Monday, October 24, 2016

Washington Boy Shows Joy of Cycling

Boy on Bicycle (in Washington DC, 1890s)

Digitized image from a glass plate negative that shows some degradation. It was likely taken at a studio in the late 1890s. The descriptive record does not have an exact date. Studios sometimes had a bicycle and subjects would be posed sitting on a bike that belonged to the studio, but this I think this may have been the boy's bike - you wouldn't think a studio bike would have a headlight, and the front tire is quite dirty. But that's just a guess. He looks quite happy!

Title-Boy on bicycle
Contributor Names-C.M. Bell (Firm : Washington, D.C.), photographer
Created / Published-[between 1873 and ca. 1916]
Format Headings
Glass negatives.
Portrait photographs.
Portrait photographs
Glass negatives
- Title is unverified name of sitter or person who ordered the photograph, from handwritten label on negative sleeve or negative.
- Date based on span of years of C.M. Bell Collection.
- Negative number assigned by Library.
- Gift; American Genetic Association, 1975.
- General information about the C.M. Bell Collection is available at
- Temp note: Batch 55.
Medium-1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in.
Source Collection-C.M. Bell Studio Collection (Library of Congress)
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Eliza Jane - A Woman Cyclist of 1895

Celebrated in song.

About this Item:
Title-Eliza Jane.
Created / Published-Boston, Massachusetts, c1895, monographic.
Genre-song sheet
Repository-American Song Sheets Library of Congress Rare Books and Special Collections


Complete Song, Words and Music, 40 Cents.

I. Eliza Jane she had a wheel, its rim was painted red;
Eliza had another wheel that turned inside her head.
She put the two together, she gave them both a whirl,
And now she rides the Parkway sides a Twentieth Century Girl.


"Oh, have you seen Eliza Jane a-cycling in the park?
"Oh, have you seen Eliza Jane?" The people all remark.
They shout "Hi! hi!" as she rides by; the little doggies bark,
For we all have a pain when Eliza Jane goes cycling in the park.

II. No more do skirts enfold her, tho' much her papa grieves,
But baggy trousers hold her in their big pneumatic sleeves;
For where you see the bloomers bloom she sits her wheel astride;
She makes a sight would stop a fight as in the park she rides.

Oh, have you seen, etc.

III. This is emancipation year, the woman movement's on;
Eliza plans to be a man, 'tis sad to think upon.
She thinks she needs the ballot now her freedom to enhance,
She wants to pose in papa's clothes; it is for this she pants.

Oh, have you seen, etc.

IV. Eliza had a nice young man, (Alas! 'twas long ago.)
As gay and fair, as debonair, as any man you know;
He saw her ride in bloomers, he screamed and quickly fled,
And as he ran, this nice young man in trembling accents said:

Ooooh, have you seen, etc.

V. Eliza's ma no longer speaks unto Eliza Jane,
She claims that dime museum freaks give her a sense of pain.
Her dad no longer cashes checks but wanders in the streets,
And thus he cries, in sad surprise, to everyone he meets:

Oh, have you seen, etc.

VI. Eliza's brothers saw her ride, and each one took to drink:
They made it flow to drown their woe, so that they need not think;
But there are woes that will not drown, not even in a well,
And in the worst of their great thirst Eliza hears them yell:

( Hic ), Wow! Have you seen, etc.

VII. Eliza to her tailor went, to try her bloomers on;
She came out from the dressing room and said with angry frown:
"These blooming bloomers do not fit!" The tailor said, Oh, law!
Excuse me, lady, but you've got them on hind-side before!"

Oh, have you seen, etc.

VIII. Eliza Jane has learned to swear since she became a man,
And when she finds it suits her mind she says her little—Rats!
It isn't very often that she feels that swear she must,
But she says it and she means it when her little tire's bust.
Oh, have you seen, etc.

IX. No more upon her red rimmed wheel the fair Eliza flirts,
No more she rides the Parkway sides in bi-fur-ca-ted skirts;
A park policeman ran her in one day in early Spring,
Because he thought Eliza taught the little birds to sing:

Oh, have you seen, etc.

X. Eliza dear, we sadly fear you have not started right;
You will not see more liberty by being such a fright;
Asylums yawn for you, my dear, and in the books we read,
How bloomers that too early bloom soon fade and go to seed.

Oh, have you seen, etc.

