Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1868
The aristocratic denizens of Michigan and Wabash avenues are just now experiencing quite a sensation, produced by the advent of one of the famous Paris velocipedes. This fashionable means of locomotion, upon which the Parisians, over enthusiastic over novelties, have liberally expended money and muscle, promises to receive much attention in this country. Already universal curiosity to see and use the vehicle is expressed by the Chicagoan, and it may be prophesied that shortly “Shank’s mare” will become totally extinct as a locomotive power. This sample of the favorite French vehicle was recently imported by Mr. Augustus Wheeler, who resides at No. 932 Indiana avenue, and has been on exhibition at the Health Lift rooms, on Dearborn street, near Madison, for a few days past. It must be acknowledged as a valuable and wonderful invention, indicative of the rapid advance of science.
It has gained the favor of the Parisians, who are ecstatic in their commendation of it. But a few years ago the velocipede was used only as a plaything for children, but its merits and capabilities have gradually been seen and understood, until now it has in its improved form become quite general in use. The one in the possession of Mr. Wheeler can be witnessed almost every day on the avenues, speeding along at a rate almost rivaling Dexter’s latest time.
It consists of two large wheels lightly constructed, a steering wheel in front and in its line behind another of equal size. It must be kept in an upright position while in motion by the skill of the rider, who, naturally, at his first attempt in managing it, meets with little encouragement. The power for propulsion is applied by the feet, which are placed upon a treadle attached to the hub of the front wheel. A bifurcated arrangement, constructed of iron or steel, extends from the hub as high as the breast of the rider, seated between the two wheels, who guides the vehicle by a lever worked by the hands. To acquire proficiency in riding much time, care and patience must needs be expended, but the art once learned is as fascinating and beautiful even as skating.
The seat can easily be adapted to the use of ladies by the construction of a seat after the style of a side-saddle. It is said that by a rider of mediocre experience some fifteen miles an hour can easily be attained without the slightest danger of capsizing should care be exercised.
In scientific circles it is verily the sensation of the day the acquisition promising to make services inroads upon the customary modes of traveling in the city. Much is expected of it, and that it will become general in use throughout the Western States is certain. Its adoption in apposition to hacks, buggies, street cars and like vehicles, for the transportation of the human species, will bring about an epoch in the history of science, which will crush those monopolies of the day and give to the people healthful and invigorating exercise.
Inter Ocean, November 7, 1872
Chicago Evening Mail, November 12, 1872
Originally published in the New York Times.
THE BYCICLE (sic).
Why It Is a Failure—Why It Is of No Value in the Absence of Horses.
The utter failure of the velocipede as a substitute for the saddle-horse is just now emphasized by the fact that, in the present dearth of horses, no one has alluded to the velocipede as a possible solution of the problem how the business man is to reac his office, in case the cars and stages should cease running. It is true that a gleam of hope has illumined the sadness of those injudicious persons who, four years ago, built or bought hundreds of velocipedes, which they have never been able to sell. They have now exhumed a few of these machines from the cellar and garret, and placed them in show windows with seductively low prices affixed to them. Still, nobody buys them, and it is safe to say that nobody will, so long as the cause which originally prevented the velocipede from attaining popularity among us still remains.
The failure of the velocipede was not due, as many suppose, to any defect in me machine. It could easily be managed in streets not excessively crowded with vehicles, and though some goad we effort was required to set it in motion, it could be with comparatively little exertion. Of course, more strength was needed to make a single revolution of the driving wheel than is exerted by pedestrians in making a single step, but since one turn of the driving wheel propelled the velocipede nearly three yards, while the pedestrian gained but about 20 inches in a single step, it is probable that the rider of the velocipede traveled over a given distance with less effort than the pedestrian.
The real cause of the failure of the velocipede was the tyranny of the small boy. This shameless and exasperating mouthpiece of crude and unreasoning public opinion, crushed out the velocipede and drove its patrons into the obscurity of back yards and private piazzas. Whenever a man presented himself on the street, mounted upon his bicycle, the small boy, multiplying himself in the appalling manner which is his habit on occasions when his presence is particularly undesirable, surrounded him like a poisonous cloud. Shut out from the sight of his fellow men by the crowding and clamorous foe, the velocipede rider was exposed, unaided, to the jeers and insulting comments of his tormentors. His style of riding was ridiculed; his dress, and especially his boots, were openly disparaged, and contemptuous were loudly laid upon his probable mental condition. The bravest rider qualled before this ordeal. No man would consent to ride even the finest Arabian horse in existence were he to be surrounded with hundreds of shrill-voiced enemies, shouting, He can’t ride!” “Hi! Look at his boots once!” and betting peanuts in support of the proposition, “He’s afraid of falling; see how pale he is.” Much less would any man brave such a trial in behalf of the possible pleasures of bicycle riding. The small boy banished the bicycle so thoroughly that no one now dares even to mention the machine that called forth such universal juvenile reprobation. It is only by force of numbers that the small boy can be overcome. Had the riders of bicycles gone forth in companies of fifty or a hundred, they would have mutually encouraged one another, and thus defied the sneers of the small boy until the velocipede had lost for him its novelty, and consequently its interest. Had this plan been adopted, we should now find the bicycle a general favorite, and we should look to it as a possible means of temporarily supplying the dearth of ordinary means of convenience.
James Starley, the Father of the Bicycle.
April 21, 1830 – June 17, 1881
Pall Mall Gazette (London), June 23, 1881
An abridged version of this article appeared in Chicago’s Inter Ocean on July 7, 1881
A Modern Inventor.
A very remarkable career has just closed. Mr. James Starley, the inventor of the modern bicycle and tricycle, has this week been laid in his last resting-place in the Coventry cemetery, His career, which has bean cut short at a comparatively early age, was a striking illustration of the strength with which inborn talents assert themselves. Born about fifty years ago in the village of Albourne, Sussex, the son of a poor farmer, he received but little education, and at the age of nine was put to agricultural labour.
In 1846 or 1847, while still a lad, he left home to seek his fortune in London, and, after some changes and vicissitudes, he finally settled in Lewisham, Kent, where he married. For some years he followed the occupation of gardener, and in that capacity was employed by the late Mr. Penn, the proprietor of large machine works at Greenwich. He probably found his way into Mr. Penn’s factory, if he did not gain occupation there, for it was at this time that his mechanical genius first showed itself by the invention of an adjustable candlestick, the one stringed window-blind, and the magic bassinette, which will probably be remembered by anxious mothers of that date as warranted (per advertisements of the period) to soothe and lull the most tiresome of infants.
About 1855 he found congenial occupation in improving the Newton-Wilson sewing machine, and in a few years afterwards he settled in Coventry, bringing with him a newly invented machine of the same description called “The European.” The collapse of the Coventry ribbon trade in 1860 and the social distress by which it was accompanied led to the introduction of new industries into the city. Among the earliest of these was the Coventry Machinists’ Company, of which Mr Starley was appointed foreman.
His active mind was ever bent on inventions and improvements on inventions, and during this period he produced many varieties of sewing machines, some of which are in the market under names which he himself could not have recognized. Twelve years ago he began a study which was to prove a turning-point in his life, and which constitutes his chief title to remembrance.
A French bicycle was brought under the notice of the Coventry Machinists’ Company, who took up the manufacture of it for a Paris firm. The “bone-shaker” is a machine which the rider of to-day would more than disdain; it bears the same relation to the modern bicycle as a carthorse does to the winner of the Derby. But the rude contrivance contained an idea which fell upon a fruitful soil. Mr. Starley first improved it, and then he improved it out of existence, by inventing a machine of an entirely novel construction.
He first gave to the world the “spider wheel,” which has wrought a complete revolution in the wheel world, and which marks the commencement of the present era of ‘cycles. The first of the new style of machines was “the spring and step machines, or the Coventry model.” The superiority of this machine was self-evident, the old coach-like wooden wheels being superseded by wire spokes and shaped rim and india-rubber tyres, a curved spring, and a small hind wheel near to the driving wheel.
The Ariel (1870), invented and patented by James Starley and the diamond-framed Safety bicycle (1884) by his nephew John Kemp Starley. The high-wheel bicycle was nicknamed the “Penny-farthing,” because the ratios of the wheel size were comparable to that of British coins. After the “Safety” style was introduced, Penny-farthing was referred to as the “Ordinary.”
