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Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Henry Ford's First Car Was Basically a Double Bicycle

Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Early in the morning on June 4, 1896, Henry Ford test-drove his Quadricycle for the first time. It was his first automobile, and he had built it in the shed behind his Detroit home. When he tried to move the Quadricycle out of the building, Ford realized the shed doors weren't wide enough to get the thing out. So he wielded an axe, knocking down a brick wall to enlarge the opening. That gave him room to begin his test drive.

At the time, Ford was Chief Engineer for Edison Illuminating Company, responsible for keeping electrical service running in Detroit. Around the edges of his work schedule, Ford found time to noodle on his Quadricycle. Ford was fascinated by the idea of ethanol-powered engines and lightweight motorized vehicles—this was an era when every car was a one-off, built to individual specifications. He figured that with enough fiddling, he could make a horseless carriage that really worked.

The Quadricycle was essentially a four-wheeled bicycle with an ethanol engine attached to the frame. The engine was a two-cylinder design producing four horsepower, powering the rear wheels. It had two gears: first was about 10mph, second was about 20mph. The whole assembled vehicle weighed 500 pounds. Ford built the engine—the key component—with friends at his kitchen table, based on a design he'd seen in a magazine.

The test drive went well, and the Quadricycle reached 20 miles per hour. It had no brakes, and its steering was awful, but with a compatriot riding ahead in a bicycle to clear the way, things went mostly according to plan. (They stopped by the Edison plant to replace a few parts that came loose.)

The Quadricycle was a success, and led Ford to continue pursuing his interest in gasoline-powered horseless carriages. He would produce the first Ford Model A in 1903.

Here's a snippet of old film showing the Quadricycle in action:

If you'd like a modern perspective on the Quadricycle, check out this Modern Driver test drive.

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Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
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olympics
The POW Olympics of World War II
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism

With the outbreak of World War II prompting a somber and divisive mood across the globe, it seemed impossible civility could be introduced in time for the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan to be held.

So they weren’t. Neither were the 1944 Games, which were scheduled for London. But one Polish Prisoner of War camp was determined to keep the tradition alive. The Woldenberg Olympics were made up entirely of war captives who wanted—and needed—to feel a sense of camaraderie and normalcy in their most desperate hours.

In a 2004 NBC mini-documentary that aired during their broadcast of the Games, it was reported that Polish officers under German control in the Oflag II-C camp wanted to maintain their physical conditioning as a tribute to Polish athlete Janusz Kusocinski. Unlike another Polish POW camp that held unofficial Games under a veil of secrecy in 1940, the guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place. (Perhaps the temptation to impale their captors would have proven too much for the men.)

Music, art, and sculptures were put on display. Detainees were also granted permission to make their own program and even commemorative postage stamps of the event courtesy of the camp’s homegrown “post office.” An Olympic flag was crafted out of spare bed sheets, which the German officers, in a show of contagious sportsman’s spirit, actually saluted.

The hand-made Olympic flag from Woldenberg.

Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

Almost simultaneously, another Polish POW camp in Gross Born (pop: 3000) was holding their own ceremony. Winners received medals made of cardboard. Both were Oflag sites, which were primarily for officers; it’s been speculated the Games were allowed because German forces had respect for prisoners who held military titles.

A gymnastics demonstration in the camp.

The grass-roots Olympics in both camps took place in July and August 1944. By January 1945, prisoners from each were evacuated. An unknown number perished during these “death marches,” but one of the flags remained in the possession of survivor Antoni Grzesik. The Lieutenant donated it to the Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism in 1974, where it joined a flag recovered from the 1940 Games. Both remain there today—symbols of a sporting life that kept hope alive for thousands of men who, for a brief time, could celebrate life instead of lamenting its loss.

Additional Sources: “The Olympic Idea Transcending War [PDF],” Olympic Review, 1996; “The Olympic Movement Remembered in the Polish Prisoner of War Camps in 1944 [PDF],” Journal of Olympic History, Spring 1995; "Olympics Behind Barbed Wire," Journal of Olympic History, March 2014.

 All images courtesy of Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism. 

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Getty Images
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President John Tyler's Grandsons Are Still Alive
Getty Images
Getty Images

Here's the most amazing thing you'll ever read about our 10th president:

John Tyler was born in 1790. He took office in 1841, after William Henry Harrison died. And he has two living grandchildren.

Not great-great-great-grandchildren. Their dad was Tyler’s son.

How is this possible?

The Tyler men have a habit of having kids very late in life. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, one of President Tyler’s 15 kids, was born in 1853. He fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924, and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928.

We placed a somewhat awkward call to the Charles City County History Center in Virginia to check in on the Tylers.

After we shared this fact on Twitter in 2012, Dan Amira interviewed Harrison Tyler for New York Magazine. Lyon Tyler spoke to the Daughters of the American Revolution a while back. They were profiled by The Times of London. And Snopes is also in on the fact.

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