From Songs of Suffrage where it explains:

With the introduction of the safety bicycle (the first modern bicycle) in the 1880s, women found a need for clothing that would allow them the freedom to ride. Susan B. Anthony was quoted in an interview as saying, "I'll tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate woman than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood."[1] Women on bicycles were the object of humorous songs, some risqué, that marveled at the sight of a woman in trousers. "Eliza Jane," is a song published on a song sheet in 1895 that brings together the bloomers, the desire to vote, and the freedom of riding a bicycle, with lyrics that explain the scandalous risks the young lady was taking.

Puck Magazine - Bicycle = "Dress Reform" 1895

Title: The bicycle - the great dress reformer of the nineteenth century! / Ehrhart.
Creator(s): Ehrhart, S. D. (Samuel D.), ca. 1862-1937, artist
Date Created/Published: N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1895 August 7.
Medium: 1 print : chromolithograph.
Summary: Print shows a man and a woman wearing knickers and bloomers, standing with a bicycle between them, shaking hands; to the right and left are examples of nineteenth century fashion.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-29031 (digital file from original print)
Notes: Title from item.
Illus. from Puck, v. 37, no. 961, (1895 August 7), centerfold.
Library of Congress

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bicycles in War (Book Review)

Bicycles in WarBicycles in War by Martin Caidin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The record doesn't give credit to a co-author, Jay Barbree, who seems to have written books mostly about space exploration, including at least one other book written with Martin Caidin.

My father and his older brother both served in the U.S. Army during WWII and both were interested in aviation - they owned a plane together for a while. Growing up I didn't use the public library very much (it wasn't particularly close by) and read a lot of my father's books about WWII that included four or five books written by Martin Caidin about different U.S. fighters and bombers and their use during the War. I certainly remember them as engaging my attention - I'm pretty sure I read several of them more than once.

I got this out of the library where I work. It is probably not readily available these days.

Caidin's usual approach with his military aviation books was to describe the development of the aircraft and then to describe examples of its use in combat, focusing on particular pilots and units. Caidin and his co-author don't appear to have known that much about bicycles or otherwise think that the readers would be interested in the development of bicycles for use in war so that subject is not presented - the focus is on their use in several particular examples, including World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. He spends about 20 pages on the famous (in certain circles . . . ) 1,900 mile "march" of the 25th Infantry Corps (that was an all African American unit, except for the officers) in 1897 from Missoula, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri. The story of this unit is now covered quite well be various sources on the Internet, including this day-by-day account, the 25th Bicycle Corp, a page at the Fort Missoula Museum web site, and an hour long video, "The Bicycle Corps: America's Black Army On Wheels" (2000).

The Fort Missoula Museum site provides some of the technical information lacking in the book, for example:
Moss contacted the A. G. Spalding Company, who agreed to provide military bicycles co-designed by Moss at no cost. The Corps, consisting of eight black enlisted men, soon was riding in formation, drilling, scaling fences up to nine-feet high, fording streams, and pedaling 40 miles a day. Each bicycle carried a knapsack, blanket roll, and a shelter half strapped to the handlebar. A hard leather frame case fit into the diamond of each bicycle and a drinking cup was kept in a cloth sack under the seat. Each rider carried a rifle (first slung over the back, later strapped to the horizontal bar) and 50 rounds of ammunition.

The Spalding military bicycles were furnished with steel rims, tandem spokes, extra-heavy side-forks and crowns, gear cases, luggage carriers, frame cases, brakes, and Christy saddles. They were geared to 68 inches and weighed 32 pounds. The average weight of the bicycles, packed, was about 59 pounds.
For someone like me, with my interested heavily towards what the bicycles were like, this wasn't a particularly satisfying book. On the other hand, given that there isn't much published on this topic and was readily available (to me) it was a good enough read.

There are some b&w photographs included - nothing particular special alas, but then these are the days of the Internet and the book was published in 1974. I had seen many of those used before, but when the book was published, they were likely unusual to see.

Cycle orderlies under fire"Cycle orderlies under fire" - one of the photographs in the book, now widely published on the Internet (and even available for purchase from Getty Images, if you want to spend money)

View all my book reviews of books on cycling at Goodreads.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sad Bike // Bicycles Locked to Poles (Book Review)


This is a few blocks from Nationals Ball Park, a few days ago. Ugh! This is a strange bicycle to steal parts from since it was a very low priced Mongoose junk bicycle when new, and the parts were probably the least good aspect of it.

