AQUATIC VELOCIPEDESFrom American Artifacts, issue 42, Jan/Feb 1999
Richard Van Vleck
In several early water bicycles, the large rear wheels of a tricycle evolved into floatation devices ribbed with paddles, thus providing both buoyancy and propulsion. Several more refined machines used gearing to drive a small propeller and pontoons for buoyancy. Others used hand levers to power a propeller. As bicycles became quite common, several inventors simply attached intact land bicycles to a catamaran, connecting the front fork to a rudder and belting the rear wheel to a propeller. One novel patent for an aquatic velocipede used two huge hollow screws for both propulsion and buoyancy. Several of the earliest attempts at pedal powered boats were simply paddle wheels, usually one mounted on each side of a small boat, with a crankshaft and pedals on a common shaft between the wheels.
The Pinkert Navigating Tricycle, as illustrated in Scientific American Sept 8 1894, is a balloon wheeled tricycle.
Johannes Breyer, of Hamburg, Germany, received a U.S. patent for a twin screw aquatic velocipede Nov 1, 1892. The chain driven screws were powered by a bicycle crank.
The "Aquatic Tripod", as used in England in 1823 for duck hunting was illustrated in the French journal, La Nature, in 1885. Propulsion was accomplished with the aid of small paddles strapped to the boots. The three 30 liter floats provided buoyancy. A seat or saddle was provided for the rider. Resembling both a water strider and a baby walker, this would be an interesting device to reproduce and test. Anyone with a pond and 3 floats? Trash cans?
This lever operated land and water velocipede was patented in 1869, by David Farmer, of Wheeling, West Virginia. It was fitted with removable floats and paddle wheels.
Pedal driven paddle wheels powered this "floating velocipede" patented in 1870 by Carl Wederkinch and Archibald Starkweather, of Boston.
From the journal, Science, Dec 14, 1883 "On the 28th of July, about nine o"clock in the morning, a Mr. Ferry started from Dover to cross the English Channel on a water tricycle. The construction of the machine is well shown in the above illus- tration which we take from La Nature. It is evident, however, that the displacement must have been much greater than that indicated. Instead of the light wheels of steel, with tires of rubber, of the land vehicle, there are bulky paddlewheels. The small wheel behind serves as a rudder. Ferry arrived at Calais in less than eight hours. The distance as a bird flies is twenty miles, but on account of the currents, the exertion required was con- siderably increased.
From Scientific American, Aug 24, 1895 "Apropos of the bicycle craze, it appears that the next thing in order is a machine of some kind that will be, in relation to water, what the bicycle is to land. The annexed engraving illustrates a machine which acts in relation to water as the bicycle does to a solid surface; that is to say, it gives the same opportunity for balancing, and depends on inertia for the upright position of the rider.
It consists of three hollow cylinders with conical ends and driving and steering mechanisms. The outer cylinders are smaller than the middle one, and made of very light material, such as aluminum or paper. The middle one is made of galvanized iron or sheet copper.
The rider mounts, gets under headway, then raises the lateral floats clear from the water and fastens them. After that he depends on his momentum for his upright position, as in the case of the bicycle. Should he lose his balance, the lateral floats will catch him and prevent accident."
This "marine velocipede", patented in 1880, by Myron Coloney, of New Haven, consists of a high wheel bicycle fitted with 2 pontoons and a propeller driven by the wheel.
From Scientifc American, 1895 Fernandez's Marine and Land Bicycle - The illustration represents a bicycle construction designed to travel with equal facility on land and ice and in the water. The improvement has been patented by Evaristo Fernandez, of No. 1819 Dumain Stree, New Orleans, La. The wheels are preferably of copper, their side plates enclosing a large central air space. The rear wheel, forming the drive wheel, has on its sides lateral blades to engage the water, when the bicycle is so used. The saddle of the machine is of a form designed to prevent the water from splashing up against the rider and has a lateral mud guard.
From Scientific American, 1895 La Illustratcion Espanola y Americana describes a new boat invented by Don Ramon Barea, of Madrid, which is said to pass over the water with ease and rapidity. This machine is composed of two cases of steel, which serve as floats and are connected by cross bars. In the space between the two, and near the stern, is a paddle wheel operated by pedals, something like a bicycle. This nautical bicycle weighs about 100 lbs. The vessel is steered by a small rudder at the stern. The speed which can be obtained is about six miles per hour. The apparatus is well spoken of in Paris. It may be used upon lakes and rivers with success.
An aquatic bicycle patented in 1894, by Jacob Ronk, of Fort Wingate, Territory of New Mexico, consisted of a pair of large pneumatic wheels driven by a pedal mechanism mounted on a platform suspended from the axle.
A device for propelling boats, by means of a lever and gear train powering a small paddlewheel. The device was patented by Henry Fox, of Waterloo, New York, in 1876.
A bicycle boat, patented by Charles Storms, of Buffalo, in 1899. An ordinary land bicycle was fitted with pontoons and the rear wheel belted to a propeller drive, while the front fork was coupled to a rudder.
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Contact: Richard Van Vleck