Clear Lake Museum features rare WWII electric tricycle

CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) — The Kinney Pioneer Museum recently received a rare piece of World War II memorabilia.

The museum received a custom 1942 electric tricycle, built by Henry Peterson, who designed and built the tricycle to help beat rationed gas during World War II, when families were only given two gallons of gas a week.

The tricycle, which was restored by Henry’s son Bob Peterson of Cedar Falls in 2005, uses a 1912 Dodge generator and custom cross shaft drive with differential gears, and has achieved speeds of up to at 19 miles per hour.

The Mason City Globe Gazette reports that the tricycle was used from 1942 to 1945, taking Peterson a mile and a half to and from work each day.


After the war, Henry took the tricycle apart and put it on top of the garage. Shortly after, a young Bob Peterson took this tricycle apart and put it back together with a gas engine on it. He said he rode this trike all summer, leaving rear-drive trikes in the dust.

When Bob arrived at college, the elder Peterson dismantled the tricycle and hid it, where it remained for 60 years. Bob never expected to see him again, but after his parents died in 2005, he passed by the estate.

The very last place he cleaned was a crawl space in the basement.

“I looked and I saw the back frame. Then I saw the drive, then the generator. And I said, ‘I’m going to restore it.’ Bob restored the tricycle and found the original manual battery charger sitting on a shelf in the garage, unmoved in over 60 years.

The tricycle has made several publications over the years. Globe Gazette published an article about its restoration in 2005, and the national magazine Popular Science included the trike in a 1945 publication.

More than 15 years after its restoration, Bob brought the tricycle from Cedar Falls to the Kinney Pioneer Museum, where it took its final ride. Henry Peterson had been an active member of the museum’s board, making the stained glass window near where his tricycle is.

“The bike belongs here,” Bob said, when asked if the trike donation was a bittersweet moment. “I told Kay, the manager, that if my dad was here today he would have a bigger smile on my face than me. He would have even more fun than us.

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