The “Ariel,” a light and graceful machine that fully justified its name, afterwards followed, and embodied the important improvement of pivot-centre steering. Starley’s next triumphs were the “Europa” sewing machine and the “Tangent” bicycle, by which greater strength was obtained in the wheel. Regarding the bicycle as practically perfected, he now began the study of the tricycle, the machines of this name hitherto in use not being particularly remarkable for lightness or beauty. The “Coventry” tricycle was the first fruit of this application; in due time came the “Salvo-Quadri-cycle,” which Mr. Starley regarded as his magnum opus. He improved the ” Salvo,” till he considered it as nearly perfect, and the principle of its construction is regarded by experienced judges as not likely to be superseded.
Early this year, the Queen having ordered one of these machines for the Princesses, it was taken to Osborne by the inventor himself. At this time he was suffering from a hopeless disease, although the malady had not developed so as greatly to impair his power, or at least his desire to work,
Mr. Starley patented a number of his inventions; but he had little commercial keenness, and, speaking broadly, his inventive genius was freely given to the world. He has left behind him no fortune, though latterly he was feeling his way to a competency. Mr. Starley was a man of great simplicity of character, free from every taint of self-assertion or arrogance.
Chicago Tribune, January 9, 1879
Reprinted from the Boston Advertiser
THE WINGED HEEL
Some Interesting Facts and Reflections Relating to Bicycle Navigation.
Mounted on his fifty-two inch wheel, with the wind humming in the spokes, and the mile-stones fitting behind him, the bicyclist appropriates the esthetic meaning ot the “winged heel” with which the ancients endowed the messenger of the gods. The prophetic myth of the wise and athletic Greeks has become a modern reality. To get over the ground and through the water in the quickest manner is the goal for which ardent spirits in all ages have put forth their best endeavors. The bicycle ranks among those gifts of science to man, by which he is enabled to supplement his own puny powers with the exhaustless forces around him. He sits in the saddle, and all Nature is but a four-footed beast to do his bidding. Why should he go a-foot, when he can ride a mustang of steel, who knows his rider and never needs a lasso?
This is no boy’s plaything. There are plenty of men, and their numbers are increasing, who prefer it on some accounts to a horse or a yacht. It is the only way by which you can run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. Bicycling is walking with scientific economy of expended energy. It is an extension of the person, an enlargement of the bodily functions in the direction of locomotion. It seems difficult to the uninitiated to keep one’s balance on a vertical wheel, but the mechanical principle, or knack of the thing, is as easily acquired as skating, and much easier than to balance a load on the head. The erect posture of the human frame, sustaining and maintaining a lengthened column of bones on the foot, is a mechanical marvel, but it comes by practice. The exhilaration of bicycling must be felt to be appreciated. With the wind singing in your ears, and the mind as well as body in a higher plane, there is an ecstasy of triumph over inertia, gravitation, and the other lazy ties that bind us. You are traveling! not being traveled.
You look upon horse machines with contempt, and even your old acquaintance, the pedestrian, with pity. The saddle, firm as a pillar, bears up your 170 pounds dead weight, which in waking you have to raise up and lower with every step. Your body is at rest; the legs are in motion, and your walking stroke geared up to a wheel thirteen feet in circumference, shod with rubber. You sit and glide with scarcely a perceptible jar, but the towns and villages dwindle as you pass through them. The birds that cleave the air have a like motion with yourself. By moonlight on a bard road the enjoyment of yourself as a centaur is intense. To see a close-knit, sun-browned fellow in fitting costume, shouting down a long hill with perfect composure, dispensing with hands, or feet, or both, at a pace exceeding that of a race-horse, is fearful, but it is pretty. Experts go up hill or down a long hill with acquired ease, and in single rute for miles at the sides of country roads; but the better the road the better the ride, which is equally true of all other vehicles. All modes of transit along the highways of travel, ox-power, horse-power, steam-power, electric, or any other motor, pedestrianism and pedalism, have each their hour and right of way for the time being, according to law.
Though there are difficulties to be overcome, we claim that any one of ordinary patience and pluck can learn to ride a bicycle satisfactorily. The feat is somewhat gyroscopic and less than it looks to be. Once learned, it is an elegant and healthful accomplishment, worth all the time and money it costs. “Good-by sick list! is the hail of a good bicyclist as he leaps into the saddle fora ten-or twenty-mile run. The bicycle is not intended to be a “common carrier,” but it will carry a man with some light baggage and give him the equivalent of a pair of legs ten feet long. There is no sensation in the saddle of being balanced on a knife-edge. This feeling is an element of danger in itself, and must be overcome. As to safety in general, the bicycle being a machine is safer than a horse, for the latter has a will of his own to be consulted and controlled. Bicycling is an institution, having already developed the elements of permanency. It takes with the “sana mens in corpore sano,” and none but those who have outlived or forgotten their youth will call it in question. The mechanical principles are good, as far as they go, and each new improvement (there is plenty of room yet) gives it a firmer hold with the athletic. Every boy in the coming generation should be trained to it, commencing with the velocipede at an early age. Get a good machine by all means; and, if you can afford it, indulge in the luxury of a first-class article; one that you can ride with the loose rein of confidence. throwing your entire muscle into a level spurt or a step ascent, with no nervous apprehension of a badly-made screw, or a loose rubber, or subsequent repairs. The preference given to a “hand-sewed” shoe applies to bicycles, especially while important portions require to be forged. Each part should be perfectly fitted to the other, and to no other, the grouping of the whole constituting a precious individuality which is not to be found in “books.” Clothespins can be turned out by the thousand, but telescopes, electric clockwork, and bicycles are the product of a high range of art. Indeed, the bicycle may be considerable as the outcrop of the age, the necessity for rapid transit having given birth to the invention. With full faith in the progress of thugs, we look beyond this machine of to-day, and see private carriages to and fro on our best roads, impelled by small petroleum engines of light horse-power. This is a favorite subject with some of our advanced mechanicians, and by them considered so feasible as to be almost a reality. When the first machine comes along, and it will come in due time, it will be another winged heel. We give it in advance a hearty welcome.
The Daily Telegraph, July 18, 1880
There is a violent prejudice against the bicycle. It is regarded by some as a nuisance, by others as the “Devil’s own invention,” and by all as a horrible innovation.
We take issue with this public sentiment, and assert without fear of successful contradiction, that the bicycle is an incubator of good morals and has hatched out better results than can be attributed to an equal amount of buggy-riding. No scandals are connected with tye bicycle, no suspicions attend its midnight uses. It has no cover to it like a top buggy, and no one presumes to charge the driver with taking a passenger on board surreptitiously. The bicyclist has all he can attend to without taking toll under covered bridges. Girls generally, are down on “the pesky thing.” It makes them hopping mad mad to foot it alone to school as the big boys glide gracefully by on two wheels. If this custom obtains they will certainly insist upon a dress reform that will enable them, if not outstrip, to at least catch up with the bicycle chaps.
No temperance advocate should denounce this ostracized vehicle. It is better than a Murphy movement. As a conveyance it will not tolerate mixed drinks. In former times the old family nag could be relied upon to tote a fellow home—no matter how much so—ever he might be elated, not so with the incorrigible bicycle. It wous just flop him in the mud, and no amount of tall kicking it in the side would compel it to stir. So all topers as well as girls, are down on bicycles. But if you would unearth its greatest enemy, look uop an average hackman. They have no confidence in brain power. They maintain that a vehicle drawn by horses is safer than a conveyance propelled by a man. They preach the doctrine to the City Council, who, like themselves, have great faith in horse sense. To manifest their faith vy their works, they prohibited the use of vehicle on Michigan avenue and the boulevards. These smooth ways are reserved for gouty men in cushioned carriages. Here is a fit occasion for a riot—wheelbarrows, go-carts, street cars and locomotives. have guaranteed rights not awarded to the bicycle. But fear not; there will be no bloodshed. The wheel-behind-the-wheel will prove a reformer. It will foster a race of strong men who will not always be crowded in the gutters and compelled to travel on back streets. Being a new thing, the bicycle must have its day of ridicule, of persecution, and of martyrs. When the world slow, the iron horse bade the people mount. They did. Kings loitered with their leveried coachmen and were left. So again, a thing of health, of economy, of grace, and of speed glides by the gout-producing conveyance of old paralytic aristocracy. He shakes with anger his crutch as the receding for, and demands of his dazed jockey;: “What is that?” The tardy reply is: “It is young Enterprise on a bicycle.”
