'The Hobby Horse, 1819', 1894.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Hand coloured engraving from 1894 showing a rural scene near London, with fashionably dressed gentlemen riding hobby horses. The forerunner of the bicycle, the 'hobby' or 'dandy horse' was invented by the German Baron Karl von Drais in France in 1817. It was introduced to England the following year by Denis Johnson, a coachmaker of Long Acre, London, who described it as a 'Pedestrian Curricle'. Hobby horses had no pedals or brakes, but were propelled by the rider pushing on the ground with his feet, and dragging the feet to slow the machine. Johnson started a school where prospective purchasers could learn how to ride the machine and, in 1819, fashionable London society was briefly gripped by a craze for riding a hobby horse.