A Penny For Your Bike?

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The high-wheel bicycle, also known as the penny-farthing bicycle, is a pretty funny item to see!  It has a very large front wheel and a tiny back wheel.  They were popular in the 1880s and invented in 1871 by British engineer named James Starley.

You might ask, “WHY does this bicycle have such a large front wheel?”  The answer: for speed, of course!  The average person can only pedal so fast.  The solution is to enlarge the wheel size, because the distance a bike moves forward is determined by the circumference of the wheel.  A penny farthing bicycle typically had a front wheel circumference of 1.5 meters or 1.6 yards.  This made it very difficult to mount up onto the bicycle!  They usually had a foot peg above the rear wheel, so a rider had to hold onto the handlebars, push off the ground to get the bicycle moving, and then hop on.

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A large wheel also helped the rider to travel over poorly-maintained roads that had dips, bumps, or holes, and made it easier to keep the bike steady.  Unfortunately, these bikes were not very safe.  A rider of the high-wheel bicycle was always in danger of being thrown over the handlebars and, not to mention, there were no brakes.

The website newmr.org states, “Now we have the insight into why the penny-farthing had such a big wheel, we can understand why its popularity ended very quickly.  In the 1880s, people started experimenting with a link-chain connecting the pedals to the drive wheel. This meant that the tyranny of one turn of the pedal to one turn of the wheel was ended.  For example, the cogs on the bike could be set so that one turn of the pedals turned the wheel twice, or three times. Eventually, gears were added, which is simply a method of giving the rider a set of choices about the ratio of pedal turns to wheel turns.”  To put it simply, people invented gears so speed wasn’t dependent on the wheel’s size.  Thankfully, they put on brakes as well!

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So come to the Carriage Barn & Historical Museum located at Heritage Park in Santa Fe Springs and check out this strange looking bicycle.  Maybe it will inspire you to take your own out for a spin while the weather is still nice.

 

-DG

“Fresh from laboratory to you”…Zebest!

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Summer is a nice time to experiment with some new recipes using fruit that isn’t usually available in the cold months, such as watermelon, cherries, and blueberries, to name a few.  But if you lived around the 1900-1920s when fresh fruit wasn’t as common, Zebest Products Co. had the solution for you!

Imagine how the ad would appear today:

“Introducing: Zebest Nectar!  Supreme, dependable, and non-alcoholic so the whole family can enjoy, Zebest Nectar has all your baking needs covered.  ‘Only the best and purest oils and fruits obtainable are used in the preparation of this product.’  Don’t have time to use it immediately?  That’s just fine!  Zebest Nectar will keep indefinitely.  Just shake well before using.

If you buy now, Zebest will throw in a glass scallop-shell condiment spoon.  This beautiful spoon will help you get exactly the right amount out of the bottle for your recipe.  So buy today!  Zebest: Products of Quality.”

I would buy this Nectar if I heard that on TV.  Especially if there were a lot of pictures of food.  Not to mention, on the bottle it says it only cost 40 cents!  Unfortunately for us today, not much is currently known about this company or their items.  They must not make this product anymore, but perhaps there is something similar that is available in the store.  On the bright side, replicas of this scallop-shell spoon are available online!

An example of this item (though empty of nectar) is located at the Santa Fe Springs Historical Museum & Carriage Barn in Heritage Park.  The label is not in very good shape, but visitors can see quite a bit of the original description and where it comes from.  The scallop-shell spoon is in excellent shape for such a fragile piece.  It’s always fun to see older versions of things we use today, or items we’ve never heard of before!  Stop in at the Carriage Barn & Museum and see what other things you might recognize.

 

-DG

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” – Henry Ford, 1908

 

Think about how you came to the Carriage Barn & Historical Museum located at Heritage Park in Santa Fe Springs.  Did you drive?  If so, you’re not alone: many people use cars to get around.  In fact, cars and paved roads are so common today that it might be difficult to imagine sprawling citrus groves or oil fields covering the area instead.  But before 1900, the people of Santa Fe Springs travelled by horse and buggy, or horse-drawn surreys like the one displayed at the Carriage Barn.  Automobiles were not common, mainly because this “horseless carriage” was a luxury for anyone with $2,000-$8,000 to spend.  A horse-drawn carriage was only about $30-$50 in comparison, and many families already had horses.

Despite this drawback, by 1905 the new automobile was a common sight on the roads, fighting for space among the horses. As time passed, automobiles weren’t as expensive anymore, and people wanted to experience the freedom that a car gave them.  So more and more cars were purchased – and then it was horses and buggies that became the rare sight around town.

The Model T on display at the Carriage Barn was manufactured by the Ford Company in 1917 and originally purchased for $330 – a bargain in comparison to the initial price of thousands of dollars.  It was advertised as the automobile of the “everyman”.  It has a gasoline-powered engine, also known as an internal combustion engine, and works by lighting gas mixed with air, causing combustion, or an explosion, inside a cylinder.  This “explosion” moves a small metal piece, called a piston, which powers the machine.  Cars today work similarly but have many more features than early automobiles.

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Driving one of these cars on the road with the summer breeze blowing in through the open window sounds like a great time.  Even now it might be possible for you to buy one!  Some Model T cars are available for purchase, but mostly only to collectors or classic car fans because they can be very old.  Admire this Model T and respect it, because it’s the great-great grandfather of all current cars we see today!

 

-DG

To Horse, or Not to Horse

There is something important that every Carriage Barn needs in order to become a Carriage Barn…a Carriage, of course!  Thankfully, the Historical Museum in Heritage Park of Santa Fe Springs has one.  A carriage is a four-wheeled passenger vehicle pulled by two or more lightweight, fast horses.  Before the invention of the automobile, almost everyone owned a horse.

