James Starley (1831-1881) was an inventor and manufacturer who is widely considered to be the father of the bicycle industry. His inventions and refinements made the bicycle practical for widespread use. Starley also contributed to the improvement of the sewing machine.
James Starley was born April 21, 1831, into an agricultural family. His father, Daniel Starley, was a farmer in Albourne, Sussex, England. When he was nine years old, Starley began working on the family farm, but, dissatisfied with farming, he set off on foot for London in 1846. There, he found work as a gardener and put his spare time to use cranking out inventions, including the adjustable candlestick, a one-stringed window blind, and a mechanical bassinet. He married Jane Todd on September 22, 1853, and had three sons, James, John Marshall, and William.
Sewing Machine Advances and Bicycle Prototypes
In 1868 Starley saw his first bicycle, a French velocipede. Bicycles had been around since 1818, but the earliest two-wheeled, rider-propelled machines were rudimentary, requiring the rider to use his own feet to move the wooden monster along.
Bike Advances and the Masterpiece Improving further on his initial designs, Starley invented the Ariel bicycle. After leaving the Coventry Machinists' Company in 1870, he went into business for himself and began producing his Europa sewing machines and Ariel bicycles. Historians consider the Ariel, a lightweight all-metal bicycle first sold in 1871, to be the first true bicycle.