Now that Season is over, let’s have some fun with Palm Beach’s rich past. Every Tuesday, we’ll test your knowledge of Palm Beach lore and lifestyle. Ready? Begin:
In the late 1800s, Henry Morrison Flagler introduced one- and two-seated wicker “wheelchairs,” powered almost exclusively by workers peddling bicycles attached at the rear. These chairs, called “Palm Beach chariots” or “lazy-backs,” served for years as one of the primary ways for wealthy tourists to get from place to place.
Before the wheelchairs, Flagler had experimented with Japanese rickshaws. They didn’t work so well here on the island. Why not?
- Wealthy patrons did not care to view the sweat-stained backs of the men pulling them.
- They were unstable and tended to topple over.
- When the thin, wooden wheels got mired in the sand, occupants were forced to get out and help push the vehicle free.
- Baby alligators were fond of crawling up into the rickshaws when they were out of service.
Answer: The rickshaws toppled over, apparently with some regularity. Part of the reason? Their drivers tended to be quite lean, and the passengers, well, less so. We’ll turn to area pioneer Mary Majewski Brewer’s writing for an explanation: “They [the rickshaws] didn’t last too long, because they had quite a few accidents with them. Sometimes the passengers were heavier than the man pulling them and over they would go. So after a few lawsuits, Flagler decided that was it!”