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Transport – Penny Farthing

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The penny farthing in our museum display belonged to Dunfermline fizzy drinks maker, Gilbert Rae. If you are interested, you can find out more about Gilbert, his inventions and many flavoured syrups in the Reading Room!

The penny farthing was first invented in 1871, and was known as the ‘High Wheeler’. Its modern name comes from the fact that an old penny coin next to a farthing coin looked like the two wheels on the bicycle.

The tall front wheel of the penny farthing made higher speeds possible, making the bicycle was popular with young men!  Mounting a Penny Farthing took skill. The rider first had to grasp the handlebar and place one foot on a peg above the back wheel. Then the rider scooted the bicycle forward to gain momentum and quickly jumped up onto the seat while continuing to steer the bicycle and maintain balance.

A very dangerous bicycle due to the risk of headers (taking a fall over the handlebars head-first), the penny farthing went out of fashion by the 1890s with the development of more comfortable and safer options.