The first picture is published on the Old Picture of the Day blog. Its caption leaves no doubt as to what we see: the traffic police fines the irresponsibly racing velocipedist. After all, we do not live in the jungle!
The very same scene was captured on another photo, published on the Vintage Venus blog with the title “Speeding ticket” and with the caption “living dangerously on a velocipede”. Very good. These guys must be taught a lesson.
However, the date of the photos cautions us: 1921. At that time, hardly any velocipede was in public traffic. And our suspicion grows even more when in the photo collection of the Library of Congress we find the following series.
The velocipedist cycling up and down in front of the photographer and the motorcyclist (or motorcyclists, as the one on the third photo seems to be different from the others) following him allow for a variety of options. Part-times are measured for a cyclist preparing for a competition; a burlesque is being shot; advertisement photos are taken which compare the speed of the velocipede not to the race-horse, but to the motorcycle. Has anyone ever heard about the Advance Cycle Garage? The net gives no hits. And does anybody know what kind of uniform is worn by the motorcyclist? The picture is sharp, but the details are blurred. It is easy to make a gag out of an old photo with a good caption, if we read it on the basis of a today’s situation. But if we are curious of what is really happening on the picture, we have to admit that we have lost the key even to the pictures of a century ago. At least we need a detective work to find them again.