ON THIS DATE in 1843, Pierre Lallement was born in Pont-à-Mousson, France. At eighteen, he began assembling what may have been the world’s first pedal bicycle.
Although a clumsy version of the modern bike existed as early as 1819, Lallement is responsible for attaching a rotary crank mechanism and pedals to the machine, resulting in something similar to what cyclists ride today. The website of the U.S. bicycling hall of fame credits the French mechanic with the invention of the pedal and calls him “the father of the modern-day bicycle.”
At eighteen in 1862, Lallement took time from his day job making wheelchairs and baby carriages to begin construction of his two-wheeled, pedal-powered riding machine. Within a year, he had fashioned a bike with wooden wheels, a perch for a seat, and handlebars.
Lallement moved to America in 1865, received the first pedal-bike patent in 1866, and achieved no success with his invention. It took some time, and a few improvements, to make the pedal-bicycle a mainstay of American life.
In 1891, Lallement died in poverty and obscurity.