First Bike in Seattle: Nov. 18, 1879
Bike shop owners take note: tomorrow is the anniversary of the first bicycle purchase in Washington. One hundred thirty-four years ago, on Nov. 18, 1879, a man named Jules Lipsky bought the bike for his son from dry-goods merchant Wm. H. Pumpfrey, according to a brief essay on the invaluable site HistoryLink.org.
It was most surely a “penny-farthing” style bike, also called an “ordinary” bicycle, which was the type with the huge front wheel and tiny rear one. It had one gear and no brakes — the first “fixie”! The “safety” bicycle, which is the design we use today, was not introduced until 1893.
Seattle is still called a young city, but back then, the name was really appropriate. The pioneering Denny party had come ashore at Alki Point on Nov. 13, 1851.
Bicycling really took off in the country in the 1890s. Paths were constructed so cyclists could take day trips from downtown to Lake Union and Lake Washington. Races were held, with traveling athletes. Bikes were around long before cars in Seattle, which I always try to remember when I’m out in traffic: we cyclists must be magnanimous and still share the road with our fellow travelers.
Recently on Crosscut.com, Knute Berger wrote an excellent series on the history of cycling. Check it out on a rainy afternoon when it’s too blustery to bike.