For an African American, it was a challenge to patent an invention, especially in the late 1800s.  However, Isaac R. Johnson succeeded in this challenge when he patent the bicycle frame on October 10, 1899.[1]

Isaac R. Johnson was born in New York sometime during 1812.  While he was not the first person to invent the bicycle frame, he was the first African American to invent and patent the bicycle frame, especially a frame which could be folded or taken apart for easy storage.

In fact, Isaac Johnson’s version of the bicycle frame is similar to the version we ride today as the bicycles we use today have the same pattern, they just do not fold up.  Johnson’s version was a frame which could be folded and stored in small places, it was often used while traveling and on vacation.[2]

Isaac R. Johnson originally filed for the patent in April of 1899 and it was given the publication number: US634823 A. The only information we really have about Isaac R. Johnson is from the information he filled out when he filed his patent.

Through this paperwork, we know that he lived in Manhattan, New York.  The paperwork also states that this bicycle frame is an improved version from any previous bicycle frames due to its ability to be taken apart and placed in a truck or other small storage area.

The bicycle also came with instructions, which would describe each piece of the bicycle frame, such as figure 1 was a side elevation of a bicycle of vehicle and figure 2 was the sectional side elevation of figure 1.[3]

The patent paper further illustrates why this bicycle frame is different from previous ones and why Isaac R. Johnson was applying for a patent for his invention.  Some of these reasons are: “A steering-head section and a frame having a slot-and-stud connection for detachably uniting” and “A bicycle-frame having a front and rear sheath or tube-section, and a steering-post sleeve and seat-post tube to which the sheaths are removably connected.”[4]

[1]Who is Isaac R. Johnson, the inventor of the bicycle frame?” Reference. Accessed November 13, 2017. 

[2]Black history spotlight for Oct. 10: Isaac R. Johnson.” North Dallas Gazette. October 08, 2012. Accessed November 13, 2017. 

[3]Patent US634823 – Bicycle-frame.” Google Patents. Accessed November 13, 2017. 

[4] Ibid.

PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.

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