|1911 Western Union messenger boy, Norfolk, Virginia Photo credit: Library of Congress Collection|
When I think of bike messengers, I picture the craze of the 1980s in New York City. Riders needed simple lightweight machines, which led to the popular single speed/fixie rage. While this is all good, it's not where delivery by bike got its origins. For that you need to go back to the 1890s when all the world—okay, maybe just the United States and France—was a flutter for two wheels.
Western Union delivery boys began zipping around New York City. It caught on in other regions of the U.S. also. My favorite image is of a boy in 1913 (rights owned.)
In 1920s Paris, delivery boys plied the streets in hordes, hauling newspapers on front racks, thus the origin of the porteur rack. They also made good criterium racers and enjoyed massive popular support for 50 years.
In the world of cycling it goes to show you that everything cycles (pardon the pun) back around. Thank goodness.