About the Penny Farthing
The penny-farthing, also known as a high wheel, high wheeler or ordinary, is an early type of bicycle that was popular in the 1870s and 1880s.
The large front wheel provided high speeds and comfort as well as providing greater shock absorption. The name came from the British penny and farthing coins, the penny being much larger than the farthing, so that the side view of the bicycle resembles a larger penny (the front wheel) leading a smaller farthing (the rear wheel). Although the name “penny-farthing” is now the most common, it was probably not used until the machines were nearly outdated; the first recorded print reference is from 1891 in Bicycling News.
For most of their reign, they were simply known as “bicycles”, and were the first machines to be so called even though they were not the first two-wheeled, pedaled vehicles. In the late 1890s, the name “ordinary” began to be used, to distinguish them from the emerging safety bicycles.