The dandy horse is a human-powered vehicle that, being the first means of transport to make use of the two-wheeler principle, is regarded as the forerunner of the bicycle. The dandy horse was invented by Baron Karl Drais in Mannheim, Germany, and patented in January 1818. It is also known as a Laufmaschine (Drais' own terminology, German for "running machine"), velocipede, or draisine (a term now used primarily for light auxiliary railcars regardless of their form of propulsion), and in its French form draisienne.
The dandy-horse was a two-wheeled vehicle, with both wheels in-line, propelled by the rider pushing along the ground with the feet as in regular walking or running. The front wheel and handlebar assembly was hinged to allow steering.
Several manufacturers in France and England made their own dandy-horses during its brief popularity in the summer of 1819—most notably Denis Johnson of London, who used an elegantly curved wooden frame which allowed the use of larger wheels. Riders preferred to operate their vehicles on the smooth sidewalks instead of the rough roads, but their interactions with pedestrians caused many municipalities to enact laws prohibiting their use. An apparent further drawback of this device was that it had to be made to measure, manufactured to conform with the height and the stride of its rider. No manufacturer appears to have taken up Nicéphore Niépce's 1818 invention of an adjustable saddle for his 'velocipede'.
In popular culture
Buster Keaton rides a dandy-horse in his 1923 film Our Hospitality, which is set in the 1830s. Keaton's technical crew were unable to obtain a vintage dandy horse, so they built one to match existing drawings and prints. Keaton later donated the machine to the Smithsonian Institution, which had lacked an authentic example.
George Arliss, as the title character of the 1929 film Disraeli, rides a dandy-horse through a London park until he collides with a woman pedestrian. This occurs in the opening scene of the film, set in the 1830s, when Disraeli was still a writer and a famous dandy.
A citizen is briefly seen riding a Dandy Horse through a forest trail in the 1997 film "Amistad" when the Slave Escapees first land on American soil.
A charming, bi-annual magazine called, dandyhorse, based in Toronto, Canada, promotes art, fashion and cycling culture. From the dandyhorse magazine media kit: (About our name) Enter the dandyhorse ~ The bicycle may have revolutionized transportation and contributed to improved manufacturing processes, better roads, women’s emancipation and the growth of consumerism, tourism and professional sport, but for many cyclists it is the bicycle’s inescapable public presence that makes it so irresistible. So it was, when early in the 19th century the pre-curser to the modern bicycle arrived in London, England and one unduly fashionable and flamboyant group saw the invention exactly for what it was: an opportunity to look fabulous in public. When dandies first appeared in London parks and boulevards they could barely propel themselves along due to public excitement over their transportation. Nearly two centuries later, bicycles are truly ubiquitous, but cyclists still cut a dashing figure and prove the adage; it is better to be seen than heard.
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