1889: THE GRAND STALLION ‘MAXY COBB’
Before cycle racing took over, harness racing was all the rage. Descended from Greek and Roman chariot racing, harness racing uses thoroughbred horses and lightweight sulkies. It appears that the Dutch brought the sport to America in the 17th century. It had been popular in Holland because it transcended class boundaries: anyone with a fast trotting horse could enter, and poor farmers’ well-trained trotters often defeated breeds owned by royalty.
In America, by the end of the 18th century, trotting harness races had become a popular rural past-time, using quite unsophisticated carts and hole-riddled country roads as tracks. In the early 19th century the first harness racing tracks were established, and trotting races incorporated in the list of attractions of any self-respecting county fair.
Soon horses were bred specifically for the sport, the term ‘standardbred’ emerging in 1879. In 1788 an English thoroughbred stallion named ‘Messenger’ had been imported into the United States to be used as a sire for race horses. From Messenger’s lineage came the legendary ‘Hambletonian 10’ in 1849. He was subsequently known as ‘The Daddy of ’em All’ as virtually all standardbred horses in North America can count him in their lineage.
Although since overshadowed by cycle racing, and then motorcycle and car racing, harness racing – or ‘trotting’ – is still enjoyed around the world.
Victorian children’s tricycles were very expensive, only affordable to upper-class families. Children were less likely to choose their own tricycle; instead the parents or grandparents purchased them for the children. Often a tricycle was considered more like decoration for a nursery, while the child grew old enough to use it. As a result, manufacturers tended to make them in styles that would appeal more to the older generations than the actual users. Horses featured in many styles of children’s tricycle, and a particular genre was the Horse & Sulky tricycle. Sold by department stores until WW2, sulky tricycles were actually the most expensive children’s tricycles on the market.
By the 1930s, mass-production was taking over and modern streamlined styling was the order of the day. So fewer sulkies were made. But after WW2, cheaper sulkies for younger kids became a popular line. Mobo and Triang were the dominant manufacturers of them in postwar Britain. At this time sulkies also became popular again in France, and holiday resorts hired them to visitors to ride along the promenade or take to the beach.
1950s Juvenile Sulky Tricycle
7″ Front Wheel
13.5″ Rear Wheels
The 1950s photos featured here illustrate the dominant style of French sulky tricycle. It was popular at French seaside resorts, and there was also a track for them at the Zoo de Vincennes (Paris Zoological Park). Some of the sulkies had reinforced frames with a bumper at the front; perhaps these were the sulkies used for hire.
1897 SULKY CATALOGUE ADVERT
1950s SULKY TRICYCLE v 1970s LEADER BRONCO BICYCLE
THE SULKY TRACK AT PARIS ZOO