THE VELOCIPEDE - LALLEMENT’S or MICHAUX’s?

Bicycle Historian David Herlihy notes that Pierre Lallement claims to have originated the idea of the Velocipede in 1862 in Nancy, Eastern France. At the time he was employed helping to construct children’s tricycles and perambulators. Lallement recounted that he saw a man pass by on a Draisine, and after much thought came upon the idea of a two wheeled machine with rotary cranks attached to the front hub.


He moved to Paris soon after this and found employment with a children’s vehicle manufacturer. Lallement claims he built a bicycle prototype in his spare time, which he completed in 1863. He learned to ride his machine in the shop’s long corridor before taking to the boulevards ‘and all the people saw it.’

Vélocipede

Lallement’s velocipede, from his U.S. Patent No. 59,915, 1866 (ireference.ca)

In 1865 Lallement emigrated to America, where in 1866 he filed a patent for a pedal-driven bicycle as shown above.

PIERRE MICHAUX CLAIM

Historian D. Herlihy has noted some discrepancies relating to the Michaux claim as inventor(s) of the Velocipede.  In 1893 Henry Michaux in a letter to the Parisian newspaper ‘L’Eclair’, stated that his father Pierre on receipt of a broken Draisine in 1861, suggested to his older son Ernest to add pedals to the front wheel. Ernest immediately followed his father’s request and the velocipede was born.


The British review ‘Wheel World’ quoted Michaux claiming he had invented the velocipede in 1855. This was subsequently embraced by the French press, and promoted by L. Baudry de Saunier’s ‘Histoire Génerale de la Vélocipédie’. However, M. Baudry de Saunier subsequently changed his account, and declared the inventor as the son, Ernest. So in March 1893, and further to some debate, Henry offered the revised account, that his father and brother invented the velocipede together, in the later date 1861. He further claimed to have witnessed the invention as a seven year old in his father’s shop, and that his father began to produce velocipedes immediately (over 400 in 1864).

Michaux velocipede, source: National Cycle Collection of Great Britain, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, Wales

The similarities between the Lallement and Michaux velocipedes indicate that one design may well have influenced/ inspired the other. As to which design actually came first is the subject of ongoing debate by the International Cycling History Conference (ICHC).

PIERRE LALLEMENT CLAIM