I am reminded of this book:

Bicycles Locked to PolesBicycles Locked to Poles by John Glassie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got my copy used for $5.95 (with a free shipping special - guess I'm cheap) and it was even signed by the photographer.

On some level, of course, it's a terribly sad little book of photographs, but most of the bikes are just crap (missing various parts) so it isn't quite so sad. Perhaps.

The locks on some of these NYC bikes liked to poles clearly weighed more than the bikes (when the bikes were whole). I almost never see monster locks like these around here.

The inside of the front and and back covers includes these matrix table things that explain what parts of the bike on each page are includes, so you can see for example that the bike on page 81 has the frame but the fork is gone, along with practically everything else except the cranks and pedals. Amusing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Four Mile Run Trail Detour

Four Mile Run Detour
Sign posted along trail

There is (lots) more information on the Arlington County web site.
Construction at Four Mile Run will begin on Sept. 20, lasting through the Fall season. There is a detour associated with the project.
The signs may have appeared last Friday I guess but there were no signs Thursday last week; supposedly construction starts tomorrow? But maybe not the detour.
Here is a PDF of the map I have a photo of, above.

Not surprisingly I am not crazy about the detour. I get the need for the project I just don't like the route of the detour, and that there is no sensible alternative. This detour is two miles into a 9.5 mile commute, but there is no alternative route via trails. The trail network is great except it is not very dense as a network. Phooey.

It is amusing (or something) to see the tacit admission that the present trails are not very good when it says, "As part of the construction, the Arlington trail will be completely rebuilt to current standards, including a new sub-base and asphalt surface." Of course they are just referring to the less than half mile of trail to be upgraded with this project; the remainder of this trail (and others) will remain sub-standard.

Friday, September 16, 2016

New Cycle Path Inauguration NYC 1896


Although about NYC and not Washington DC, an amazing article about the popularity of cycling in 1896, the high point of the 1890s "cycling craze."

Wheels from Park to Coney Island
Title-The Journal, June 28, 1896
Contributor Names-Library of Congress
Place of Publication-New York [N.Y.]
WHEELS FROM PARK TO CONEY ISLAND-The New Cycle Path Couldn't Carry All Who Rode at Its Opening-Both Sides of the Boulevard Crowded with Paraders and Pleasure Riders-The Brooklyn and Century Clubs Get First Honors in Their Respective Divisions-PROCESSION THAT HAD NO END-Thousands of Spectators on Foot and in Carriages Thronged Every Point from Which a View Could Be Had.

"The new cycle path to Coney Island opens to-day," said the wheelman.

"I thought there was one alongside the driveway," said the horseman.

"There was, but this is a new one on the other side."

"What do you want with two cycle paths, you can only ride on one?"

With this crushing retort he of the horse moved away. If he had gone down the Boulevard yesterday he would have learned why two cycle paths were necessary.

There was a procession on the new path parade of 12,000 wheelmen and wheel women-more bicyclists probably than ever got in line before. The old path was just crowded. The whirr of the wheels, the crunching of the powdered rock, the flashing of the polished spokes, were just as continuous on the old path as on the new. Except for the absence of the banners and the way the grand stand faced, you could scarcely have told whether the greatest bicycle parade of this whirling time was on your right or on your left. Indeed some of those who started as paraders wound up as ordinary wheelmen, just bicycling because the roadway was hard and smooth.

The sky was fleecy, and the day fitted the flying sport like moonlight does love making. These last cyclists came too late to find their places in the long line, and rather than mix up the regular order of things they bolted as completely as the silver delegates did at St. Louis. They defiantly wheeled down the wrong side of the road, crying their war whoop and bidding the spectators look at them and not at a side show.

But all the world was not on rubber tires, though from the appearance of the streets and roads leading to the big meet it might have been supposed to be so. The Boulevard was crowded with carriages, coaches, carts and horse men and women, wherever it commanded a view of the new path. One big coaching party afforded a beautiful demonstration of the burial of long cherished animosities. Half the girls on the coach wore bicycle costumes. Piled upon the rear seat were three of the machines. The coaching horn hung in the case beside a bicycle bag. The outfit was not wheelier than it was horsey.