The Bicycling World, December 10, 1880
The glorious months of autumn, with its hard, smooth roads and bracing atmosphere, are drawing to a close, and with them ends the first fiscal year of organized bicycling in Chicago. Perhaps our experience may be of some interest to our brethren of the wheel, and I will briefly review what we have done to advance the useful and noble sport in this city.
In October, 1879, we gathered together a band of a little over a half-dozen riders, all enthusiastic devotees of the steel horse, and entered into a union for mutual aid, comfort, and protection. This was made necessary on account of the hostile spirit which was being displayed toward the bicycle, and rendered an organized effort on our part necessary to protect our own interests. When the first bicycle was introduced in Chicago, over two years ago, it was regarded with much curiosity by everybody, but its numbers seemed to increase very slowly. One year more found about half a dozen of the machines in constant use about the city, and everybody’s attention was directed toward them with considerable interest. As is usual with every shining mark, it began to be assailed by those whose interests were thought to be in some manner endangered, and the first check placed upon our freedom was a refusal of admittance to Lincoln Park. This was caused by a wooden machine, in the hands of a reckless boy, scaring a horse. By this time a great many of the wooden machines were abroad in the streets, ” raising Cain ” generally ; and, although our skirts .were clear of any charge of scaring animals and running down baby-carriages and women, still, like Old Dog ‘ Tray, we were in bad company,— at least the people who did not know the difference between the two classed us as one, and we had to share the odium. The south parks and magnificent boulevards were next wrested from us, and we began now to feel that something serious was in store for us. This was rapidly followed in December by an effort on the part of the livery- stable keepers of the city to prevail upon the council to pass an ordinance prohibiting our use of the streets. The matter was referred to the city attorney, and he gave it as his opinion that this was in effect unconstitutional, and therefore we escaped this dire calamity. In order to ascertain just what our rights were in this world, and to know whether we really were intruders, seeing that everybody called us such, we had recourse to a legal opinion in regard to the matter, and were much cheered at the decision of one of our most eminent law firms to the effect that we had a right to the parkways and boulevards, highways and streets, just the same as other vehicles, and that our actions and conduct upon the road were subject to the same laws as governed the motions of carriages. This opinion was published in the World of 24 July Upon this platform we proceeded to act and to regain our lost ground in the parks, but without success. We were on the point of getting a favorable decision from the board, when a small wooden tricycle on the sidewalk of the grand boulevard frightened the horse of a lady, and that was the last of us. An order was immediately drawn up even more stringent than before, forbidding us to even show our shadow upon the pavement. As some of us lived upon the drives, it behooved us to sneak up a side street and alley, and get our machines into the house in the best vjay possible under the circumstances. Still our numbers increased. In the spring we had a dozen members or more, with an occasional “unattached.” The grand six days’ tournament participated in by Keen, Terront, Cann, and Stanton, in the fall, had sowed the seed; and while, for a time, it fell on barren ground, and proved a financial disaster to the sowers, yet its effect was not lost. It set people to thinking, and when they think they generally investigate, and if they see a good thing they usually buy. But they were slow to see a good thing, considering the attitude of the city government, and the then horrible condition of most of our streets. In the latter respect we have improved wonderfully this summer. In fact, the western division of the city has been almost generally rejuvenated, and broad avenues of smooth cedar block and glistening macadam are springing into line with great rapidity. A grand boulevard system of thirty-five miles surrounding the city only lacks a short stretch of being completed, and when that is done Jericho will be outdone in being encompassed about. The spring and summer, with their jolly social runs, found us prospering and increasing. Fourth of July was celebrated with a grand run from Milwaukee through the beautiful hills and lakes of Waukesha County, lasting three days, in which we were joined by representatives from other cities, and communication and exchange of views with our neighbors served to infuse new enthusiasm into our ranks. Late in the summer another club, the Ariel Bi. C. was organized, with a dozen members, which is constantly receiving additions, and with our membership of nearly twenty, besides the numerous “unattached,” we were beginning to assume quite an importance. The Park Commissioners have granted us permission to ride upon the boulevards whenever -we desire to have a ” club run,” and we have generally presumed upon this privilege to ride thereon at all hours after sunset. I trust the future is not far when everything will be again open to us.
Last week we celebrated our final run of the season. Our neighbors were called in to help us have a good time ; and although the weather proved somewhat unfavorable, with high wind and gusts of snow, still the hard, calendered roads, and a permission to run the boulevards, were irresistible to a goodly few, a round “baker’s dozen,” and off we started for South Chicago before the smacking breeze. As we always do, we had a glorious good time, and the afternoon’s run of twenty-eight miles over perfection itself in the way of bottom was voted, as usual, ” the best and most enjoyable one yet.”
For this winter’s sport we have secured the Exposition Building, with a magnificent gallery of about four laps to the mile, and we propose to do noble work in the way of speed before spring. The captain of our club has already reduced time down to a mile in 2.55 on a common country race-course, with a machine two sizes too small, and with a bicycling experience of only six months. The world will yet hear of us!—Steno, Chicago, November 20, 1880
The Bicycling World, May 13, 1881
Although Boston may be said to be the central point of the interest in bicycle riding, as it is the birthplace of the sport in this country, and contains more riders than any other city, it has by no means a monopoly; and before many years it will doubtless find itself at the periphery instead of on the hub of the wheel, so rapidly does the bicycle push to the front in the Western cities. Already a club in Milwaukee claims the largest club representation in the League, and Chicago, Detroit, and other more easterly cities are strong competitors in the friendly rivalry.
Chicago Tribune, September 7, 1884.
Within the last few years the bicycle has come into prominence as a means of locomotion. It has not been utilized for business purposes, at least in the United States, and is ridden here more for health or pleasure. In England the “bike” is much used for business purposes, and it is said that in some parts of the Kingdom families have sold their horses and carriages and now go to church, to market, to the bank, etc., upon the horse that eats no oats and is not subject to glanders. It is not so long ago when the passage of a bicycle along a public street would cause people to turn about and gaze after it, when a horse at sight of the bicycle and rider would stand upon its hind legs and paw the air, or split the atmosphere in a vain attempt to leave behind the memory of that frightful apparition. But now, when the swift, noiseless wheel hums by the gaze of languid curiosity is directed to the bicyclist more to learn whether his horse are green, red, or striped than anything else. The staid, old carriage-horse merely twitches one ear and winks an eye, as if to say:
- You can go faster than I can, but your bones will never be fit for oleomargarine.
The late idler in the park in paths sacred to pedestrians will have the breadth taken away by the flash of nickel-plated wheels controlled by a young man in short clothes, and making no more noise than the passage of a bat or a night-hawk. Should you drive out on the boulevards never so far you will find the bicyclist. He enjoys the fun of passing your crack trotter; he saucily dodges in and out on the crowd of equipages. On country roads you will find him; his presence is discovered in the grass-grown lane. A year or two ago, when the bicycle was new, it was as much as the rider’s life was worth to venture upon the rural roads. The matron driving old Dobbin to the market town would be terrified nearly unto death at the sudden apparition of “one of them velocipede fellers.” As he approached and Dobbin’s ears pointed forward she would stop and begin to pull on the reins. The docile old horse would begin to back, in obedience bred, and this would be a fresh source of terror to the worthy matron of the wagon. Often-times an accident would be averted only by the bicyclist springing from his vehicle and catching the old horse by the bridle. His reward would be then tart remark, that if he had “only stood still” there would have been no harm done. Alas, poor bicycle! Unlike the horse, its best hold is not in standing still. It is in best control when in the most rapid motion.
The Bad Small Boy.
