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Historical photos

After introducing bicycle as a means of transportation (in late 19th century), it became common for groups and individuals to take photos with bicycles, both indoors and outdoors in Estonia. According to several preserved photos, this custom was particularly widespread in the first decades of the 20th century. Most of the more detailed and high-quality bicycle photos originate from the 1910s-20s, some of the oldest even date back to the late 19th or early 20th century (although bicycles were less common back then).

Bicycles were rather expensive in Estonia (the price of a bicycle was equal to worker’s annual wages in the 1910s), and therefore not all the bicycles seen on the indoor and studio shots actually belonged to the people depicted on the photographs. Such bicycles were usually the property of the photo studio; they were props like any other decoration of that period (boat models, car models, pedestals, etc.). Thus, it was common that the same bicycle featured on pictures of different people.

However, in case of outdoor and/or group photos, people usually posed with their own bicycles.

For that reason there are many rather detailed and high quality photos of bicycles from the 1910s-20s, which often allow identification of the make of the bicycle as well as its structural and design features. The latter is of great importance when restoring old bicycles that are in poor condition.

In the 1930s (especially at the end of the decade), bicycles became in Estonia remarkably less expensive and much more commonly available. Due to that, there were significantly less portraits taken with a bicycle. Most bicycle pictures from that period are either group or event pictures (where bicycle still functioned as a prop) or pictures of group outings. Such group outings were rather popular at that time and smaller dimensions and increased mobility of the photography equipment allowed taking pictures in locations that were inaccessible in the 1910s and 1920s. Therefore, the bicycles on the photos taken in the 1930s are in wide shot, which makes it impossible to see their minor details. However, even such photos may be helpful when restoring the original appearance of an old bicycle.

Pictures with bicycles became even less common in Estonia after WWII (1940s-80s). It was partially due to hard times of the post-war period (lack of photo supplies, etc.), and partially to the fact that by then, bicycle had become a common everyday item accessible to many people and thus not worthy of posing with. In addition, the quality of photos taken during post-war (Soviet) decades was inferior to the quality of those taken before war. One remarkable exception is pictures of children (with kid’s bicycles). However, plenty of pictures have also preserved from that period in Estonia.