Kick scooters – a flat board on wheels with a long handle at the front, propelled by foot – have been made for at least 100 years as toys for children. Florence’s Autoped was one of the first examples of motorised kick scooters. Like a child’s scooter, it had no seat.
Manufactured in New York and Germany by Krupps, the U.S. postal service tested the Autoped as a means of fast transport for its special delivery service. The foldable scooter was also reportedly used as a quick getaway machine by New York gangs, racing down narrow alleys beyond the reach of police cars.
Other manufacturers followed: ABC Motorcycles produced the Skootamota, which had a top speed of 15 mph (24 km/h), and The Gloster Aircraft Company introduced the Reynolds Runabout in 1919, followed by the Unibus in 1920. The Unibus was promoted as the “car on two wheels.”
c. 1916 Lady Norman on her scooter. Image: Paul Thompson/FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images
c. 1915 Four special delivery postmen for the US Postal Service try out new scooters. Image: Underwood Archives/Getty Images
c. 1938 American actors Humphrey Bogart (1899 – 1957) and Allen Jenkins (1900 – 1974) are stopped for speeding on their scooters by a security guard at the Warner Bros. Image: Archive Photos/Getty Images
c. 1925 Folding scooter, Berlin, Germany. Image: Roger Viollet/Getty Images
1935 “Built for use around the airports, this electric scooter attracted the attention of Amelia Earhart Putnam, famous aviatrix, and her pupil, June Travis, Warners player, the day Miss Earhart gave June her first flying lesson. Here are the pair about to go off on a scoot, at a twelve-mile clip.” Image: Bettmann/CORBIS
c. 1937 Hollywood actress Eleanore Whitney gets a push from actor Robert Cummins (1908-1990) on the Motorglyde motorised scooter. Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
1937 “Oakland, California – Traffic officer Leo Brandt seems to have his hands full in handing out tickets to this bevy of gals, who were picked up for speeding along on their animated kiddy cars. The scooters constitute the latest traffic menace to the West Coast region. The two recipients of the billets doux are Dorothy Armstrong, left foreground, and Peggy Marx.” Image: Bettmann/CORBIS
1938 In Germany a young man refuels his scooter with a funnel. Image: Heinz Fremke/ullstein bild via Getty Images
1919 A folded Rouline scooter, Paris. Image: Boyer/Roger Viollet/Getty Images
c. 1920 A man driving one of the first models of scooters. Image: Alfred Gross/ullstein bild via Getty Images
June 1919 Crowds gather around a two wheeler motor scooter. Image: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
c. 1921 Woman on a scooter at Le Touquet, France. Image: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
1937 Two women riding motor scooters. Image: Keystone/Corbis