Michaux, Pierre

SUBJECT AREA: Land transport
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b. 1813
d. 1883
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French bicycle maker and developer, in partnership with his son Ernest (1849– 89).
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Pierre Michaux has been variously described as a cabinet-maker, a locksmith and a carriage-repairer. He probably combined all these occupations. He had a workshop near the Champs Elysées in Paris in 1861 where he set up a business in the manufacture of bicycles. His machines, which became known as Michaulines, were largely built of wood but had the great advantage over the draisienne that the rider's feet rested on a pair of pedals connected to the axle of the front wheel. In the late 1850s solid rubber tyres were added to the wheels. In 1865 Michaux et Cie built about four hundred Michaulines. By 1866–7 they had developed a new model with a wrought-iron frame and a larger front wheel. This machine was shown at the World Exhibition held in Paris in 1867 and the company received many orders, including one from the invalid Napoleon III. The Prince Imperial also had a Michauline. Late in the 1860s the Olivier brothers invested 100,000 francs in Michaux et Cie, allowing the firm to move to a 2 1/2-acre (1-he-care) factory near the Arc de Triomphe. Soon afterwards, Michaux père accepted a 200,000 franc payment and left the firm, which continued to flourish. In the early 1870s the Olivier brothers were building as many as two hundred machines each day. By 1870 they employed 500 workers using fifty-seven forges. There were in addition about sixty other bicycle makers in Paris and fifteen in provincial France.
The 1867 Michauline had a metal backbone and a lever-shoe brake; the saddle was mounted on a single leaf spring; slotted cranks allowed the effective crank length to be adjusted; and the machine weighed 59 lb (27 kg).
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Further Reading
Science Museum, 1955, Cycles: History and Development, London: HMSO. J.McGunn, 1987, On Tour Bicycle: An Illustrated History of Cycling, London: John Murray.
IMcN

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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