Saturday, November 15, 2014

More 1921 Free Bikes for DC Youth

I did a blog post the other day on this subject - the District of Columbia newspaper The Washington Times in 1921-1922 gave children bicycles if they sold a certain number of newspaper subscriptions. As far as I can tell, they sold the subscriptions but did not then deliver the papers. The Library of Congress later received these glass plate negatives as a gift collection. The Washington Times would occasionally publish photographs of subjects like this with captions to encourage others to emulate their sales efforts.

Another digitized photo of a young woman who received such a bike

Although targeted at children, some of those who received such bikes were a bit older.

This photograph as published in the Washington Times of July 18 1921

This digitized photo shows a rather younger boy - he looks a little doubtful for some reason

I have not found this particular one in the online version of the Washington Times in

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Washington Times - Bikes for Subscription Sales

A "Times Girl" with her new bicycle in 1921

The newspaper The Washington Times in 1921-1922 gave children bicycles if they sold a certain number of newspaper subscriptions. As far as I can tell, they sold the subscriptions but did not then deliver the papers. The Library of Congress later received these glass plate negatives as part of a gift collection.

The Washington Times would occasionally publish photographs of subjects like this with captions to encourage others to emulate their sales efforts. I have not found this particular one in the online version of the Washington Times in

This bike seems a little large for her but she looks very determined. I have cropped the image as presented on the LC website to provide more detail.

For a bicycle earned by selling newspaper subscriptions, this looks like a reasonably nice bike - it has a battery powered headlight and what seems like a horn (?) on the front handlebars. Since this is a ladies model, it has some screening (or what look like more spokes) to keep skirts out of the rear wheel as well as a full chain guard. I think there is a tire pump running up the left side of the seat tube, too.

A "Times Boy" (and friend, or brother) and new bike, also in 1921

Certain aspects of this photograph as presented on the LC website as a medium size JPEG caused me to think there was some artifacting (degradation of the image) in the conversion from the high resolution TIFF image produced from the glass plate negative. I downloaded the TIFF and produced my own JPEG and it has the same issues but the bicycle itself is shown better. I also cropped the photograph in somewhat to emphasize the bicycle.

Quite the handlebars! A "Ranger" - apparently that was the manufacturer and not the model.

Full page ad for this promotion in 1922
Your youngsters are longing for a bicycle now, and they can get one free, the very finest kind that money can buy. The Times is offering your boy or girl a wonderful opportunity to earn a $55 Ranger Bicycle at no cost. They collect no money, pay no money. No Red Tape, bicycle delivered promptly by The Hecht Co., Washington representatives, promptly when 15 new 6 months' subscriptions to The Washington Times are secured and verified.
The Washington Times newspaper was published until the late 1930s and has absolutely no connection with the present-day Washington Times. The bicycles were provided by The Hecht Company, a local department store chain that was acquired by whatever chain owns Macy's - the last stores carrying the Hecht Co. name disappeared in the last ten years.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A "Sociable Bicycle" from 1892 in 1922

Human interest photo from Washington Times issue, April 21 1922

This sort of bicycle was introduced in the 1890s as a way of resolving various issues likely perceived with men and women sharing conventional tandems - basically, shouldn't the woman ride in front? One attempt to deal with this was to rig up handlebars for the rider in back that also controlled the steering. Anyway, the Punnett "companion side-seated bicycle" was an attempt to solve the problem by putting the riders on a single two-wheel frame bicycle next to each other.

This bicycle never caught on, of course, presumably because of the manufacturing cost combined with the dexterity to ride it (or perhaps just the appearance that dexterity would be required?) and the relative simplicity of a more standard tandem, despite the "who sits in front" issue.

Thus in the 1920s this bicycle would be featured as a human interest item - although I think the Washington Times got the date wrong; I think these bicycles were introduced only in 1896, not 1892.

Ad for side-by-side Punnett tandem shown from 1896

Despite ads in publications and articles written about this clever bicycle, it never caught on.

One comment - the age of the bike isn't that big a deal, at least not for a well-maintained bicycle.

Thirty year-old bicycle that I ride much of the time to and from work

Saturday, November 1, 2014

1922 Department of Agriculture Police Officer Rides a Bike

The 82 year old cycling policeman - it keeps him young?

The Washington Evening Star., August 13, 1922 has a human interest photo item about a police officer with the Department of Agriculture who rides a bike at work. And not only that, he is 82 years old and has worked for 59 years, under eight different secretaries of Agriculture.

At this distance in time, it is hard to know which of the various elements mentioned would have been considered the most unusual. That he rides a bike at 82? Or that he has worked for almost 60 years, and at that as a policeman? Or perhaps it is all of together.

The Library of Congress has the digitized negative from which the newspaper photograph was made!

In an earlier blog post I discovered a news story photograph from a DC newspaper issue from 1922 that I then serendipitously located the original of in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. With no particular hope of success, I searched for "Richard Cook" and I immediately found the same photo of him on his bicycle! Amazing! I was intrigued to see that unlike the previous example that was a Copyright deposit at the time (roughly) the photograph was taken, this was from a photographic collection that came to the Library in the 1940s as a gift. Well, whatever builds the collections - it's all good.

Title: Richard H. Cook, 7/29/22
Date Created/Published: [19]22 July 29.
Medium: 1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in. or smaller
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-npcc-23223 (digital file from original)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: LC-F81- 19996 [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
* Title from unverified data provided by the National Photo Company on the negative or negative sleeve.
* Gift; Herbert A. French; 1947.
* This glass negative might show streaks and other blemishes resulting from a natural deterioration in the original coatings.
[Or it might, in this case, show a big fingerprint from poor handling, but presumably (really) not by anyone at LC . . . ]
* Temp. note: Batch five.
[A "temp"orary note that will be in this record for the remaining time this record is online, however long that might be.]

