World History 1839

About the history of the world in 1839, the first bicycle is invented, the lost city of the Mayas is discovered.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1839

* At Dumfries, Scotland, blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan invented the first bicycle in order to transport himself about the countryside. It weighed 57 lb., with iron wheels 32 in. in diameter in front and 42 in. in the rear. His feet moved the pedals back and forth to propel the machine. The front of the wood frame was carved with a horse's head.

* John Lloyd Stephens, traveler and archaeologist, and his companion, illustrator Frederick Catherwood, rediscovered the lost cities of the Mayas. Having heard reports of ancient ruins in the jungles of Central America, Stephens had himself appointed charge d'affaires to Central America by Pres. Martin Van Buren. Stephens and Catherwood had narrow escapes as they encountered a native rebellion, stifling heat, swamps, and swarms of mosquitos. Deep in the jungle they found strangely ornamented stone pillars; further on, they discovered stairways, walls, terraces, and pyramids overgrown with vines and a thick blanket of thorny shrubbery. Stephens bought the site from its native owner for $50. Catherwood made detailed sketches of this lost world to accompany a book that Stephens wrote, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, which created an enormous interest in Mayan culture. Yet Stephens and Catherwood did not discover the Mayas, who are mentioned in early accounts of the Spanish explorers. A book by Jean Frederic Waldeck, covering the same material as Stephens's book, had appeared a year before Stephens's trip, but it aroused little interest, possibly because it was not detailed or well illustrated.

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