But the bicycle is likely to fall into unworthy hands. The half-grown boy in the quiet side-street, where the policeman comes only upon his tri-weekly visit to his “cold-chicken” girl, has everything his own sweet way. He usurps the sidewalk, and, not content with driving off the baby-wagons, bumps into the pedestrian. The earth is his, and the fullness thereof, and as long as the “pa” lives on the street the boy considers that he has a warranty deed upon the sidewalk for two blocks each way. The bitterest thing ever said against the bicycle was several years ago, when a paragrapher stated that bicycles had no rights upon the street; and when a young man’s “pa” was rich enough to buy him a bicycle the old man should throw in a forty-acre lot for him to ride in.
The use of the bicycle keeps pace with the rapid increase of the wealthy of the community. A first-class machine of the kind costs between $75 and $150. Dry-goods clerks on a salary of $12 per week with a family to support don’t use them. The possession of a bicycle is as much an indication of well-to-doness as the livery upon the coachman.
Its Rights Under the Law.
As the use of the bicycle is becoming so common the natural inquiry is as to the law and the rights of the bicyclists on roads, streets, and other highways. In Chicago there are no restrictions upon its use. The streets, boulevards, and parks are open to the use of bicyclists. There is an ordinance prohibiting the riding of bicycles, etc., upon sidewalks, but it is not and never has been enforced. The smooth roads, boulevards, and streets of this city and vicinity have given it the name of the “bicyclists’ paradise.” Quite against the law the gentleman with short pants rides upon the footpaths of the parks, and quite against the law he frightens the nursemaids and toddling babies.
The question now in a great many minds is, Has the bicycle a right to part of the road as against other vehicles? A correspondent from Geneva, Ill., sends the following extract from the statutes, which he thinks ought to settle the question:
“Secretary Sherman,” says this corespondent, “under advice from the Law Department at Washington, June 30, 1877, decided that the bicycle was a ‘carriage” and dutiable as such.”
A Friend in the Pulpit.
This at once opens a great field of inquiry. Is a bicycle a vehicle? A reporter for The Tribune yesterday called upon a man well known as a clergyman, and as an owner and rider of a bicycle, for an answer to this question.
“Yes, sir; I am a bicyclist,” he responded to the first question.
“Do you consider your bicycle a vehicle?”
“I do,” he replied. “Though I have no room under the seat for lunch baskets, and there is no chance for a dispute as to who shall ride backwards, I consider it a vehicle.”
“Do you often take long rides?”
“Oh, yes; I often step over to Racine before breakfast, and stop to Janesville for lunch, bringing up at Western avenue in time for a 5 o’clock dinner.”
“Are the roads always good?”
“There is one peculiarity about the Illinois prairie road in connection to with a bicycle. The either carries you or you carry the bicycle.”
“When you meet a team to which side do you turn?”
“If the man looks very mad I generally get off and wait until he passes by.”
“Don’t you know there is a law compelling every ‘vehicle’ to turn to the right upon meeting a team?”
“I have heard so, but never yet knew a team to give an inch to a bicycle rider.”
Has the Rights of a Vehicle.
Mr. J. O. Blake of the John Wilkinson Company is the head centre of the bicycle riders of the city. To him went the reporter.
“Bicycles coming into this country,” said Mr. Blake, “are classed as pleasure vehicles.”
“How about a share of the road?”
“Though we have never asked for it, we are entitled to half the road in meeting teams. This principle has been established in frequent cases in the East. As classified in customs duties bicycles are ‘vehicles,’ and come under law as such.”
“How about the local laws on the subject?”
“In a test case in Springfield, Mass., the other day the city law was declared null, because it conflicted with the statute laws. It will win every time a case is brought.”
“Do the truckmen and many teamsters take kindly to this law or decision.”
“No, they are inclined to be a little saucy in every instance. In Boston two or three examples have been made at them, and now they are passably civil. The courts uphold the bicyclist every time on that point. Why should people have such a prejudice against the bicycle? According to the statistics there has thus far been one fatal accident occasioned by a bicycle in frightening horses or throwing riders. Can you name any other vehicle of which the same can be said? Even in England, where thousands are used, no accidents have occurred, though they are in the streets all the time. The fatal accident spoken of was a collision with a carriage, where, the rider was thrown under the horses’ feet.”
Has Come to Stay.
“How many riders are there in the city?”
“Between 600 and 700 who own fine bicycles.”
“You have many privileges in Chicago as bicyclists?”
“We hawve full permission to ride on all streets, boulevards, and in all the parks, but not on the sidewalks, and if the law was strictly enforced as to sidewalks there would be no complaint. The whole trouble arises from boys who get a bicycle or velocipede and rise on the sidewalks or in paths of the parks.”
“Is the pastime growing?”
“Yes, beyond all account. Here is a new club just formed on the North Side which includes two clergymen, three attorneys, one general manager of a railway, two prominent physicians, and the rest, twenty-six in all, merchants of wealth and standing. Yes, there are in this club three married women tricyclists and one unmarried, al of the higher circles, who ride for health and pleasure. You have no idea how popular this amusement is becoming; but it has come to stay.”
“A Game For Byes Sorr!”
Dennis Maguire, who drives a heavy two-horse goods truck for a South Water street wholesale grocery house, was interviewed. He said:
“Is it give the road to them fly-away divils in their short pants? Sure Oi’ll nivir do it, Let them git out uv my way or Oi’ll droive over them! Be the bomes of Fayther John but it would be the great fun to see them run into me truck. They’d be wilcome to all the satisfaction they got.”
“Dennis,” asked the repoorter, “do you consider the bicycle a vehicle?
“Divil aq bit ov a vayhacle.”
“What is it then?”
“A game for boys, sorr.”
“Would you not turn out and give them half the road?”
“Whin Oi do, ye’ll foind me last sickness coning on, sorr.”
The information gathered seems to establish the fact that the laws on the subject are just a trifle hazy. The status and rank of the “swift, noiseless sheel” should be fixed beyond a doubt.
The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review, May 4, 1888, and July 6, 1888
Starley’s “high wheeler” started the bicycle boom in America. It was nicknamed the “Penny Farthing” near the end of its popularity and then called the “Ordinary” after the Safety bicycle was introduced.
Chicago Tribune, May 17, 1896
There is a new division of mankind. It is no longer the man who buys his winter coal at wholesale in the summer and the man who buys is by the load when the bin is empty. The boundary line between the tailor-made man and the ready-made man is obsolete. There are no longer carriage folk and street car people. The girl with and without the chaperon speak as they pass by.
All the old kings are dead. Long live the king!
His name is King Bicycle and great is his power of the land.
All the world is divided into two parts—the part which rides a bicycle and the part which doesn’t.
In the fall of 1888 the solid-tired “bone-shaker” safety bicycle made its appearance. It was regarded as a curiosity. But it was a safety.
Today there are 4,000,000 riders of safeties in the United States, whose wheels cost them $300,000,000. And more wheels are coming at the rate of 1,000,000 a year.
In Chicago alone there are 200,000 riders, whose wheels cost them $15,000,000. A total of over $30,000,000 is invested here in cycling in one way or another.
Now, whether you are a rider, or think you will get a wheel someday, or entirely and condemn the bicycle, these astonishing facts and figures must interest you as a loyal American and a thinking person. For these facts mean much—fortunes invested in the manufacture of wheels, bicycle clothing, and sundries; hundreds of millions of dollars diverted from the usual channels of trade; armies of men employed at a new trade and in new lines of business; fortunes made by those in line with the craze; depression in trades and businesses out of the line; a revolution in our habits of life, and consequent changes affecting the mental, moral, and physical condotion of the people of the United States.
Some of these facts and conditions, and problems are herewith presented by The Tribune for its readers.
Chicago Tribune, May 17, 1896
Two hundred thousand wheels in use in Chicago!
What an immense aggregation of iron, rubber, leather, and wood this is few persons stop to consider, and the numbers which a little figuring gives are almost beyond belief. The combined weight which this number will support is 150,000 tons, or several times the weight of the Masonic Temple. The combined weight of the wheels themselves is 2,500 tons, or nearly the weight of the United States steel-armored man-of-war Boston. If all the tubing used in these wheels was put in a straight line it would extend from here to New York. Furthermore, if all the material used in these wheels was to be combined in one large wheel it would require the entire United States to make a suitable bike path for it to run on.
