention. The patent expires with the 20th of November next, and the “velocipede patent question” will then relate to other patented inventions subsequent to Lallement’s, and there will probably be less sceptics as to his true relation to the bicycle.



It is interesting to observe in this connection that the result of that search of fifteen years ago has never been overthrown. It has, indeed, more recently been asserted that a bicycle was exhibited at the great World’s Fair in 1862, by an English firm; but that machine proves to have been a kind of tricycle never made available for practical use; and, again, that a Scotchman made one in 1836, but that has been substantiated by no credible evidence, while there is good reason to believe that he had something else. It has been said by some that Pierre Michaux, senior mem-

a pilgrim in 1883.

ber of the firm of Michaux et Cie., which was once to France about what the Pope Manufacturing Company is to the United States, contrived the bicycle; but his patent did not claim it, and was not filed till nearly two years after Lallement’s, nor did he show one until some four years after Lallement had ridden his first one on the Boulevard St. Martin. It has also, in extended litigation now terminated, been alleged that one M. Verrecke, a French acrobat, arriving in America in September, 1863, rode a bicycle like Lallement’s on one stage in New York, and another in Philadelphia, and also around a public

square in the latter city, in October or November of that year. A full examination of the remarkable efforts to prove that would extend the length and the scope of this article beyond reasonable limits; but the writer believes, after full examination of all the evidence on both sides, first, that Verrecke did not then ride or have a bicycle at all; and, secondly, that even if he did, the construction of the machine and the idea and method of riding it were borrowed from Lallement and his exhibitions in Paris months before. The divergence and the impulse in the art of velocipeding and in the construction of velocipedes, originated, illustrated, and persistently promoted by Pierre Lallement, are now well and widely known, and are sufficient to entitle him to some degree of remembrance and gratitude from wheelmen. The results are not yet fully seen, of course; for that art is not old whose originator is yet at the middle age of forty years. Interested wheelmen will perhaps often hereafter take pleasure in visiting the charming valley of the Naugatuck, and pedalling over the first country roadway that knew the sinuous track of the bicycle, and coast the hill of the first genuine header. They will find brother wheelmen1 resident there for welcome and escort. For although Lallement had not many disciples when in that country, he has had followers there since. In the winter of 1868 there was a riding-school opened in Military Hall, in Birmingham, and several young, men became proficient; but after the year 1869 the roads thereabouts were unfamiliar with the bicycle (except by visits from New Haven since the revival of 1877) until 1881. Then one after another of our later American bicycles was experimented with in the vicinity by the natives; and in the fall of 1882 the Ansonia Bicycle Club was organized “by a few brave spirits” and increased to about thirty members; and last 1 The writer wishes to make especial acknowledgments to Mr. Lester E. Hickok, Captain of the Derby Wheel Club, for kindness in a recent visit there, and for information furnished.

OA K–CORN. May the Derby Wheel Club was formed at Birmingham with thirty-two members. And if the principal seat of bicycle-making was carried back to Paris, and then to Coventry, it is in a fair way to return to Connecticut by way of Hartford. The portrait of the modest subject of this article is from a photograph taken in Paris in 1869, when he was a mana name ufacturer of bicycles there; and his autograph of the same period is also reproduced. He left that line of manufacture in 1870, and has never returned to it. He has not been even a “constant reader” of wheel literature, or


a constant rider of the wheel, since that time. He may well be placed, however, in the list of inventors in the industrial and mechanical arts, and be remembered as long as the bipedaliferous wheel continues to Let revolve. it be remembered, too, that America shares with France the distinction of having introduced the bicycle to the world, and with France and in 1869. England the credit of improving its crude form toward perfection, and of developing and throwing about its uses the social and other attractions which make it a perennial delight. Charles. E. Pratt.

OAK-CORN. Hasten, all ye forest-dwellers, Crowd your garners, fill your cellars;— Oak-corn bread and meat provideth, That each careful creature hideth Where the hoar-frost cannot taste it, Nor the winds in winter waste it, Come and gather, come and gather, In the misty autumn weather! Here it was that faun and satyr, Long ago, were used to scatter Acorns in these shady alleys, Tossing them with sportive sallies; Sylvan in his crown did bear them; All the sober wood-nymphs wear them, More esteemed than gem or jewel. Acorns, rich in food and fuel, Feed the flock and shepherd’s ingle, When the frosty planets tingle, Acorns, where old Merlin slumbers, Sprout young oaks, in countless numbers, Through his mossy garments starting, His long locks and gray beard parting; While the jay and squirrel chatter, And the ceaseless showers patter— Leaves and acorns, all together, Dropping in the misty weather. When he wakens, how he’ll wonder At the forest he sleeps under! Edith M. Thomas.