One small complaint-like comment is that there is no subject heading-like or other mention in the PPOC record of "bicycle." That is, the simplest keyword search for bicycle will not include this photo in the results. I guess that makes finding it that much more delicious.

Detailed view of the photo

I produced the above JPEG by cropping in the downloadable TIFF image - there is a lot of detail available; if you zoom in further you can almost make out details of his police badge. You can see that there is a ring on the front wheel, presumably that has teeth, that connects with a cable that goes up to a handlebars - presumably this was at least provided an odometer function and likely also a speedometer, although there would be no obvious reason for him to track his speed! But it could have been that he was obligated to cover a certain distance on each work shift and this was a way of tracking that. It is a little overbuilt for that function since even in the 1890s odometers were available of a much simpler (and smaller) design - but this would have the information much more readily available while riding.

I was a bit puzzled by where this might be. At first I thought it was near the Smithsonian Castle on Independence Avenue, but I think it is up next to the Botanic Garden (also on Independence) and the smokestack behind is the Capitol Heating Plant.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

1922 DC News Photo - Cyclist Listening to Radio on Bicycle

Fifteen year old DC cyclist has radio mounted on his bike

This comes from the Washington Times for September 4, 1922 - a page titled "Times picture page of live views and news." ("Live" is a relative term, it seems.) The page has a variety of human interest photographs with short explanatory captions.

The quality of the photo reflects that this image was digitized from microfilm that was never expected to serve as the source material for high resolution examination in this way. (Gee, I sound sorta like Nicholson Baker, God help us.)

Anyway, upon thoughtful examination of the image above (or you can zoom in with the PDF version) you can make out that young Murray has a radio fitted in the front triangle of the frame of the bicycle and a set of headphones connected to it by a long-ish cable. Just looking at the photo, the idea of someone riding a bicycle and listening to a radio in 1922 seems advanced but it appears that is not was going on - the caption notes that he "has a fully equipped radio outfit on his two-wheeler and wherever he parks he can cut in on the music." So he was only using this set up when stopped. (Considering that a radio at this time would have had glass tubes, the quality of the streets may have been better in those days.)

According to Wikipedia, radios were not commercially available for cars until the 1930s although hobbyists much like Murray with his bicycle were installing them in cars long before that. But this would have made the idea of a radio for a bicycle - even a parked bicycle - a human interest news item of local DC interest in 1922.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Surprising DC 1922 News Photo of Everyday Bike Commuter

Surprise find, photo of a Washington DC bicycle commuter in 1922

The Washington Herald., October 01, 1922, Sunday Edition, Page 7

"Miss M. Kearns, an employe of the Interior Department, has ridden her bicycle to the office daily for the past twenty years."

And later I find, by chance . . .

Same photograph, deposited by photographer Underwood & Underwood at the Library of Congress and online

Title: Woman rides bicycle for 25 years
Date Created/Published: c1922 Sept. 16.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Summary: Miss M. Kearns with bicycle.
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-68742 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: SSF - Bicycles and tricycles [item] [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
* Photo copyrighted by Underwood & Underwood.
* This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.
* Caption card tracings: Photog. I.; BI; Bicycles...; Shelf.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Internet Archive Captures of This Blog

At work I have some involvement with web archiving. Our program is selective in certain subjects as compared to the work done by the Internet Archive, which seems to try to take in as much of what is on the Internet as it can. (There doesn't appear to be a better way of defining the scope of the Internet Archives efforts, but it is clear that they don't harvest everything. For one thing, they respect robots.txt so if a site uses that to prevent indexing or crawling of the site, then IA won't harvest it.

This blog has existed since July 2010 and now has over 500 posts. It isn't clear to me if IA now attempts to harvest all of the blogs in Blogger or has some mechanism for choosing (such as size, or frequency of posting, or popularity, or ?? - whatever it is, IA has been archiving this blog since January 27 2012 a few times a year.

Calendar of captures (harvests) of my blog by the Internet Archive

Each year for which there are captures has a calendar of the months with dates circled when the site was harvested. In 2012 a harvest was made of the blog as it was on January 27 2012, the not again until September 22 (which resulted in the capture shown below). After that it was harvested more frequently but not on what looks like a regular schedule.

IA capture of this blog from September 22, 2012

Looking at the archived version of my site reveals that I haven't changed its formatting since 2012. The only obvious different in fact between now and then is that the ranking of "popular posts" has changed - in September 2012, a post about a Soviet time trial bike was the most read, but now it is a post about the book "Bicycling for Ladies" - this is the result of some outside sites linking to the "Bicycling for Ladies" post, I think. It seems clear that for this not-that-much-read blog, the "popular posts" remain at the top by virtue of readers seeing them there and clicking on them, for the most part.

If one looks at a (far) more famous bicycle blog, Bike Snob NYC as captured by the Internet Archive, it is clear that they have been capturing some Blogger blogs for a long time - the captures for Bike Snob go back to July 7, 2007 for a blog that had only started in June 2007! Perhaps it was the frequency of posting that caused this. In this case, the comparison of the then-blog and the today-blog is more revealing - Bike Snob has zero advertising in July 2007. And the subtitle for the blog was "Finally--a catty, gossipy, nasty, and critical blog for bicycles!" rather than the present "Systematically and mercilessly disassembling, flushing, greasing, and re-packing the cycling culture." (At some point during the next year Bike Snob changed the subtitle to what it is now, according to the versions in the Internet Archive.)

What is the significance of this? Particularly in terms of cycling? Probably none. Except that even pretty obscure stuff that may disappear from the Internet, including stuff about bicycles and cycling, may be stored away in the Internet Archive.