Designing Transformation: The Bicycle as a Child’s Toy, 1925–1940

By Robert J. Turpin.

Published by The Sport Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 20, 2014 $US5.00

By examining the promotion of the bicycle, first to adults and then to children, we can gain insights into alterations in American culture and have a better basis for understanding the forces that undergird national identity. This essay uses trade journals, advertisements, sales figures, and changes in bicycle design to show that the automobile did not immediately or automatically supplant the bicycle. Instead, automobiles further influenced the way the bicycle was marketed and designed, as bicycle designs changed to appear more like cars, motorcycles, and airplanes. This development not only signaled the capitulation of the bicycle industry to motorized vehicles, but also worked to instill in children a love for consumer items that were antithetical to the bicycle. As cycling became an activity predominately for white middle-class children, its status as a legitimate means of transportation and popular form of recreation took a back seat to the automobile. The essay will not only seek to answer why the bicycle was relegated to the status of child's toy, it will implicitly highlight the increasing divergence of American culture from other cultures.

Keywords: Consumption, Bicycle, Childhood, Transportation, Advertising

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 4, Issue 2, June 2014, pp.57-65. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 20, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 311.587KB)).

Dr. Robert J. Turpin

Instructor, Department of History, University of Kentucky, Campbellsville, Kentucky, USA

Robert J. Turpin earned a Ph.D. in history at the University of Kentucky. He currently works there as a part-time instructor. He lives in Campbellsville, Kentucky, USA