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.
Because they cost more to manufacture, mass-production was taking over, and modern streamlined styling was the order of the day, by the mid-thirties in America fewer sulkies were made. But after WW2, cheaper sulkies for younger kids became a popular line, with Mobo and Triang becoming the dominant manufacturers of them postwar. Sulkies for younger kids are still being made in France.
1930s-style Children’s Tandem Sulky Tricycle
(Unknown manufacturer and age)
16″ Front Wheels
22″ Rear Wheels
This sulky is professionally manufactured, i.e. with a high standard of workmanship, but its maker and age is unknown. It’s built in an early style, and would not look out of place in a Hamleys Toy Shop display, but in my opinion it was probably made in the 1960s as a one-off.
The unusual feature is that it has pedals and chain to the rear axle (driving the near-side wheel), but also a velocipede style front end, so it can be pedalled by two children at the same time, the front rider steering. With reins over the handlebars it can be steered alone by the buggy driver.
The buggy is an authentic reproduction. There’s efficient chain adjustment and old-style pedals; steel wheels with rubber tyres; solid springing; the buggy seat is reversible and removable; and there’s a hinged tailgate.
1897 SULKY CATALOGUE ADVERT
CHILDREN’S SULKY TRICYCLES