Thursday, September 17, 2009

Western Union Messenger Boy

Today's Old Photo is from 1913, and it was taken on a street in New Orleans. It shows a Western Union delivery boy. Kids like this were hired by Western Union to deliver telegrams around town. As far as child labor goes, that has to beat working in a Coal Mine.

I find the bicycle interesting. It is not unlike the one I had growing up in the 1960's. These were 1-speed bikes. To brake, you slightly moved the pedals backwards. Personally, I liked this system much better than the hand brakes on modern bicycles. It also had a big comfortable seat, which I liked much better than the small seats that came out with the 10-speed bikes. As I grew up, this style of bike fell out of fashion, and the bikes came along with the banana seats and high handlebars. Then a few of these started having multiple gears, and then all of the sudden all bikes became the 10 speed bikes with small seats and low handlebars. I sort of really like the old style bikes similar to the one pictured here.

14 comments:

  1. You can still find the coaster brake bikes at some of the box stores and even at some cycle shops. That's all my wife will ride, I have brought about 4 of them for her over the last 20 years.

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  2. The hand brakes are more safe than the pedal brakes. When you are driving downhill with high speed and the chain falls off or breaks when you are braking...

    I have got hand brakes in my all bikes over 50 years, driving daily.

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  3. The first time I rode a bike with hand brakes, I ran into the side of a semi. In my opinion they don't stop as fast as coaster brakes. When I finally bought a 10 speed bike, the first thing I did was go and buy gel filled cushioned wide seat for it. My bony butt could not take the pain.
    R

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  4. WOW! Look at the height of the curb.

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  5. Fixed-gear or "fixie" bikes, with the single speed and the foot brake, are becoming very popular with the bike-messenger set in NYC and Boston. Most of them are homemade--you'd be amazed how simple a machine a bicycle is, and how easy it is to modify. You can even install a hand brake in addition to the back-pedal brake, for extra safety.

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  6. I rode a bike like that when I was a kid. It was too big for me but it was very sturdy.
    I remember my jeans kept getting stuck in the chain until I put a rubber band around my ankle.

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  7. A tall curb like would help flood control.

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  8. Old bikes (like in the picture) did not have the chain cover, and then it was possible that clothes stuck into the chain, like the third Anonymous told. In Finland in fifties the bike riders used clothes pins/pegs when they were riding and wearing "sunday clothing".

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  9. Back in the 50s we just wore pedal pushers (now they call them capri's) - no chain problems. I guess that was only a solution for girls. Judi

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  10. I used the old, tuck the pants into the sock option. Very fashionable indeed. Haha.
    A few years back I hired a bike that had coaster brakes. I only found this out when at quite a high speed I decided to entertain myself by peddling backwards and nearly ended up coming off the bike in a huge skid. My heart was in my mouth as I was on a busy road!
    My new bike has disc brakes on like the ones found on cars. The best yet.

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  11. I remember attaching playing cards to my bike frame. the cards would hit the wheel spokes as they went around and make my bike sound like it had a motor! great fun!

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  12. In California these bikes are quite popular still! Most of the kids I see riding to school have a "cruiser" which is what we call them.

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  13. You can buy this type of bike locally here in Rhode Island and one the internet.

    They come in all kinds of cool pastel colors.

    My dauther (who is 19) just asked me for one for Christmas.

    She wants pink or mint green.

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  14. Those were the days...I was a WU delivery boy in the late '30s in a town of 60,000 pop. Really enjoyed the job...met a lot of really nice people and often got candy or a bottle of pop. Did not like to deliver the 'Singing Telegram'... embarrassing as I could not sing well. Biking was good exercise and helped my athletic activity and I think helped me in a long life. Rode upwards of 20 miles a day. Hung onto the street cars when going up long hills.

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