There’s truly not a more fascinating way to explore history than through the photograph – for me anyway. Something about the haunting richness of images from the late 19th & early 20th century draws me in, irresistibly. No filmmaker seemingly can pull off the complex period realism of the documentary image, save for maybe Jack Fisk or David Crank. And nobody has compiled a more extensive online collection of these images than Shorpy.com.
From self-portraits, to promotional images, to street photography, these works reveal how common bicycles once were for many classes of people. This is something I’ve always felt strongly about the bike – that it wields to power to enable marginalized communities in ways we’re only just becoming aware of. Knowing this doesn’t hide the signs of racial or gender divides also revealed in the photos selected below, yet it’s encouraging to find such cycling diversity anyway.