M975.62.72 | A Race on the Ice - Bicycles v. Skates

A Race on the Ice - Bicycles v. Skates
Anonyme - Anonymous
1881, 19th century
Ink on paper - Photolithography
20.8 x 26.2 cm
Gift of Mr. Charles deVolpi
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Genre (188) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

The first Quebec-built velocipede (as early bicycles were called) was made in Quebec City in 1868. It was a very expensive vehicle, priced at about $100 - a fortune in those days! - but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the elite. Between 1868 and 1871, velocipede races and velocipede ice races drew crowds of up to 5,000 people for a single event! These popular activities encouraged behaviour that high-minded citizens found immoral. Seizing every opportunity, they denounced the consumption of alcohol and the betting that went on at these events. The velocipede race craze was brief, dying out after just two years. Betting, however, lived on and flourished at horse races.

Alan Metcalfe, "The Evolution of Organized Physical Leisure in Montreal, 1840-1895", Social History/ Histoire sociale, vol. XI, no. 21 (May 1978), p. 162.

  • What

    This race pitting cyclists against skaters is quite a remarkable illustration of how emerging sports were sometimes combined.

  • Where

    Some of the ice rinks laid out each winter were specifically meant for velocipedes.

  • When

    Velocipedes were cumbersome machines and not easy to ride. This is why they were in use only a few years before being supplanted by the bicycle, in the early 1880s.

  • Who

    Only the affluent had the means to own velocipedes, which were very expensive. But the general public turned out in great numbers to watch cyclists and skaters compete in races.