JF Ptak Science Books Post 1576
This image--from the Scientific American Supplement for 25 September 1895--triggered an immediate reaction, though not for the electrification of what looks like a child's toy. Charles H. Barrows of Willimantic, Connecticut patented this bike, which turns out to be a considerable object--it has a two hp engine which is powered by a hundred-pound battery that is "stored in the two cabinets" (measuring 24x8x8) on either side of the hub, making the wheel I guess somewhere around 34-36" in diameter. After everything was said and done, the trike was a big, heavy, thing, in spite of a fairly spartan design in the rest of the bike.
What the woodcut remind me of was William Eggleston's quiet, odd, iconic and enigmatic portrait of a tricycle, which I think launched a new photographic experience for the suburbs--a kind of Robert Frank for people doing "okay".
Eggleston's work, including this s image above (Untitled, Tricycle and Memphis, 1970), was a subject at a MoMA show in 1976, William Eggleston's Guide. It was received with long glances down long noses--seen as a banal exercise in the portrayal of everyday stuff in everyday settings, critics saw the semi-nothingness in the photos as simple all-nothingness, with one critic asking "a guide to what?" But the Eggleston show was far more than that, showing the bits--in color--of American cultural life in middle class seclusion, a splendor of small Americana.
Bill Owens, working at about the same time as Eggleston, also shared his vision on the restricted glory of the suburbs in his Suburbia, spreading his discoveries of new-found cultural diversity.
The critics saw basically nothing in these works when they were first shown, though they had a lot more going on for them than the electrified tricycle, which was far too big and heavy to have done any good for anyone (though the design of the sprocket/wheel was pretty interesting). The only nothingness that are in the photos of Eggleston and Ownes was the nothing that the critics chose to see. Sometimes new, different ways of looking at things as in the cases of these two photogrpaher makes it seem as though it is a newness of nothing, but only for a short time, until everybody else showed up.