The Fascinating History Behind the Name of the Penny Farthing Bicycle


Short answer: How did the penny farthing bicycle get its name?

The penny-farthing bicycle was named after the British penny and farthing coins, which had a large and small diameter similar to the large and small wheels on the bicycle. The design of these bicycles evolved in England during the late 1800s.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding How the Penny Farthing Got Its Name

Picture a bicycle with an enormous front wheel, towering over the rider. You’d be forgiven for thinking it belonged on display in a museum rather than gliding through modern day traffic. This bizarre contraption is known as the Penny Farthing, and its name has been intriguing people for centuries.

So how did this odd-looking bike get such an unusual name? Let’s take you through a step-by-step guide to understanding the etymology behind it.

Step 1: The Two Wheels of Early Bikes

Before we dive into the history of the Penny Farthing itself, let’s take a look at where bikes first began. As early as 1817, Baron Karl von Drais created what he called his “running machine,” or ‘velocipede’ which consisted simply of two wheels and handlebars – no pedals or chain mechanism yet!

Walking or running along while pushing against footrests propelled riders forward using momentum—the formative days of wheeled transportation indeed! Later iterations included cranks attached directly to one of its axles allowing hands-free continued operation once started by walking/running with feet strapped to rotatable crank levers at axle tips.

In time pedal chains would become more common but bicycles largely retained initial brakeless design distinction from tricycles by not having stabilizing third wheel until late in 19th century (when safer designs necessitated adopting them).

Enter: The High-Wheeled Bicycle

Fast forward several decades later to Victorian-era England when cycling became all the rage– despite dangerous and injury-inducing features lacking from today’s designs— and enter our peculiar protagonist: The High-Wheeled Bicycle aka “Ordinary”.”

Imagine straddling your way atop that surprisingly comfortable leather saddle –well-padded compared to typical sit-upon far less forgiving wooden stunners—inched up high above any pedestrian eye view towards those big metal-spoked well-defined rims–usually about five feet in diameter; hence the moniker “High-Wheeled Bicycle.”

Step 2: Surmising the Name “Penny Farthing”

So why exactly is it called a Penny Farthing? Let’s break down each component of its name.

“Penny,” in this context, references that quantification used to indicate small status or value—in comparison with others. Now first appearing within various Shakespearean works (in one instance where Falstaff ill-advisedly muses about using off-kilter reasoning to give onerous low estimate suggesting dubious honor): “Oh, I do not know what poetical is! Nor cares no man for’t… No, nor women neither, though by yr leave I’ll speak thot Pennywise thou art.”

As our second reference point let’s look at how we can surmise the potential origins for “Farthing.” One source suggests there was another type of two-wheeled contraption invented even earlier than Drais’ velocipede utilizing cast iron-frame construction and patented under name “Kentucky Racer” by inventor named Wilhelm K

FAQ: Unraveling the Mystery of How the Iconic Penny Farthing Bicycle Got Its Name

The Penny Farthing bicycle is a true icon of cycling history. With its oversized front wheel, slender frame, and simplistic design, it stands as a testament to the ingenuity of early cyclists and their thirst for adventure. But have you ever stopped to wonder how this fascinating vehicle got its unusual name? In this article, we’re going to unravel the mystery behind this classic cycle’s moniker.

First things first: what exactly is a Penny Farthing? Well, in simple terms, it’s an old-fashioned bike with two wheels of vastly different sizes. The front wheel (the “penny”) is much larger than the rear one (the “farthing”), making for an awkward-looking but surprisingly nimble ride.

So where did this strange-sounding name come from? The answer lies in British currency history.

In pre-decimalization Britain (before 1971), there were four main coins in circulation: farthings (worth a quarter of a penny), halfpennies (half a penny), pennies, and shillings (12 pennies). These coins had distinct sizes and designs that made them easily identifiable – something that would prove crucial when naming the newfangled bicycle invention that was sweeping across towns and cities throughout the country.

