Telegraphs, Photographs and Bicycles on the American Frontier

The following videos are excerpts from HBO’s fabulous historical series, Deadwood. It’s set in the 1870s in Deadwood, South Dakota.  Be warned: it’s not for the faint of heart, nor will it please those who fancy polite and proper language.

The main character is Sweringen, owner of one of the local saloons and probably the most cussing, cursing, gin-swilling, lambasting, gun-toting character you’ll ever on find on TV.

In the scenes below, we see the local reaction to two recent innovations: the telegraph and the bicycle.

The Bike Revolution happened in the 19th Century as well. Riding a bike meant expanding ones world (especially if one was too poor to afford horses or automobiles) by four times!  In 1886 bicycles started to have equal sized wheels, and in 1890 pneumatic tires were introduced, which meant bikes were much more comfortable to ride.

This video captures the excitement around the first bike to be brought to Deadwood, a fictionalized frontier town in the US, at about the 1870s.

It wasn’t just men who rode bikes. The bike expanded women’s mobility as well. This is especially important given the fact that at this time there was no proper footwear for women to wear for walking. Boots were made for display, not for walking, so for women, the bike meant an even more significant expansion of her sphere. (Women who were determined to walk had to wear men’s boots!)


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