Antique Cycling Photographica – review

Lorne Shields
by Robert Lansdale

TorontoWe had two visitors from Michigan for Lorne’s latest presentation. Bob Lansdale and I met Cindy Motzenbecker and Doug Aikenhead from MiPHS at the North York Keg restaurant where we were later joined by president Clint Hryhorijiw for a tasty meal before the meeting. Our speaker, Lorne Shields, dropped in briefly before heading up to the Memorial Hall to prepare for his talk.

Lorne’s profusely illustrated talk was about “Specialized Antique Cycling Photographica” and what a delightful night it was! Lorne covered everything from a unicycle to a massive five wheeled monster, using authentic period photos, each carefully digitized and captured in a power-point presentation. The images, all from Lorne’s collection, covered the period from 1850 to about 1920, always with a photographic element involved whether it be the process used, the event, or a photo showing both bikes and cameras.

Lorne’s talk was wonderfully illustrated, emphasizing the tightly knit combination of bicycle and camera. He began with an illustration of a beautifully lithographed advertising card from the early 1900s — German bicyclists being photographed with a view camera mounted on a bicycle.

There was a photograph of a gentleman on an 1869 Velocipede tricycle adapted for a traveling photographer’s purpose.  The next slide was a page from the Aug. 28th issue of “The Mechanic” which had a drawing of that tricycle (in use as a wet plate travelling studio) and a comprehensive commentary identifying the same rider and goings on.

Lorne juxtaposed a CdV studio image (plain background) of a man and his 1869 velocipede onto a rural scene. In his drawing, the illustrator had placed the bicycle in a rustic scene complete with a fence — like the light green backdrop used today to allow a totally different image to be seamlessly added. Hence a man sitting on a supported bicycle against a plain backdrop became a man riding a bicycle down a lane with background and foreground suggesting a ride in the woods. The result was an illustration in the book Cycling Art, Energy, and Locomotion by Robert P. Scott, published by J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1889.

Lorne showed rare oddities of the cycling world — a theatrical photo showing a massive five wheeled 7 seat monster called a “Velocipede a la Daumont” of 1869.

In another image, a huge view camera (ca 1881) is strapped to the back of a large tricycle presumably for transport to a suitably scenic location.

At 11 Bloomsbury Place in Brighton, a portrait photographer by the name of H Pointer, photographed “The Brighton Cats” as his private proclivity to share with the world.  The image projected was that of a cat on a tricycle seemingly racing another on an immovable hobby horse.  The photo was named “From London to Brighton”. There is an ongoing annual famous automobile race from London down to Brighton aptly named “The London to Brighton Run” as in the famous 1953 movie GENEVIEVE.  Hence a worthy image to project. Mr Pointer advertises that he specializes in “vignettes of ladies in oil in the New Style”.

The annotated presentation continued with various models of bicycles rarely if ever seen today.  And like modern day events, bicycle clubs abound in the images — enthusiasts willingly show off their latest mechanical marvels before or after a heated race.

Lorne continued his talk showing images of price guides using bicycles to attract attention; montages of some bicycle club members a la Notman hovering over a larger group of cyclists and their mechanical beasts; a lady cyclist in feminized male attire leaning against her high wheel as she promotes the Richmond Straight Cut brand of cigarettes.

Cartoons and food menus are all embellished with cyclists and their machines illustrating just how important these personal vehicles were to one and all held down by the costly transportation of the day. Like other items in their time, bicycles rapidly evolved to become faster, safer, less costly, and easier to use.

Lorne wrapped up the formal part of his talk with images of a cinematographer and a unicyclist standing by their respective machines on a pyramid in Egypt, and a poster from the New York Journal touting a $500 dollar prize for The Best Summer Resort Photographs — illustrated by a young lady riding her camera-accessorized bicycle, of course.

Lorne comfortably responded to queries from the floor as his talk progressed, quickly becoming more and more relaxed. Once again Lorne showed he has a wealth of knowledge and experience in both cycling and photographic history. It was an informative evening enjoyed by all. A big thanks to Lorne for the images used here. You can purchase a high resolution image and usage rights from Lorne via PHSC.

This entry was posted in program and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.