The Chicago Brothers Who Invented a 4-Person Bicycle, Complete With Sewing Machine

Brothers Charles, Joseph, Maurice, and David Steinlauf became interested in bike building upon arriving in Chicago in the late 20th century. One day in 1939, the family showed off some of their most eccentric creations for photographers perched on Lake Shore Drive. Maurice rode a bike whose front was connected to the back only through springs. There were a couple of tall bikes of varying heights, and Charles had a bike made out of a brass headboard. Perhaps the most elaborate of their creations was the “sewing machine bicycle” created by Charles. The seed of its creation was planted when his wife Lee sent the sewing machine to his garage to be fixed. “That’s the last I saw of it, until one day Charles told me he had put wheels on it,” said Lee. Carrying 4 people and a sewing machine, the world’s weirdest bicycle was displayed at the 1933 World’s Fair. The 2-story bicycle — known as the “Goofybike” — had Charles on the main seat at the top, guiding the contraption by means of an automobile steering wheel. Lee sat below, operating the sewing machine, while her son pedaled behind her and her daughter rode on the handlebars in front. When the odd vehicle was at rest, the projecting legs of the sewing machine prevented the lofty bicycle from toppling over. The brothers went on to get into the automobile tire business, but Charles said half the joy of their creations was showing them off.