The "Kangaroo" dwarf safety bicycle was made by Hillman, Herbert & Cooper, of the Premier Bicycle Co., Coventry, England, between 1884 and 1887. Its significance lies in the fact that it was one of many attempts in the transitional period between the Ordinary or "penny farthing" bicycle and the development of the safety bicycle. Cycling literature refers to the Kangaroo as both a dwarf ordinary and a dwarf safety.
The Kangaroo was a successful attempt to make the ordinary bicycle design more manageable by fitting wheels of a more nearly equal size and, more importantly, incorporating a two-chain drive, albeit of a short length, on the front driving wheel. Consequently, with every revolution of the crank the driving wheel could travel further and faster than an Ordinary bicycle.
The Kangaroo was also safer and easier to mount and dismount than the tall-wheeled ordinary. Contemporary advertisements described the Kangaroo as "Safer than a Tricycle" and "Faster than a Bicycle." The Kangaroo's popularity was increased by the number of record-breaking times and distances it achieved, including the 100 mile record in 1884.
This bicycle is a rare example of the original "Kangaroo" model made by Hillman, Herbert & Cooper, which took the world of cycling by storm in 1884 when it was released. Apparently every manufacturer at the time had a go at building one, but the design was quickly superseded by the rear chain safety bicycle devised by Rover in 1885.
The Hillman, Herbert & Cooper firm used a kangaroo or "Kangar" as its registered trade mark, and its use has nothing to do with Australian manufacturing.
Beeley, Serena. "A History of Bicycles", Wellfleet Books, New Jersey, USA, 1992.
Information supplied by Paul & Charlie Farren
Margaret Simpson, Assistant Curator, Science & Industry, August 2008