It is needless to say the public has paid out an extraordinary amount of money to obtain and use these 200,000 wheels. At an average cost of $75 apiece, the sum invested in wheels alone by the people of Chicago is $15,000,000. When we come to consider the factories, repair shops, and retail establishments; the clothes, sundries, and appliances owned by the riders; the bicycle club-houses and property; the racing tracks and racing paraphernalia, the total money invested by Chicago in the bicycle craze amounts up close to the tremendous total of $33,000,000.
By this sum it is not intended to say that $33,000,000 could be realized on cycling property. That is far from the case. Just as the average cost of each wj=heel was about $75, the present average value is about $50, making the total marketable worth of the cycles in Chicago about $10,000,000. Following up this estimate it is safe to say the market value of all wheel goods owned in Chicago is about $25,000,000.
Chicago the Cycling Center.
When it comes to an estimate of wheels and riders, bicycle makers and bicycle investors, the fact sticks out with unsuspected prominence that Chicago is the bicycle center of the United States. On this account, as startling as are the figures for the whole country, the estimates for Chicago are even more remarkable and naturally of more local interest.
Last year a couple of trade journalists made an exhaustive estimate of the number of bicycle riders in the City of Chicago. It was an impossible task to be exact, and will probably never be accurately accomplished until its is made a part of taking the census. The figures obtained, however, pointed to a total of 150,000 wheelmen in the city. Figuring on a conservative estimate of a one-third increase this year, which the retail dealers say is more than justified by the amount of their sales, this would put the total number of bicycle riders in Chicago at 200,000.
This estimate, made by a careful system of observation and computation, is astonishingly near those made by other means. The leading manufacturers, retail dealers, and cycling club members all have means of forming an expert opinion, and their guesses ran from 100,000 to 300,000. It is thought by some of the delegates to the Associated Cycling clubs thaqt twenty men ride wheels for everyone belonging to a club. As about 100,000 members are enrolled in the Associated Cycling clubs this still keeps the estimate at 200,000.
To find what per cent of the 200,000 riders in the city is women and children is another task which defies accuracy. Counts made of the number of women and men riders passing a given point in a given time show a wide variation according to hour and locality. On Michigan avenue during the hours when people are going to and from business the average of women is about one in fifty. Take the same place in the evening or on a Sunday afternoon and the per cent runs as high as one in three. From a series of observations and from the opinions of dealers the proportion of women riders in the city has been settled upon at 20 per cent of the whole number of bicyclists.This would give 40,000 women riding wheels.
A like computation puts the number of children at 1 per cent, or 2,000.
Leads in Cycle Manufacturing.
Not alone as a wheel-riding town is Chicago at the front in the whole of the United States, as a wheel-manufacturing center it also easily leads all American cities. The principal makers of bicycles here, in fact, declare Chicago’s prominence is more marked in the production than in the consumption of wheels. Yet this city builds this year barely 50,000 more bicycles than are now in use by its inhabitants.
Twenty-five wheel factories, each producing at least 1,000 bicycles this year, are located in Chicago. Their combined output is close to 250,000 wheels, or one-fourth of the entire probable output in the United States this season.
Among the Chicago concerns is the largest single manufactory of wheels in the world. Its output is variously rated at from 40,000 to 60,000 finished machines. Close behind it comes another Chicago concern, making 30,000 wheels. Tied for third place are two other factories each building 20,000.
Referee & Cycle Trade Journal, May 14, 1896
Chicago Tribune, April 12, 1896
BICYCLES AND JACKSON STREET
Boodle Aldermen are seeking to sell to a street railroad corporation the only free east-and-west street left which traverses the business district and which can be used for bicycle and social travel by residents of the West and South Divisions or by other Chicagoans. How much boodlers are to get for their corrupt votes is not publicly known. Some of thom may receive as much as two or three thousand dollars. The cheaper ones may have sold their votes and their constituents for ten to twelve hundred apiece.
But the value to the people of what these corrupt rascals propose to give away to a grasping corporation is inestimable. It can hardly be measured by millions. When Chicagoans once come to understand what the effect would be of the passage of the “Central Electrie” Jackson street ordinance over a veto of Mayor Swift they will mark for political death every man who may have had anything to do with it.
One street after another in the heart of the city has been sold to the railroad companies. At present the only street connecting the South and West Side Park systems which can be used for social travel is Jackson street. There the tens of thousands of bicyclists can get along safely and comfortably. As long as that street and its wide, splendid bridge remain free and unobstructed the boys and the young men and women who take pleasure in a most healthful and enjoyable form of exercise will have perfect facilities for getting from one park of the great system and city to another.
The bicyclist starting from Garfield or Douglas Park can follow the boulevard streets of the West Side eastward. He can cross the South Branch at the fine Jackson street bridge, and go on, unobstructed by trains of street cars, to Michigan boulevard. There he can turn northward to the Public Library or southward to the Art Institute or Auditorium.
Continuing south along the smooth Michgan boulevard he can reach the South Parks. Then turning eastward to the lake and Jackson Park, westward on the Hyde Park and Lake boulevard, which forms the outside connection of the two park systems, he can complete the grand circuit back to Garfield orto Humboldt Park and return to his starting point. And this grand exercise for tens of thousands of young people!
Take away Jackson street, from Michigan to Canal, including the bridge, and he cannot swing around the grand circle.
Take away Jackson street, from Canal to Michigan, and one side of the loop is gone.
It will not be long before Michigan avenue and the Lake Shore drive to Lincoln Park are connected, so that the wheelmen can go with ease over smooth roads from Evanston to Lincoln Park, thence to the Field Columbian Museum.
But if Jackson street from Canal to Michigan boulevard is sold by the boodle Aldermen to the “Central Electric” the North-Siders must ride to Humboldt Park on a Lake View cross street in visiting West Side parks and then return the way they went. Will any of the North Side Aldermen vote to cut off this connection for the bicyclers via Jackson street and the West Side parks and boulevards?
With Jackson street kept preserved for social and family vehicle use there will be two grand loops for the tens of thousands of wheelmen of all parts of the great city, with one side of each extending through the heart of Chicago.
With Jackson street bartered away for bribes the bicyclists can see where they will be. The immense West Division will be pretty much cut off from the others.
The numberof wheelmen in this city must already exceed 100.000. There are multitudes of thousands of them who are voters now and are able to strike a blow at the at the treacherous boodlers who have sold out the people s social rights in this city. There are many tens of thousands more who are not voters yet, but who wlil soon be. There Is not a ward in this city which has not bicyclist voters enough to destroy any Alderman who sells out the rights of the bicyclers in this vital connecting street.
Chicago Tribune, April 2, 1897
Harrison a Long-Time Wheelman.
Candidate Harrison has long been a bicycle rider. He rode a great deal last year. Altogether he made over 4,400 miles and covered twelve centuries. In fact, he is almost as enthusiastic a cyclist as his brother, William Preston Harrison, who only left traveling in Europe on a wheel to come home and take part in the political campaign. Mr. Harrison wears the regulation suit. He donned it especially when he had his picture taken last week for the occasion.
Chicago mayor Carter Harrison and his bicycle built for ten during the 1890’s bike craze.
Behind Mr. Harrison are seated Si Mayer (President of the Automobile Club of Illinois), William C. Malley, Robert G. Fisher, William H. Arthur, and Granville W. Browning, attorneys; George K. Bennett; Ed McNeil, broker; Charles P. Root and Alderman James B. Bowler.
Chicago Tribune, May 30, 1897
Woolen sweaters and red and green clocked stockings are no longer en regle in the big wholesale houses clustered around Adams and Franklin streets, and the salesmen and bookkeepers do not push their wheels between bales of prints and stacks of white goods. These establishments do not discourage the use of the wheel, but when it comes to appearing for work in short breeches the managers interpose an emphatic veto.
The new regime was not thoroughly established at Marshall Field & Co.”s until three young men were sent home to dress again a short time ago.
The bicycle craze has run the usual course in this district. At first the riders were few and the number of those who were willing to risk their lives and limbs in the downtown district was comparatively small. Their employers were disposed to be liberal, and the bikes soon began to find space in odd corners in offices, under stairways, and beside the boilers in the basement.
