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Roper Steam Velocipede, about 1869

view Roper Steam Velocipede, about 1869 digital asset: Roper steam velocipede, ca. 1869
Roper, Sylvester H.
overall: 3 15/16 ft x 2 1/8 ft x 6 9/16 ft; 1.1936 m x .64008 m x 2.0065 m
Object Name:
Place made:
United States: Massachusetts
Date made:
ca 1869
Sylvester Roper, a machinist and inventor in Massachusetts, built this steam velocipede and demonstrated it at fairs and circuses. It is believed to be the oldest existing American motorcycle. With its forged iron frame and wooden wheels, it resembles a velocipede, a popular bicycle of the late 1860s. The saddle served as a water tank for the boiler, which was heated by a firebox that burned charcoal. Twisting the handlebar controlled the throttle and brakes. Roper built several other steam vehicles, including another motorcycle in 1895, but he died just before the motor vehicle manufacturing industry got underway.
Currently not on view
Credit Line:
Gift of John H. Bacon
ID Number:
Catalog number:
Accession number:
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Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Road Transportation
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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