antique unicycle image

I am searching for an image of a unicycler from the Victoiran Era - from around the turn of the century. Any ideas? Can anyone point me in the right direction to search? I’ve looked online and found plenty of penny farthing images, but no unicyclers.

Reason for search: I am working for an English/Nigerian artist who needs this image as reference for sculpture.

Much appreciated!


Does this count?

I know its technicaly a bicycle, but you could easily photoshop it. Or in my case, Gimp it.

p.s. I got this image by searching victorina unicycle in google images, I also tried vintage unicycle but all I got were old magazine covers, ect IE drawn images.

Your friend will almost certainly have to improvise, and combine images from the Victorian era.

Taken literally, “Victorian” refers to a period of over 60 years. You only have to look at the changes in clothes fashions, social attitudes, entertainment styles, and household technology (for example) in the last 60 years to see that the idea of a homogenous “era” that long is artificial. For a modern piece of art, presumably the artist will want to convey the idea of “Victorian-ness” (Victorianity?:wink: ) to the modern audience, and our modern concept of Victorian combines bits and bobs from most of the 19th century.

For the unicycle, I think we have two sorts to look at: the entertainer’s unicycle, and the one ridden for sport - much as we can compare the circus unicycle and the MUni/Coker etc. today.

I’d expect the entertainer’s unicycle to be built as a one off, with quite a choice of wheel diameter because they would have used solid rubber tyres. the wheel rims would have been very narrow by modern standards. The spokes would have been radial (i.e. going straight out from the hub to the rim without crossing) and the pedals would probably have been quite heavy, with discs on the outside edge.

The enthusiast’s sports unicycle was, I believe, a derivative of the “ordinary bicycle” (aka “penny farthing”). I’ve ridden a penny farthing (a fantastic experience - if ever you get the chance, seize it with both hands) and the small back wheel hovers, or just skims the ground as you ride. Some people took this to an extreme by removing the spine and seat of the cycle, leaving only the wheel, forks, cranks, pedals and er… handlebars - not the seat. (You occasionally see modern novelty unicycles on ebay which have handlebars instead of seats.)

So for the style of the unicycle, look at the many pictures of penny farthings that are readily available. Take the styling features and blend them into a unicycle.

As for the costume. Look at what Victorian penny farthingists wore, or look at what Victorian circus performers wore. Allow for the practicalities (breeches and tight stockings, rather than baggy trousers) and a bit of flair (suitable hat and stripey waistcoat) and you’ll be halfway there.

There is an (American?) firm called Rideable Replicas that makes a modern “replica” of a big wheeled unicycle. It is a stylistic replica rather than an authentic one, but could provide inspiration.


Looking at the picutre of the guy on the penny farthing made me realize wy you won’t find a photograph of someon on a unicycle from that era. Exposure time. If you notice in that picture he isn’t riding he’s leaning on a pole. Action photographs didn’t exist.

The best you mght find is a souvenir phot o fo a circus unicyclist posign with his unicycle.

Re: antique unicycle image

If you can get a copy of Sebastian Hoeher’s Unicycling: from beginner to expert, you will find a few photos from the late 1800s in the history section. The era is Victorian, but the photos are of Germans and so reflect the fashion of that country at the time.

Re: Re: antique unicycle image

A ppint I intended to address in my post, but I got side tracked. It is surprising that “Victorian” is a term used and understood by so many countries where she was not queen/emperess.

(photos from hoehers book)

incidently, can anyone tell me why the above links are not inserted photos, despite the fact that I used the IMG tag?

Heh, the right picture on the top link is basically an ultimate wheel. Sick!

Look closely and you will see that all the photos (except the one I posted) show unicycles with forks and handlebars, rather than forks and seats.

That’s what I described earlier: an evolution from the “penny farthing” by removing everything behind the handlebars.

That is very different from an ultimate wheel. It’s nearer in technique to riding a uni “seat out in front”, whereas an ultimate wheel is nearer to doing a seat drag.

Re: Re: Re: antique unicycle image

I will address a pint with you any time Mike. :wink:

Wouldn’t Victoria’s longevity and the fact that during her reign the British Empire really meant something, have something to do with it?


The image Mikefeule posted is probably the best one we’re going to find online. It’s a reproduction, but has a cool looking seat and the right look for your sculpture to fit the era (without using handlebars and making it look maybe a little silly).

If you need a rider to be on the unicycle, you may be able to composite one in from another image. I have plenty of pictures of people riding big wheel unicycles in various positions.

Just let us know if any of the above is helpful.

German unicycle from 1882

Article about unicycle riding in 1884

Truly fascinating.

The IMG tag didn’t work because you linked to a web page rather than directly to a JPG or GIF file.

It looks like those unicycles all have radial lacing. The picture of the 1882 unicycle that I posted also has radial lacing. When did the bikes/cycles/unicycles switch to using the crossing spoke patterns? From the looks of just these few pictures it may be more authentic to do a radial spoked wheel which would also be easier to do in a sculpture than a 3-cross wheel.

Sebastian Hoher images

Sebastian Hoher # 2

Sebastian Hoher #3

Sebastian Hoher #4

They didn’t look very happy about unicycling back then…not like us:) now. How will we look 100 years from now?

All images from Unicycling from beginner to expert. Sebastian Hoher Butterfingers Press etc etc