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).
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 steets of Tokyo shortly beforehand.
The identity of the inventor 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 Goble), an American missionary to Japan, invented rickshaws around 1869 to transport his invalid wife through the streets of Yokohama. These sources claim the Rickshaw was invented in North Urbana, NY, Near Keuka Lake.
Still others say the rickshaw was designed by an American Baptist minister in 1888. This is probably 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.
We are uncertain who the inventor of the rickshaw is. It was previously alleged that an American blacksmith, Albert Tolman, invented the Rickshaw in the late 1800's. However this is not true. The rickshaw has been used in Japan since before the United States even existed. We know this because the Rickshaw is mentioned in Japanese literature and Japanese art dating around the 1400's, 1500's and 1600's. So, the sad answer is, we don't know. It's another one of the names that have long been lost in history.
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