Star 1886ca 46“ high wheel bicycle 3401-60



Star 1886ca 46“ high wheel bicycle
The American Star Bicycle was invented in 1880 by G. W. Pressey and manufactured by the H. B. Smith Machine Company in Smithville, Burlington County, New Jersey. It was characterized by a small wheel in front to avoid the problem of tipping forward inherent in other high wheelers. A Star bicycle was photographed being ridden down the steps in front of the United States Capitol in 1885 to demonstrate its longitudinal stability, and Star bicycles were used for the sport of bicycle polo in the mid-1880s. The name “Star” was attributed to the double star arrangement of the spokes.
The small front wheel, 18–23 inches (46–58 cm) in diameter, steered, and the large rear wheel, 42–60 inches (110–150 cm) in diameter, provided the forward driving force and bore most of the rider’s weight. The light load on the front wheel was reported to have made it skittish on loose surfaces such as sand and gravel. Braking was provided by a spoon brake acting on the rear wheel and actuated by a lever on the right handlebar.
A pair of independent treadle mechanisms collected power from the rider’s legs instead of a crank. Power from each treadle was transferred to the rear wheel by a leather strap over a ratchet mechanism. The attachment point of the leather strap could be moved to provide multiple gear ratios, and both treadles could be pressed simultaneously for a brief increase in torque. A spring attached to the ratchet rewound the strap when the foot was raised. This treadle arrangement also allowed riders of different sizes to ride the same bike comfortably without modification, as the pedals were not constrained to trace a circle about an axle (adapted from: Wikipedia).

This unusual early bicycle is in good condition and was part of the Maryland Margaret Ann Baker Collection.