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The First Bicycle

My uncle, Hans Jakob Olsen, was probably the first man in Norway that made bicycles. He was born in 1832 on the farm named Einstabøvold, Valestrand, Sunnhordaland. He was trained as a mechanic and lived in Stavanger where he built all types of farm machinery, such as fanning mills, plows, hand machinery for threshing. Modern for those days. In the beginning of the 1870's he got the idea that he wanted to experiment with bicycles, having heard about them being made in other countries. The bicycle he made consisted of two high wooden wheels banded with iron, pedals without brakes, a wooden seat with leader covering, and handlebars.

In 1874 the post road from Haugesund to Tittelsnes was finished. The next summer Uncle wanted to visit the relatives in Sunnhordaland. He took the steamship to Haugesund where he went ashore, and riding his bicycle took the road north through Sveio. In a sharp turn in the road just before he reached the Haukås farm, he nearly ran over a man who came from the flourmill with a sack of flour on his back. The sack got a good push and the man nearly fell down. Uncle was going fast, and when he saw the man was not hurt he went on his way, and a short time later arrived at Haukås farm where his sister lived. When he entered the house, the maid told him his sister had gone to a neighbor on an errand, but was expected home soon. He went in and rested on the sofa. In a little while his sister came in the kitchen laughing, and asked the maid if they had company. She said, "Yes, your brother came." My aunt said, "I thought so. I met old Lars Haukås. He had just come from the mill, and he told me he had nearly been run over by the Evil One himself in the bend in the road. He rode on a machine such as no one had seen before. It had two wheels, one behind the other. His feet went like drumsticks, and the sparks were like a streak of fire stretching behind him, and he went so fast that anything flying could not catch him." Thus the terrorized one had finished the story. My aunt said, "I better go in, I think my brother is here. He makes machines like that. I have not seen one, but the description fits."

It was unbelievable that anyone could ride on two wheels. It was the talk of the town for a long time that Lars Haukås had met the Evil One riding on two wheels. The day after his visit to the Haukås farm, uncle rode northward, and told about his experience. He sold his bicycle to a neighbor boy, Erik Knutsen, for 12 specie dollars, and continued his trip by steamship inland among the fjords.

When Erik Knutsen went to sea, and later to America, he sold the bicycle to Mr. Førde who used the bicycle for transport the mail between Valevåg and Førde in Sveio. Erik died a few years ago, as a farmer near Norway Lake, Minnesota. Mr. Førde had the bicycle put in the museum on Stord Island where it is now.


The bicycle was built by Hans Jacob Olsen in the beginning 1870's
It is is the museum on Stord Island, Norway.


Written by
Tolleif George Thomsen
from "Saga from Western Norway"

Compiled by
Carolyn Thomsen Mutchler


With written permission from Carolyn Thomsen Mutchler

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