The type of carriage in the museum is a large, black, family size surrey.  It has a front seat and a backseat, 2 headlights, 4 wheels, and a parasol holder for umbrellas, and on top is a leather cover to protect from rain or sun.  This horse-drawn wooden surrey is very well-maintained and luxurious, with cushioned seats, but it didn’t come to the museum that way. It was falling apart and several parts had to be sent to the Amish in order to be fixed properly and maintain the surrey’s history.  A drawback to travelling this way was that there is no windshield, so anything the horses kicked up (such as dirt, mud, or rocks) could get into the passengers’ faces.  The surrey on display has a big black barrier – called a dashboard – right in front in order to minimize debris.  Another drawback were the headlights.  The lights did not shine very far, and a horse doesn’t have excellent night vision.  Not only that, but the lights were on the side.  They were more used as a signal to other drivers that something was there. On modern cars the headlights are more powerful and in the front of the vehicle.

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When automobiles started to become more popular, people called them horseless carriages because they did not need any animal assistance.  Cars could be fairly hard to get used to; they required a lot of maintenance and could break down more easily.  They were smelly and scared the other horses on the road and they didn’t go as fast as cars do today.  However, as they improved and came with features such as seatbelts, air conditioning, and windshields, the surrey and other carriages were pushed into history for good.  But if you wish to ride in one, it is possible to take tours in carriages in certain areas, so definitely look into that after you visit the one in Santa Fe Springs’ very own…Carriage Barn!

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-DG

“A walk in the park is a pleasure to do/When a visit to one is long overdue” – A Walk In The Park by Ernestine Northover  

Now that April is here, so is spring!  Although it seems that our beautiful California weather can’t make up its mind.  But if the sun is out today, why not head over to Heritage Park?  Not only do they have the Carriage Barn & History Museum (providing shade while you look over some artifacts from the past), but the park grounds have many points of interest throughout.

Why not check out the windmill?  If a tour is going on, you may even get to see the working water pump that pulls water from the reservoir nearby.  After you’ve seen that, head over to the Tongva exhibit.  The Tongva were Native Americans that lived in and around the area now known as Santa Fe Springs.  It features a ki or kich, a family dwelling that looks like an upside down basket, as well as a sweat lodge which was a hut used for cleansing the body through perspiration.  While you’re in that exhibit, take note of the many plants around you: pine, oak, willow, sage.  The trees cool the air and block off the city world outside, making you feel as if you have been transported back in time.

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The Tongva village located in Heritage Park.

Trees of all types are very important.  They purify the air and give off oxygen that we need to breathe.  Many states celebrate Arbor Day in April; a day to appreciate, care for, and learn about trees.  Take a look at all the trees in Heritage Park.  A couple of them are over 100 years old!  Do you know California’s state tree?*  Some parks have small groves of them for you to admire.  No matter what day it is, we should be grateful for all the trees that make our state amazing!

*California Redwood

DG

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” – Dr. Seuss

It’s nearly the end of February, and you know what that means: It’s time for Read Across America! Read Across America begins on March 2nd. This “celebration of reading” started in 1998 by the National Education Association to encourage literacy among all ages.  The NEA chose March 2nd because that is Dr. Seuss birthday.  Dr. Seuss is known for his zany and unique rhymes found in his books such as One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The Lorax, The Cat in the Hat, and many others.

Reading has been an activity for as long as we’ve had the written word.  It expanded in the 19th century because of the automated improvement of the printing press.  People could read anything they wanted, from instructional works, to crime and Gothic tales, romance, or domestic magazines; etiquette manuals or cook books.  The availability of these books meant that literacy was also on the rise.

At the Carriage Barn, visitors can see some books on display, from school textbooks to leisure reading.  One of these books is the vibrantly colored Picture Books for Children, which is an – often humorous – instructional manual for how children should behave.  The cover is red and embossed with vines, flowers, and Victorian-style imagery.  It is approximately 6 inches by 4 inches; able to be carried but not easily stowed in a pocket.

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While the book has excellent lessons, it might be more fun to check out a Dr. Seuss book to read!  The Santa Fe Springs City Library has many of them. Just head over to http://sfslibrary.sirsi.net to search our collection!

For more information on Read Across America and the National Education Association visit: http://www.nea.org/

DG

Shining a Light on Magic Lanterns

Imagine it’s 1955. You’re out by Silverwood Lake, enjoying summer vacation. The sun is hot on the shore and you can hear your dad snapping away, taking pictures of you, mom, and your little brother. You have a feeling that these pictures are going to come up at the next family reunion; your dad just got a new slide projector and he can’t get enough of it. Maybe for the rest of vacation you’ll hide in the water.

But what came before the slide projector? A device invented, most likely by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens, in the 1600s. Lit up from within by candlelight, film slides projected pictures on the walls and sometimes even moved. When early audiences saw these images – some scary, some awe-inspiring – suddenly appear on the wall, as if by magic, the device was named the Magic Lantern.

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Currently on display in the Inventing a Better Life exhibit, located in the Carriage Barn.

Over time, the lanterns worked using oil lamps instead of candlelight. Now, of course, they are powered by electricity and are known as “slide projectors”. However, by the 1700s the Magic Lantern was a common form of entertainment and education. The earliest show held in the United States for “the Entertainment of the Curious” took place in Salem, Massachusetts on December 3, 1743. Shows were exciting and popular. To catch a glimpse of history, you can visit Santa Fe Springs’ own Magic Lantern at the Heritage Park Carriage Barn and Historical Museum.

For more information visit: magiclanternsociety.org