The inconvenience was borne with until the golf craze followed and gave the wheelmen a new garment, which remodeled the old “clips” for the trousers antiquated. Sweaters followed as a matter of course when the riders became imbued with the spirit of the road and declined to allow themselves to be passed by anything except railroad trains without a struggle. White shirts and stiff collars did not look well after exercise of this character.
The Referee Trade Journal, April 1, 1897
Hints Effective in Some Cases.
When the evolution was completed and the salesmen began to arrive for duty clad from head to toe in road costume, hints began to drop that it did not look well for salesmen to wait on costumers dressed in an unusual manner.
“While we are in the bicycle business to a certain extent,” the merchants said, “we also handle dry goods, and do not think all the salesmen ought to advertise one department.”
These hints were effective with some of the wheeling employes, but only partially so with others.
As early as last summer the permissibility of sweaters and Scotch stockings became a question on Fifth avenue, Market and Franklin streets. Drastic measures were not resorted to, and after a time first knee breeches and then sweaters made their reappearance from time to time until cold weather.
At the beginning of this season the number of wheelmen was found to be nearly doubled and the interference with business occasioned by the accumulating wheels and abbreviated costumes was sensibly felt. More emphatic hints were dropped on the subject, followed later by warnings.
Three Clerks Sent Home.
“If you have on bike clothes again you will not be admitted to the house,” was a final warning directed by Joseph Girard, usher in Marshal Field & Co.’s place, to the more persistent offenders.
One day three young salesmen who have been leaving their wheels and “bike” clothes at a friendly “bike” stable tarried on the road longer than they thought and had no time to make the change. They determined to run the gantlet. One by one they passed Mr. Girard’s desk and they were sent back home. Since then long trousers and white shirts have had exclusive possession of the field.
Another edict was issued in this establishment four weeks ago. It forbids wheelmen from bringing their machines into the store. They had been allowed to store them where they could find space for them and were accustomed to roll them in and out the main entrance. Sometimes they were muddy and women came to grief on their account., especially at noon and at the closing hour. Now the cyclists must find storage elsewhere. A Quincy street restaurant has set the pace by giving free storage.
Rules at Other Stores.
Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. had a somewhat similar experience with cycling costumes. They never allowed wheels to be stored on the premises.
The John V. Farwell company has set apart a room in the basement, with an entrance on the alley, for the use of the wheelmen. They furnished it themselves and employ one of the porters to take care of the wheels. The man arrives half an hour before working hours and is on hand at noon until all the wheelmen are gone in the evening to check the vehicles in and out. At present none of the salesman in this house appears in bicycle costume, though some of those in the clerical departments who do not come in contact with customers and the general public perform their duties dressed for the road, especially on Saturday, and nothing is said about it
Chicago Tribune, September 1, 1899
New York, Aug. 31.—[Special.]—The bicycle trust, which has been in process of formation for two years, was finally completed today by the election of the following officers and directors:
- President—Albert G. Spalding.
First Vice President—Colonel George Pope.
Second Vice President—J. E. Bromley.
Treasurer—A. L. Garford.
Secretary—C. W. Dickerson.
Directors—Albert G. Spalding, Seabright; Colonel Albert A. Pope, Boston; A. Featherstone, Chicago; R.L. Coleman, New York; J. W. Kiser, Kiser; E. C. Stearns, Syracuse; R. S. Crawford, Hagerstown, Md.; Charles L. Ames, Chicago; R. Phillip Gormully, Chicago, and Harry A. Lozier Sr., Cleveland.
The other members of the Board of Directors which will consist of fifteen will be elected at a subsequent meeting.
The title of the new trust will be the American Bicycle Company.
Chicago Concerns Involved.
The concerns that have been purchased and have become part of the company include the following from Chicago:
- Ames and Frost company.
H. A. Christy & Co.
Fanning Cycle company.
A. Featherstone & Co.
Gormully & Jeffery company.
Hart & Cooley Manufacturing company.
Monarch Cycle Manufacturing company.
George M. Thompson Manufacturing company.
Western wheel works,
Other Companies Purchased.
The other concerns that have been purchased are the following:
- Acme Manufacturing company, Reading Pa.
American Saddle company, Cleveland.
Barnes Cycle company, Syracuse, N.Y.
Black Manufacturing company, Erie, Pa.
Buffalo Cycle Manufacturing company.
Cleveland Machine Screw company, Cleveland.
Colton Cycle company, Toledo.
Crawford Manufacturing company, Hagerstown, Md.
Columbus Bicycle company, Columbus, O.
Fay Manufacturing company, Elyria, O.
Geneva Cycle company, Geneva, O.
Grand Rapids Cycle company, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Hartford Cycle company, Hartford, Conn.
Hartford rubber works, Hartford, Conn.
Indiana bicycle works, Indianapolis.
Indiana Novelty Manufacturing company, Plymouth, Ind.
Indianapolis Chain and Stamping company, Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Rubber company, Indianapolis.
Lamb Manufacturing company, Chicopee Falls, Mass.
H. A. Lozier & Co., Cleveland.
A. D. Meiselbach, Milwaukee.
Milwaukee Engineering company, Milwaukee.
Milwaukee Manufacturing company, Milwaukee.
North Buffalo Wheel company, Buffalo.
Nuttal Manufacturing company, Nyack, N.Y.
Peoria Rubber and Manufacturing company, Peoria, Ill.
Pope Manufacturing company, Hartford, Conn.
Shelby Cycle Manufacturing company, Shelby, O.
C. J. Smith & Sons company, Milwaukee.
E. C. Stearns & Co., Syracuse, N.Y.
Sterling cycle works, Kenosha, Wi.
Stover Bicycle Manufacturing company, Freeport, Ill.
Syracuse Cycle company, Syracuse, N.Y.
Viking Manufacturing company, Toledo.
White Sewing Machine company (bicycle department), Cleveland.
For the purchase of these various plants there will be issued $10,000,000 5 per cent twenty-year gold debenture bonds; $10,000,000 7 per cent preferred stock, and $20,000,000 common stock, leaving in the treasury ample means for the purchase of such additional plants as may be desirable and for the extension of the business, especially in foreign countries.
The manufacturers have taken all the $10,000,000 preferred stock and the $20,000,000 common stock, and have subscribed for a substantial part of the debenture bonds.
Chicago Tribune April 10, 1900
DECLINE OF THE BICYCLE CRAZE.
Railroad men are congratulating themselves on the decline of bicycling as a fashionable fad. They confess that in the last four or five years the passion for bicycle touring has seriously curtailed their receipts. especially in their summer resort traffic. The general passenger agent of a Chicago—Wisconsin system says the wheel has been costing his line thousands of dollars every season, but he believes that there will be less country touring on wheels this summer and that his road will no longer be troubled with empty trains from this cause.
This official is probably correct in his belief that “the bicycle as a fad died,” but it is also probably true that there will be more wheels in use this than ever before. Bicycle stores are already crowded with anxious customers seeking repairs for their old or new wheels. The wheel has lost none of its popularity, but its vogue has shifted to another social class. Apparently it is no longer so much “the thing ” in fashionable circles to ride the wheel. Perhaps the automobile is to be the new fad among the comparatively wealthy. The craze for bicycle clubs and for century runs has also abated, and the humped-back scorcher has lost whatever caste he may once have had. Country touring among men in the social swim has probably abated, and the railroad managers are right in surmising that their moneyed patrons are again in a mood to pay carfare.
Nevertheless, it would be an error to imagine that there will be less wheel riding than before. The wheel has come to stay amd the change only placed it on a more solid and legitimate basis. The people who are now riding or preparing to ride the wheel are doing so not because a fad of fashion has decreed it but because they find pleasure, health, or profit in so doing. The great bulk of the riders are people of moderate means, who find the wheel a valuable and fascinating means for getting fresh air and a glimpse of the country without much expense. The bicycle manufacturers have wisely sought and secured the patronage of this great public by making wheels at reasonable prices. In spite of the doubling of prices of steel, the best of last year’s model are now built and sold for $5 less a year ago. The bicycle is now practically within reach of everybody, and, while the change in its clientele may benefit the railroads, it is likely to be felt adversely by the street car companies.
