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The 1707 painting "Les deux carrosses" by Claude Gillot shows two rickshaw-like carts in a comical scene. These carts, known as vinaigrettes because of their resemblance to the wheel barrows of vinegar makers, were used in the streets of Paris in the 17th and 18th century. (Fresnault-Deruelle, 2005)

Rickshaws first appeared in Japan around 1868, at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration. They soon became a popular mode of transportation, since they were faster than the previously used palanquins (and human labor was considerably cheaper than using horses).

The identity of the inventor (if there was one) remains uncertain. Some sources give the American blacksmith Albert Tolman, who is said to have invented the rickshaw around 1848 in Worcester, Massachusetts for a missionary; others claim that Jonathan Scobie (or W. Goble), an American missionary to Japan, invented rickshaws around 1869 to transport his invalid wife through the streets of Yokohama.

Still others say the rickshaw was designed by an American Baptist minister in 1888. This is undoubtedly incorrect, for an 1877 article by a The New York Times correspondent in Tokyo stated that the "jin-riki-sha, or man-power carriage" was in current popular use, and was probably invented by an American in 1869 or 1870.

A rumour currently circulating in the United Kingdom credits Richard Shaw, an unemployed taxi driver from Birmingham, as the inventor of the rickshaw. However, given that the rickshaw was in existence long before taxis were invented, this is highly unlikely.

Japanese sources often credit Izumi Yosuke, Suzuki Tokujiro, and Takayama Kosuke, who are said to have invented rickshaws in 1868, inspired by the horse carriages that had been introduced to the streets of Tokyo shortly before. Starting in 1870, the Tokyo government issued a permission to build and sell rickshaws to these three men; the seal of one of these inventors was also required on every license to operate a rickshaw.

By 1872, some 40,000 rickshaws were operating in Tokyo; they soon became the chief form of public transportation in Japan. (Powerhouse Museum, 2005; The Jinrikisha story, 1996)

Around 1880, rickshaws appeared in India, first in Simla and then, 20 years later, in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Here they were initially used by Chinese traders to transport goods; in 1914 the Chinese applied for permission to use rickshaws to transport passengers. Soon after, rickshaws appeared in many big cities in Southeast Asia; pulling a rickshaw was often the first job for peasants migrating to these cities.

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Additional Photos by Assi Dvilanski (asival) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 293 W: 109 N: 750] (5307)
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