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Pedal Power
at the American Precision Museum
 From the Introduction:

Pedals turn wheels, and wheels create smooth and easy motion. The spinning wheel by the hearth and the grinding wheel in the tool shed were both driven by foot power. For hundreds of years, such simple foot-powered tools made work easier and faster.

Then the Industrial Revolution brought new machinery, driven by the stronger powers of water and steam. Just when the new machines began to transform manufacturing, a primitive pedal-powered vehicle appeared. When that new pedal-powered vehicle met up with the emerging tools of mass production, the modern bicycle was born.

Then, just as surely as rotating pedals spin a bicycle wheel, new technology created social change, which demanded more technological change, which in turn brought more social change. At the peak of the cycling craze, in the 1890s, the bicycle drove remarkable advances in both manufacturing and society.

The exhibition Pedal Power examines the bicycle's complex relationship with industrial progress and social change.

Scribner’s Magazine illustration, June, 1895, courtesy of Making of America, Cornell University Library.

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