The art

Bicycles were so popular at the turn of the century they were used to sell everything – and they often featured whimsical animals riding them.

These 2-3/4” x 4-1/4” Victorian trade cards circa 1887 are courtesy of Lorne Shields. Chromolithography printing was used to promote J&P Oats “used by all.”


Hence, the inspiration for our original artwork to accompany the first pop-up for The Bicycle Museum. The blue heron is commonly seen in the Peterborough-Kawartha region and is a majestic beast that would most certainly be able to pedal the penny farthing — indeed he may just take flight!

heron small

Image by Ian Sullivan Cant. Available for sale, framed or unframed.

Most cycling enthusiasts would be familiar with the ‘famous’ images of chickens racing penny farthing bicycles, but we’ve also seen other modern iterations of animals and their high wheels. Toronto artist Stephen Appleby-Barr created a wonderfully dandy cat with a high wheel for Magic Pony to sell many years ago, and this charming toad on a high wheel enjoying a beverage (Steamwhistle perhaps?) makes it look so easy, you can’t help but love his style.

The bicycle craze was so hot that manufacturers, retailers, artists, etc. used the bicycle to boost sales. High wheels obviously pre-date this period, so the image could be earlier, but a lot of these really kitcshy bike images are from around then. The 3 Chickens image was produced by Raphael Tuck & Sons in the mid/late 1880s for an Xmas Card, and may have been used as a Trade Card. It was published as a Chromolithograph, according to collector and historian Lorne Sheilds.


The high wheel bicycle

The Bicycle: The High Wheel Bicycle defined the bicycle craze that swept the world at the turn of the century. This Penny Farthing is a replica from 1967 owned and previously ridden by retired Peterborough area surgeon Dr. Wilbert Willoughby Belch (aka Buffalo Bill), who purchased the delightful bike in time for Canada’s Centennial Celebration in Jackson Park in Peterborough.

This high wheel bicycle seen here and in the pop-up exhibit was ordered via Banks bicycles has seen many riders tumble asunder. Dr. Belch’s son, Tim Belch is a councillor for Cavan-Monaghan Township and has made this bicycle available for our pop-up exhibits.

Here’s what Tim had to say about his father, who was a surgeon in Peterborough for 50 years, and his relationship with the high wheel bicycle:

Continue reading “The high wheel bicycle”

The dandies

1-PG DC 44 - Alex Gibson

Alex Gibson was a member of the Peterborough Cycling Club and held the position of treasurer for some time. He was also an accomplished competitor. He is shown here sporting some of his medals from the many bicycle meets (races) he participated in. Image below shows some of the bling – a trophy adorned with a high wheel bicycle and ‘jockey’ – from one of the  bicycle races held here in Peterborough in the early 1900s. The Peterborough Bicycle Club is one of the longest standing bicycle clubs in Canada and is currently the largest bicycle club per capita in a Canadian city! Read about the ‘main event’ when Peterboro hosted the first ever provincial meet of the Canadian Wheelmen’s Association – and about 7,000 visitors – on July 1, 1898.

Wild Rock and Shimano are current supporters of the Peterborough Bicycle Club, and host modern day ‘meets’ like long distance group rides as well as races and events, including the upcoming cyclo-cross national championships in the first week of November at Nicholls Oval. 

At top, a young Percy Jamieson poses with a wee version of a high wheel bicycle for a photo at the famous Roy Studios in Peterborough. Do you have a caption for this image?  Or do you know more about these images? Email You can also write in your contact information and your story in our book at one of our pop-up events in Peterborough, Ontario.


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