In the grand stand south of Avenue C there was a big holiday crowd, as enthusiastic as the baseball crowds used to be in the good days now gone beyond recall. The stand itself was a blaze of color and a blare of music. There were flags all over it, but the flags and banners were not brighter than the dresses of the women-for dress it was Suburban Day over again. When the music could be heard, which was during the gaps between favorite clubs in the parade, the children about the grand danced among the horses and carriages.

In spite of the crowd, fortunately no one was seriously hurt-not even a policeman.

It is only six weeks since work was begun on the path that was opened yesterday. It was a trifle slow, and punctured tires were not infrequent, owing to the sharp particles of pulverized rock. A few showers and a few days' riding will leave the roadway beaten down hard. Then there will not be a finer stretch of travelling country in the world than the five and a half miles of the new bicycle path to Coney Island.

The popping of the tires furnished the comedy element of the day. The crowd got to watching for them when the gasp of the punctured tire died on the Summer air and the far-away look came into the rider's eye the spectators on the edge of the track shouted cheering words to him In this manner:

"Watcher stopping for?"

"Here, keep that New Jersey atmosphere tied up!"

"Keep off the grass!" shrieked a thousand men when a chocolate costumed young man, who had been riding with his hands off the handle bars, hurtled through space and hit the lawn.

Such things as punctured tires and eccentric tumbles were the only accidents of the day worth recording, and they were not frequent enough to more than properly season the general enjoyment of the day.

There were three divisions in the procession: Brooklyn clubs first, then New York clubs, and last New Jersey and other clubs, Good Roads associations, L. A. W. and unattached wheelmen.
It was not intended as an ornamental parade and the decoration of wheels was discouraged, but a few flags and flowers managed to get into the procession, particularly among the spokes of the wheels ridden by women. Noticeable as a feature of the day was the prevalence of bloomers. The advanced costumes were fully as numerous as the skirts and they got more applause.
There could not have been a prettier sight than the seemingly endless procession wheeling down the splendid path under the flags between the green lawns. It was no wonder the paraders swung their caps and cheered all the way.
The article continues with a long list of individuals and organizations that received various recognition. Quite an amazing description.

Detail view of illustration

Monday, September 5, 2016

All Possible Bike Accessories

"All possible accessories"
A bike of 1896 shown equipped with all possible accessories
Title-The journal, May 10, 1896
Place of Publication-New York [N.Y.]
Library of Congress
"I wonder what a bicycle would look like equipped with all the accessories that are advertised!"

The Wheel has undertaken to gratify the curious. The illustration shows just how a wheel would look under the conditions stated. The picture is not overdrawn. Every accessory that is shown is actually on the market and offered for sale. Enumerated they are as follows: Lamp, bell, pneumatic brake, double handle-bar, canopy, camera, luggage carrier, waterproof cape, watch and watch holder, match box, speed Indicator, cyclometer, fork pump, continuous alarm (on front axle), balancer, cradle spring, child's seat, anatomical saddle, back support, rubber, mud-guards, handle-bar buffer, tool bag, tourists' case, spring pedals, toe clips, portable stand, changeable gear, gear case and temporary tire repairer. Twenty-nine articles in all. The Wheel

Today the possible accessory choices boggle the mind. I happened up the site of a newish bike company that offers as options:

Safety Features

Front/rear lights
Turn Signals
Intuitive brake light
Laser emitted “bike lane”
Front and rear camera
Collision detection

Tech Features

Built-in WiFi Hotspot
USB ports to power devices
Bluetooth Connectivity
GPS and Anti-theft Protection
Centralized Battery System
Power Generation Systems
App supported​

Low Maintenance

Make our bikes “hassle-free”
Belt drive
Less wear than a chain
No oil needed
Internally geared hub
Ease of shifting
No derailleur
No “cross chain” issues
All cables and power sources built into the frame​

Good Lord. I don't think that more complex systems than cars are equipped with (such as laser generated "bike lanes" you provide for yourself) make much sense but I could be wrong about that but I'm absolutely sure front and rear cameras are not safety equipment, they are a tool for assuring better results if you end up in court, and maybe as a way to record some travels for amusement's sake.

I guess Tech Features is to be understood as "distractions for when you are stopped" (or at least most of it). I particularly like "power general systems" in the plural. Whatever.

The low maintenance aspects - well, I guess that there is something to some of that, but there are always tradeoffs - and TANSTAAFL.