When James Starley created his revolutionary high-wheeler bicycle back in 1870s Coventry – which later became known as the Penny Farthing – he used some clever marketing tactics to give his creation its memorable name. He deliberately chose these traditional coin names because they were already familiar within society at large; by using recognized terminology people could identify with instantly.

But why use specifically “Penny” & “Farthing”? Some historians speculate that choosing those specific denominations was another smart move on Starley’s part: being that farthings weren’t worth very much individually ($0.0025 USD today) compared to other coins like shillings or pound sterling so it seemed fitting to have it attached to the smaller back wheel of the bicycle while penny made for a perfect name to reflect its larger front wheel.

It’s possible that Starley took this naming idea from his mentor, previous Bicycle designer John Kemp Starley who was also known for using such tactics. When he launched his own iteration of the great cycling innovation which became colloquially called ‘The Rover’ (known as ‘Starley Coventry Rotary’ at inception), he named it after a term associated with water travel; rover meaning inland ships. It was a smart move considering both types of vehicles were all about moving forward on two wheels and without much else in terms of convenience or mechanized power besides propulsion by feet peddling!

In any case, the Penny Farthing lived up to its unique branding and quickly gained popularity across Europe as well as America & Australia during late 1800s – early 1900s . Today, these charming antique bicycles can still be found plying their trade amongst enthusiasts and historians alike!

Top 5 Fascinating Facts About How the Penny Farthing Bicycle Acquired Its Unique Moniker

The penny farthing, also known as the high-wheel bicycle, was a popular mode of transportation during the late 1800s. It’s pretty easy to spot – it has a large front wheel and a small back wheel with handlebars that jut out in front of the rider. But how did this curious contraption get its unique name? Let’s dive into some fascinating facts about the origins of the penny farthing.

1) Coin denominations inspired the name

The penny farthing got its name from two British coins – the larger Penny and smaller Farthing. The front wheel on these early bicycles was much bigger than their rear counterpart, just like how a penny was worth more than four farthings combined. This made for an unusual looking device that would come to define Victorian-era cycling.

2) Safety bicycles spurred demand for high-wheels

Before safety bicycles hit mainstream markets, cycling had been seen largely as a novelty hobby reserved for wealthy individuals who could afford expensive equipment like penny farthings. However, when safety bikes arrived on scene featuring equal-sized wheels and lower center bars allowing riders to mount easily from ground level while riding safely at higher speeds across uneven terrains; interest in cycling boomed among all socioeconomic strata making it easier for anyone so inclined (and able) access cool new technology!

3) Short legs need not apply

Penny Farthings were difficult to ride unless you had long legs sufficient enough to reach pedals situated almost directly below your seat! In fact they were designed specifically with tall men in mind as average height at time being over six feet! Its one attribute that left many people excluded including women due anatomical limitations or leg length discrepancy caused by injury or disability because no gears existed yet either but hey let’s give credit where it’s due Penny-Farthings are championed today among Paralympian classic example Boris Johnson !

4) Physics played a role

The design of the penny farthing was all about physics. The large front wheel allowed for a smoother ride over rough terrain and gave riders the ability to travel greater distances with each pedal stroke, but it also required a higher center of gravity which is why mounting via ‘leap and pray’ method prevailed!

The perfect balance between practicality as well as elegance – perhaps one prominent reason it remains such an eye-catching beauty in Oxfordshire’s Sheldonian Theatre.

5) Penny Farthings were used for racing

Penny farthings were incredibly popular during the late 1800s, particularly among competitive cyclists who would take part in races across Europe & America, sometimes even at breakneck rider speeds up to whopping 40 miles per hour! These champion racers often wore their country colors while pedaling fiercely upon paths lined spectators cheering them on through mad dashes past barriers avoiding tumbles bares but always excited cheers rolled into something truly unforgettable experience left its mark forever rooted within amusement and delight throughout many nations— (including ours!)

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