The Littorina Autarchica, a remedy for “iron deficiency”

The Littorina Autarchica was a wood and aluminum bicycle made by Turin’s Officine Vianzone in the 1930s.

The stem, pedals, hubs, lugs, and breaks were aluminum, while everything else was made with the wood of beech and olive trees: frame, rims, handlebars and mudguard.

The model’s name, “Autarchica”, celebrated the economic self-sufficiency policy sought by the fascist regime in Italy after 1934. Through autarky, Mussolini’s government hoped to produce all consumer goods within national borders and to almost completely eliminate trade with other countries.

In truth, the Autarchica was daughter to the sanctions imposed by the League of Nations for the attack on Ethiopia in 1935, which included a ban on importing materials that could be used for the war effort: thus a wooden bike was born, in a time when iron had become a scarce resource.

Unfortunately, very few examples of this extraordinary remedy for “iron deficiency” – in two models, for men and for women – still exist.

December 16, 2013