The men and women of all classes of society who have any independence and who like wheel riding for its own sake vill continue to indulge in this fine and healthful modern sport, both in the city and in the .country. These are not the “scorchers,” and all true lovers of the wheel will probably be as glad as the railroad men that the fashionable craze among the intemperate has waned.
Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1902
With the collapse of the American Bicycle company, which has asked for the appointment of a receiver in New York, the finale can be written of the most remarkable fad the country has ever known.
Commercial recognition of the wane of the cycling craze was the last to come. Cyclists themselves cast aside their wheels and wrote epitaphs two years ago, but manufacturers and retailers clung to the hope that business uses would stimulate the demand after the sport had died.
Various reasons for the puncturing of the bicycle trust are urged by bicycle dealers—all reasons except the essential one—the main output of the companies whose stock it held was unmarketable. Automobiles and even street sweepers are blamed for the collapse. Dealers assert that the company lost money branching out into the manufacture of these articles.
There still is a market for the bicycle, the dealers say, yet figures show that sales have fallen off more than 80 per cent in the last three years.
Greatest of All Crazes.
No sport ever became a mania of the proportions of cycling. Six years ago wheelmen were a guild with political power. In some cases they dictated legislation. They were responsible for road improvement. They started in the fave of opposition and fought their way against prejudices. They became so strong numerically that politicians began to play to them for their support. They forced recognition to their rights in the roads. Their races became events of the year. Their clubhouses were costly, their organizations highly perfected, and the optimistic could see no end to the career of the bicycle.
But with a suddenness as sensational as the growth of the fad, the bottom dropped out of it.
Six years ago the main boulevards were so covered with wheels that it was almost worth a pedestrian’s life to attempt to cross them. Yesterday one could have crossed and recrossed Michigan boulevard without seeing a bicycle.
Figures Show Growth and Fall.
The statistics of the fad speak for themselves. In 1898 the Illinois Cycling club, said to be the largest in the world, had 820 members. In 1899 it had 180, and shortly afterwards was disbanded. In 1898 the organization had a $45,000 clubhouse and the next year it was out of existence.
Illinois was represented in the League of American Wheelmen with 4,500 members. A report of that organization now shows fifty-five members from the state. New York had more than 27,000 members in the league. The state now has less than 2,000.
A man who was president of one of the big cycling clubs said:
- I have seven wheels in the basement of my residence. Many of them are as good as new, but I have no use for them.
During the height of the fad a census of wheelmen was taken in Chicago by representatives of cycling societies. There was no infallible method of making the count, but the wheelmen systematized it as well as they could. At the end of the season it was estimated that there were between 200,000 and 300,000 wheelmen in this city alone.
Races Like a Derby.
In 1894, 1895, and 1896 the great yearly event of western wheelmen, the Chicago road race, bid fair to eclipse any sporting event in the country. As high as 506 contestants started in one of these races and the spectators were in uncounted thousands. Not even the American Derby has aroused more interest that was displayed in these road races.
An illustration of popularity of the sport can be found in the fact that on the occasion of the election of a president of the Illinois cycling club extras were printed by the morning papers the count having extended until late in the morning.
Lakeview Bicycle Cub, Orchard Street, 1890
City Full of Clubs.
Other clubs had the same experience as the Illinois. During the height of the fad any number of clubs had a membership of 500 and over. Among them were the Chicago Cycling club, the Lake View Cycling club, the Thistle Cycling club, the Woodlawn Cycling club, the Lincoln Cycling club, and the Minnette, Monitor, and Garden City clubs.
At one time the Associated Cycling clubs had a total membership of 11,000. The association recognized only such clubs as had leased quarters. Another association had a still larger membership, with 15,000 wheelmen enrolled.
Campaign Work by Wheel.
When cyclists became a political power Mayor Harrison became the “Cyclists’ Champion.” The mayor is one of the few who have not given up the sport, and considerable of his leisure time in Chicago is spent on his wheel. On one occasion Granville Browning, then running for judge, made the round of thirty-seven clubs in one day, starting early in the morning and closing at midnight.
The L.A.W. as the national organization of the wheelmen was highly perfected. New York and Pennsylvania were fighting for first honors in the league, both having over 27,000 members, and New York leading by a few. Massachusetts had 14,000 members enrolled.
A number of publications were devoted to the interests of the sport, the Referee and the Bearings in Chicago.
Can’t Explain the Collapse.
Even now the wheelmen cannot account for the decline of the sport. They do not know what it is that prompted them to put their bicycles in the basement and leave them there.
William H. Arthur, a former president of the Illinois Cycling club said:
- I have tried to discover why we put our wheels away and I have talked it over with a number of wheelmen. No one can give any good, logical reason why the bottom should have dropped out of bicycling all of a sudden.
So far as the women are concerned, it is another proposition. It became so that a woman on a bicycle was regarded as one who could be flirted with, and that killed wheeling for most of the women cyclists. But that would not account for the men putting aside their machines.
One element that detracted from the popularity of the sport was the rowdies. They would go on country runs and insist on storming hotels and eating in their sweaters. There were objectionable, but not enough so to actually kill cycling.
Fad Productive of Fortunes.
Manufacturers and retailers made fortunes out of the fad. The wiser saw that a crash was coming and retired with their millions. The sport had run its unprecedented course and when the first of a decline was observed the men who had worked up the business at the start got “from under” and left the late comer in the field to stand the brunt.
In Chicago it is even now maintained that the collapse of the American Cycle company, which was built up by A. G. Spalding and James A. Hart of Chicago, will not affect the trade, and that the business will continue under receivership just as it has before. At the local retail headquarters of the company this was asserted.
Chicago Tribune July 17, 1904
The invulnerable law of cause and effect offers a logical though Indefinite explanation of the success of scores of business enterprises which, though money making ventures today, looked like hopeless wrecks a few years ago. This statement applies particularly to the automobile industry with its countless tributaries, There are perhaps more vi,ctims of circumstances in the automobile business today than in any other one line conspicuous by reason of its popularity with the general public, Whatever else may be said about the automobile, however much it may grate upon the sensibilities of the plodding pedestrian or offend the dignity of the adamant park policeman it must be given the credit for having come to the relief of a great number of stagnant and dying industries, infusing them with new life.
It is estimated that fully 80 per Cent of the engaged In the automobile busines, or the many side lines that go to make it, were following the fate of the bicycle during the days of the wheel. This does not apply alone to dealers, but to manufacturers. both of the automobile as a whole and its composite parts. Practically every big concern which came to the fore when bIcycles were high in favor has turned its machinery to the manufacture of automobiles. Many of them continue to manufacture wheels, but the tourIng car or the runabout stands far to the front, and the bicycle, once a leader, occupies tho position of a side line. As a matter of fact the automobIle was the saving factor in the of the manufacturer, agent, and salesman. The lInes naturally call for something of the same energy and the and for this reason the automobile opened an avenue to the dealer in bicycles just at a time when it began to look as though he was down and out.
Take a walk Chicago’s automobile center, down Michigan avenue from Twelfth to Sixteenth, and you will observe on the shop windows the names of dozens of men who were as conspicuously with the bicycle trade a year ago. They were naturally buffeted into the automobile business. The new industry came at a time when the bicycle was a dead issue. It had outlived its usefulness so far as the fad loving, novelty seeking American public was concerned. Men who had their invested in bicycle machinery and material naturally looked with alarm upon the situation and were at a loss which way to turn until the automobile began to take hold of the public. Then the problem solved itself and made producers out of bicycle dealers.
Thomas B. Jeffrey’s Rambler was introduced in the 1902 Automobile Show. The Rambler was the most popular auto developed in Chicago. More than 4.2 million were sold between 1902 and their discontinuance in 1969 by the successor American Motors Corporation. As the twentieth century ended, the Rambler factory in Kenosha was used to build engines for Chrysler Corporation autos.
In considering new industries opened up by the progressive strides of the automobile, which has become of such general use as no longer to belong to the classification of novelties, the rejuvenation of old industries to rank first in the matter of importance. This is true because the craze came to the rescue of men who already had their money invested in a industry and who were unable to stem the tide of public fickleness for a pastime of which it had grown tired. It was only natural that the bicycle industry should become affiliated with with the production of automobiles and it was also natural that the men who followed the fortunes of the wheel should become the first and most ardent exponents of the touring car.
