Culture

The suffragette who rode a scooter in 1916

The suffragette who rode a scooter in 1916

Scooter-2x

Yes, she is a suffragette, and yes, that is her scooter. English socialite and activist Florence Priscilla, Lady Norman, CBE was given this Autoped as a birthday present by her husband, Sir Henry Norman. She used it to travel to her office in central London.

Florence was following in her mother’s footsteps in her active support for women’s suffrage. Her CBE (Commander of the British Empire) came when she ran a hospital in France during World War I.

Kick scooters — a flat board on wheels with a long handle at the front, propelled by foot — have been made for at least 100 years as toys for children. Florence’s Autoped was one of the first examples of motorised kick scooters. Like a child’s scooter, it had no seat.

Manufactured in New York and Germany by Krupps, the U.S. postal service tested the Autoped as a means of fast transport for its special delivery service. The foldable scooter was also reportedly used as a quick getaway machine by New York gangs, racing down narrow alleys beyond the reach of police cars.

Other manufacturers followed: ABC Motorcycles produced the Skootamota, which had a top speed of 15 mph (24 km/h), and The Gloster Aircraft Company introduced the Reynolds Runabout in 1919, followed by the Unibus in 1920. The Unibus was promoted as the “car on two wheels.”

Some of these early scooter designs were unstable, uncomfortable to ride and difficult to handle. The decades leading up to World War II saw the gradual introduction of a range of refinements, including efficient lights and brakes, gears, suspension, enclosed bodies and leg shields.

During the 1930s, scooters were introduced to a new market as the ideal mode of transport at large, sprawling military bases. Ironically, the era of the scooter truly began after the war — a direct result of fuel rationing.

c. 1915

Four special delivery postmen for the US Postal Service try out new scooters.

Image: Underwood Archives/Getty Images

June 1919

Crowds gather around a two wheeler motor scooter.

Image: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

1919

A folded Rouline scooter, Paris.

Image: Boyer/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

c. 1920

A man driving one of the first models of scooters.

Image: Alfred Gross/ullstein bild via Getty Images

c. 1921

Woman on a scooter at Le Touquet, France.

Image: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

c. 1925

Folding scooter, Berlin, Germany.

Image: Roger Viollet/Getty Images

1935

“Built for use around the airports, this electric scooter attracted the attention of Amelia Earhart Putnam, famous aviatrix, and her pupil, June Travis, Warners player, the day Miss Earhart gave June her first flying lesson. Here are the pair about to go off on a scoot, at a twelve-mile clip.”

Image: Bettmann/CORBIS

1937

Two women riding motor scooters.

Image: Keystone/Corbis

c. 1937

Hollywood actress Eleanore Whitney gets a push from actor Robert Cummins (1908-1990) on the Motorglyde motorised scooter.

Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1937

“Oakland, California – Traffic officer Leo Brandt seems to have his hands full in handing out tickets to this bevy of gals, who were picked up for speeding along on their animated kiddy cars. The scooters constitute the latest traffic menace to the West Coast region. The two recipients of the billets doux are Dorothy Armstrong, left foreground, and Peggy Marx.”

Image: Bettmann/CORBIS

1938

In Germany a young man refuels his scooter with a funnel.

Image: Heinz Fremke/ullstein bild via Getty Images

c. 1938

American actors Humphrey Bogart (1899 – 1957) and Allen Jenkins (1900 – 1974) are stopped for speeding on their scooters by a security guard at the Warner Bros.

Image: Archive Photos/Getty Images






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