Le Vélocipède Illustré

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Le Vélocipède Illustré
Le Vélocipède illustré.jpg
The edition of Le Vélocipède illustré from 26 June 1870.[1]
TypeFortnightly cycling journal
EditorRichard Lesclide (1869-1872)
Websitewww.Antediluvian.fr[permanent dead link]

Le Vélocipède Illustré (Bicycle Illustrated) was a fortnightly (twice monthly) illustrated French newspaper which covered cycling, water sports, mechanical arts and sciences, fine arts, and industry.[2] First published in Paris on the 1st April 1869 by Richard Lesclide, it continued publication until 1872.[3][4][5]

As part of its promotional marketing Le Vélocipède Illustré co-organised the world's first 'city to city' road-race for bicycles, from Paris to Rouen on November 7, 1869.[6]

The founder[edit]

Le Vélocipède Illustré was published on 1 April 1869 by Richard Lesclide, alias Le Grand Jacques,[7] a pioneer of sports journalism. Lesclide eventually became the secretary of Victor Hugo.

Lesclide was described by Edward Seidler in his book The Media and Sport (Presse et Sport) as:

The first edition[edit]

Masthead of the first edition of Le Vélocipède illustré from 1 April 1869, introducing the voluptuous Lady Progress astride a 'boneshaker'

A bicycle boom occurred in France during the 1860s. In October 1868 Le Vélocipède was published in Foix, Ariège, although the title was misleading as it was not related to velocipedes, but an excuse to obtain an Imperial publication license.[7][8] On March 1, 1869 another independent newspaper called Le Vélocipède was published in Voiron, near Grenoble.[9] It promoted itself as the "Humorous journal and gazette of sportsmen and cyclists (vélocemen)."[8] The publisher was monsieur A Favre, a manufacturer of bicycles and tricycles.[10] This version only survived for 3 months.[9]

On 1 April 1869, the first edition of Le Vélocipède Illustré appeared at the peak of the bicycle boom. The masthead featured an image of the voluptuous Lady Progress astride a boneshaker,[11] and the main banner stated its coverage as :

Vélocipédie (cycling), Sport Nautique (Water sports), Arts and Sciences Mécaniques (Mechanical Arts and Sciences). Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts), Industrie (Industry).[2]

Subsequent editions featured a range of images of Lady Progress surrounded by contemporary cycling fantasy scenes, such as the montage (illustrated) of ballooning, walking, travel, outdoor life and freedom.[2]

In the manifesto of the first edition, Richard Lesclide, the editor, stated:

"The velocipede is not a fad born yesterday, in vogue today, to be forgotten tomorrow. Along. with its seductive qualities, it has an undeniably practical character. It supplants the raw and unintelligent speed of the masses with the speed of the individual. This horse of wood and iron fills a void in modern life; it responds not only to our needs but also to our aspirations."[12][5]

The novelty of the new publication about cycling attracted the attention of the New York Times, which carried a report from the 'Velocipede correspondent of the London Star' :


Paris–Rouen Winner James Moore (right) and Jean-Eugène-André Castera

Le Vélocipède Illustré organised the world's first 'city to city' (road-race) bicycle race, from Paris to Rouen on November 7, 1869.[6] The event was sponsored by the Olivier brothers, owners of a bicycle manufacturer company called The Michaux Company. They had been delighted with the success of the world's first bicycle race, a day of short races held in Parc de Saint-Cloud, Paris and so promoted the 123 kilometre race between Paris and Rouen.[6] The first prize was one thousand gold francs and a bicycle. and the rules said the riders were not 'to be pulled by a dog or use sails'.[13]

The race started at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and finished in the centre of Rouen. The course took them through St-Germain-en-Laye (16 km), Mantes (39 km), Vernon (63 km) and Louviers (97 km). 325 riders started the race and the winner was an Englishman living in Paris, James Moore, who took 10 hours and 40 minutes.[6] He is presumed to have been riding a Suriray bicycle built by Tribout and possibly the first bike ever equipped with ball bearings, which were patented by Jules Suriray, a Parisian bicycle mechanic, in 1869.[14] The bicycle, draped with the Union Jack, disappeared from outside a cafe in the rue Notre Dame des Victoires during the post-race celebrations.


Le Vélocipède Illustré continued publication until 1872,[3] when the impact of the Franco-Prussian War depressed sales at the end of the cycling boom.[8]


It reappeared in 1890 under the aegis of its founder, Richard Lesclide, who was 67 years old, with his wife Juana as editor. She wrote under the 'nom de plume' Jean de Champeaux, and continued until her husband's death in 1892.[citation needed]

The next editor was Paul Faussier, a sports journalist and member of Company Vélocipédique Metropolitan (Metropolitan Vélocipéde Company). Under Faussier's leadership Le Vélocipède Illustré organized and publicised the first race of "horseless carriages" on April 28, 1887[clarification needed] between Neuilly and Versailles.[dubious ][citation needed]


It ceased publication about 1901.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gros-delettrez, Antiquarian newspaper vendor[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b c Wiki Commons image of masthead of Le Vélocipède Illustré 1 July 1870
  3. ^ a b Alex Poyer, Les premiers temps des véloce-clubs: apparition et diffusion du cyclisme associatif français entre 1867 et 1914. Paris : L'Harmattan, 2003, p. 21, note 4.
  4. ^ a b The New York Times, 2 August 1869, - From the Velocipede correspondent of the London Star
  5. ^ a b Armitstead, Claire (3 May 2008). "On yer vélo: Claire Armitstead takes a tour round France with the Ondaatje prizewinner". Guardian. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d Memoire du Cyclisme, Paris-Rouen 1869 (in French) Archived 4 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ a b c Mediologie, Collection, 05 Bicyclette - by Augendre p. 214
  8. ^ a b c Universidad Complutense de Madrid, History of Cycling. Departamento de Filología Francesa, La Lengua del Ciclismo en Fraces : Analisis Semantico y Lexicologico p. 21
  9. ^ a b French Wiki
  10. ^ Alex Poyer, Les premiers temps des véloce-clubs: apparition et diffusion du cyclisme associatif français entre 1867 et 1914. Paris : L'Harmattan, 2003, p. 21, note 2.
  11. ^ Velorotic, Boneshaker article, 169. p. 2 Archived 9 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Velocipede e-book
  13. ^ Woodland, L. (2005), This Island Race, Mousehold Press, p. 5
  14. ^ Bicycle History, Chronology of the Growth of Bicycling and the Development of Bicycle Technology by David Mozer