The prevalence of bicycle men in the automobile business is manifest in every branch of the trade from the big manufacturer down to the small machinist whose convenient shop used to be the boon of unlucky wheelmen. Where in years gone by we saw the bicycle repair shop we now find the garage, which may be small for the accommodation of a few machines or large and pretentious, embodying all sorts of conveniences for the automobilist. The garage is one of the really important industries made possible, in fact a necessity, by the automobile. There are scores of these stabling scattered about Chicago. They have sprung up on all sides of the city within the last two years. The man who owns an automobile pays so a month to have his machine stabled and taken care of. The garage is so essentially indispensable that it is sure to develop into one of the most inclusive industries developed by the automobile.
Perhaps no of class of manufacturers profited more handsomely by the advent of the automobile, than the big rubber concerns where tires are made. The passing of the bicycle was in reality a good thing for them, because It opened a field far more extensive and embracing much greater possibilIties. The automobile tire Is one of the really important features of the machIne. It must be strong and of high grade. For this reason there Is every chance for the manufacturer to produce expert workmanship, a condition not always possible in the small, light tire used on the bicycle.
Just as the automobile revived the business of the bicycle dealer, so did it affect the tire maker. The large concerns which practically controlled the tire output during the days of the wheel found themselves wIth little outlet for their product after the decline of the bicycle. Then came the breath of the automobile craze, and with common instinct they shifted the character of their output until today the firms which supplied most of the bicycle tires occupy the same position in relation to the automobile.
After the automobile as a pIece of machinery in form is discussed, the business becomes largely a matter of incidentals, with an innumerable of numbers of angles. The fad lies opened up an entirely new avenue to the small machinist, who finds a shop along some much frequented highway a paying proposition. Then It has developed the chauffeur, the much abused individual who operates the steering gear and is supposed to regard all speed laws and regulations with absolute disdain. The chauffeur is in reality a luxury. but he goes well with the automobIle.
It has been pointed out by real estate men that among the industries developed by the automobile the opening of land tracts at distant from the city must not be overlooked. They say that the practical elimination of distance makes outlying property more likable to men who own machines and that they have felt the effect of the automobile in numerous ways.
So it is with the manufacturer of of all sorts, from big lens equipped gas to the small oil light. Every automobile carry lights after dark. Some of thens carry five or six, and this has a tendency to make the lighting branch of thie automobile industry an important one. Several manufacturing firms have sprung up, the sole output of which is automobile lamps.
On down the list of incidentals identified with the automobile industry any number of articles will be found, each of which represents is practically a new industry or the development of an old one. Manufacturers of men’s and women’s clothing have kept pace with evolution and have found garments for a profitable addition to their stocks.
Inter Ocean, December 1, 1907
Judging from the number of Christmas bicycles that have been sold for the past few years, one might imagine that our climate is changing, and what once was regarded solely as a summer sport, has, unaccountably, wandered into other portions of the calendar.
But the fact is, there is scarcely a week in the year, even in the most northerly tier of states, when a bicycle cannot be used to good advantage, and perhaps grown folks had to wait until more youthful riders proved the case. However that may be, it is certainly true that all the year ’round riding is decidedly more common in these days, and a bicycle at Christmas time is now regarded as a most appropriate—and even timely—gift.
Riders of tender years are not worried greatly concerning fads and fashions. They know in their honest young hearts that a bicycle is a possession to be enjoyed and cherished. And they accept it for the good it can give, and think no more about it.
That is the reason, no doubt, that where one wheel was sold at Christmas time a few years ago, hundeds are sold today.
But there has been a great change for the better, even in juvenile wheels. While it was once thought, apparently, that any sort of bicycle would do, if it were to go to a youthful rider, makers with good judgement now realize that a wheel that must carry a youngster with safety, must be the equal in every particular of whose made for adults. And this is the case with the product of many manufactories today. In fact, makers take care to explain that their juvenile wheels, in material, workmanship and equipment, be as good or better than those intended for stronger and more experienced riders.
In this connection, it is only just to say that there seems to be no longer a division of the year into seasons for adult wheelmen. All the months are about the same to them, now-a-days. The bicycle plays so important a part of everyday life, is so great an economizer of money and time, and pays such royal dividends in health, digestion and good humor, that its devotees snap their fingers at fashion—or rather, are bringing fashion to the wheel again.
Those who have not paid any special attention to the remarkable renewal of interest in wheeling during the past half decade, will be astonished to know how the production of bicycles, both iun this country and abroad, is increasing. In 1904 the output in America was conservatively estimated at 200,000 bicycles, and this doubtless marked extreme ebb tide in the industry. Certainly the figures were lower than they had been since the early nineties. The increase in 1905 was, approximately, 100,000 wheels, and this was more than doubled in 1906, when the total production was put at half a million. The aggregate for 1907 is said to have reached 750,000, and a leading maker has just announced that the American production of bicycles for 1908 will reach a round million!
And after all, why not? The wheel of today is a vastly better machine than its predecessor of a dozen years ago, costs less money and with the modern accessory, the coaster brake, has actually more basis for popularity.
So, when all has been said, there are plenty of reasons for adding bicycles, both juvenile and adult, to your Christmas list. You will be in good company, for the Christmas sales this year, if one may judge from the forecasts of the dealers, are likely to break all records.
The Inter Ocean, August 29, 1910
The Passing of the Bicycle.
In 1897 there were exported from the United States bicycles and bicycle parts to the value of $7,005,323. During the fiscal year which ended June 30 last we exported only $620,760 worth of bicycles, complete and in part.
These figures strikingly illustrate the fickleness of public fancy. A generation ago nearly everybody “rode a wheel.” Children raced to school on their “bikes,” clergymen sedately pedaled to their churches, doctors went swiftly on their errands of mercy and business men of all classes rode their wheels in preference to street cars and horse-drawn vehicles.
Useful as it was for other purposes, perhaps the greatest good of the bicycle was in its adaptability as a pleasure vehicle. It enabled persons of all classes to travel quickly and cheaply during an idle hour or day. It took the flat-dweller of the noisy, crowded city out to the quiet and beauty of the country. On Sundays and holidays there were almost unending processions of bicycles on the thoroughfares leading to the suburbs and outlying territory.
Such trips undoubtedly made thousands of people change from city to suburban and country homes, and lengthened their lives by making them healthier and happier. The learned the joys of “simple life” more than compensated for the attractions of the city.
The bicycle was the advance guard of the automobile. It educated the public to the charms of travel in our highways and byways. Incidentally, it gave great impetus to a plan for the general improvement of public thoroughfares in city, town and country. The automobile simply could not have its present popularity had it arrived with our roads generally in the conditions in which the pioneer bicyclists found them.
In one respect the superseding of the bicycle by the automobile is to be regretted. The bicyclist was compelled to take healthy exercise. Every trip helped to develop his lungs and muscles. The automobile is a more social institution, but tends to promote a love of ease rather than physical development. Still, it must be admitted that even the “bicycle built for two” was not adapted to conversational pleasure.
In view of the fact that the bicycle today costs only a fraction of what it did at the height of its popularity, its passing seems strange. In practically every country on the globe its sales have been decreasing since 1897, judging by the experts from this country. In that year we exported $2,375,000 worth to Great Britain, and only $126,000 worth last year. Germany paid us over $1,00,000 for bicycles in 1897, but only $14,000 the past year. The “bicycle craze” reached its height in Japan in 1904, when we sold her $426,000 worth. Last year she bought only $21,000 worth. Cuba is the only nation showing an increase in recent years in the number of bicycles used, but even there it is losing ground. In the fiscal year ended June 30, 1908, we sold there $43,000 worth of bicycles, but last year she bought from us only half as many.
The whole world owes a debt of gratitude to the bicycle and its passing is to be regretted.
Sears Roebuck and Co
Spring 1910 Catalog
Sears Roebuck and Co
1914 Bicycle Catalog
Chicago Daily News, June 15, 1915
Rail Strike Solution
1 The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal was published in Chicago from 1892-1897.
Leave a Reply