Showing posts with label 1900s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1900s. Show all posts

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Bicycles on DC Streets 1907 (Compared to 1903)

Washington, D.C. clip of Pennsylvania Avenue in 1907 from GhostOfDC

In two different earlier blog posts, first this one and then this one I looked at bicycles that appeared in two short videos of DC streets in the summer of 1903. I have now found the above video of Pennsylvania Avenue in DC, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, from 1907. One can see a lot of change in the four years!!

Pennsylvania Avenue 1907 #1
At about 25 seconds in, a cyclist first appears riding from right to left

The main impression of change is WOW there are a lot more cars carrying passengers on a main thoroughfare in Washington DC in 1907 than there were in 1903, and far fewer horse-drawn carriages. The fellow with a hat facing the Capitol is apparently a traffic policeman who casually directs traffic and to some limited extent, pedestrians.

Pennsylvania Avenue 1907 #2
This is the same cyclists as above, having made a left turn in the intersection and now proceeding away from the Capitol

The cyclist proceeds as any other vehicle, motorized or horse-drawn, riding in the main part of the street.

Pennsylvania Avenue 1907 #3
Another cyclist appears

There are some small breaks in the film - it isn't clear how this cyclist got to the middle of this intersection, but probably he was riding away from the camera and towards the Capitol, then stops or slows to turn to the left.

Pennsylvania Avenue 1907 #4
Because of heavy traffic, the cyclist starts to ride away from the Capitol but then turns to his right

The cyclist makes his left turn in two stages - first, he makes a U-turn, then once he is established heading in the reverse direction and traffic clears to his right, he makes a right turn to complete his original left turn. The traffic policeman plays no role in this maneuver. Note that cyclists in this intersection would have had to navigate safely tram rail tracks in two directions, crossing those at as close to a 90 degree angle as possible.

Pennsylvania Avenue 1907 #5
One of several vehicles spewing vast amounts of exhaust, which can't have been too pleasant

Pennsylvania Avenue 1907 #6
One of only five horse-drawn carriages in the short video

Cars carrying passengers have skyrocketed and horse-drawn carriages, all appearing commercial in nature, have dropped off in number from 1903 to 1907. There are still many streetcars in this urban setting. And there are still bicycles, but the ease with which they can be navigated is much changed for the worse, which probably meant fewer were riding as shown here (although these short videos are of course a very small sample).

Saturday, February 3, 2018

More Bicycles on DC Streets 1903

In an earlier blog post I looked at a short film available as a video via the Internet meant to show US Post Office operations from 1903 in Washington, DC. I found another.

The version on YouTube is so poorly rendered as to be almost useless

The default viewing version is poorly rendered here but the downloadable mp4 file is acceptable.

In this film, meant to show Post Office operations, you can see a certain amount street traffic as well. (The video is apparently meant to show how bags of mail are transferred between a street car and a Post Office horse-drawn wagon.) There is less than a minute and half shown of a major street in Washington DC. Whatever time of day this was, filmed in July 30 1903 (a Thursday), there wasn't much traffic generally, however I am struck by the number of bicycles. It isn't a vast number, but they are clearly being used for transportation by adults.

Washington DC street 1903-1
Cyclist appears suddenly at left, proceeds at measured pace out of view

Washington DC street 1903-2
Next cyclist appears at right, again riding at a measured pace

Washington DC street 1903-3
Due to low resolution, it isn't obvious but a cyclist is proceeding right to left on the next cross street in the distance and is just visible in the space been the streetcar and the Post Office wagon.

Washington DC street 1903-4
Cyclist rides into view, apparently against the flow of traffic on this side of the street

Street mail car, U.S.P.O.
Summary-The first scene appears to have been taken on a main thoroughfare of large city. In the immediate foreground is a horse-drawn U.S. mail vehicle waiting at the side of a streetcar track. Soon a streetcar approaches the camera position. It stops beside the mail vehicle and the driver unloads mail sacks from the streetcar. He then puts some sacks from his wagon onto the streetcar. As the film ends, both the streetcar and the horse-drawn mail delivery wagon leave the scene.
Contributor Names-Weed, A. E., camera.; American Mutoscope and Biograph Company.
Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)
Created / Published-United States : American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, 1903.
- H34992 U.S Copyright Office
- Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company; 22Aug03; H34992.
- Cameraman, A. E. Weed.
- Cameraman credit from Niver's, Early motion pictures, p. 314.
- Filmed July 30, 1903 in Washington, D.C.
- Source used: Niver, Kemp R., Early motion pictures, 1985.
- Available also through the Library of Congress Web site as digital files.
- Received: 2/2000 from LC lab; ref print and dupe neg; preservation; Paper Print Collection.
Repository-Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA dcu
Digital Id-
LCCN Permalink-

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bicycle Messengers of 100+ Years Ago

The Fast Flying Bike Messenger

Evening Star newspaper. (Washington, D.C.), 23 Aug. 1908. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.
In Washington, a city of few hills and with asphalt streets and but little congestion, the messenger boy prefers to ride a bicycle to the more ancient but slower method of walking. The bicycle boy, if he is working by the "piece," of course, makes more money than his rival on foot, so that the spirit of emulation drives many messengers to save enough money to purchase wheels, so consequently they have no money to spend on novels.
From an odd article about what messengers in Washington DC read.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Roosevelt (or Two) on a Bike

Archie Roosevelt on Bicycle at White House
Archie Roosevelt, son of the then-president, Theodore Roosevelt, on a bicycle at the White House. The bike is too large for him.

Title-Archie Roosevelt on a bicycle
Contributor Names-Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer
Created / Published-c1902 June 17.
Format Headings
Photographic prints--1900-1910.
Portrait photographs--1900-1910.
- H19130 U.S. Copyright Office.
- Title and other information transcribed from caption card and item.
- Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection (Library of Congress).
- Formerly in LOT 4273.
- Multiple copies of print found.
Medium-1 photographic print.
Source Collection-Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952. Portraits
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Digital Id-cph 3a19334 //
Reproduction Number-LC-USZ62-17136 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory-No known restrictions on publication.
LCCN Permalink-

Something completely different

The Nationals' Ball Park has a "Presidents' Race" of the racing presidents that includes Teddy Roosevelt - who never won a race until 2012. Here the presidents raced using local Capital Bikeshare bikes.

Johnston With Bike
The portrait of Archie Roosevelt was taken by this photographer, who posed dressed in a man in this self-portrait with a high-wheel bicycle

Title-[Frances Benjamin Johnston, full-length self-portrait dressed as a man with false moustache, posed with bicycle, facing left]
Contributor Name-Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer
Created / Published-[between 1890 and 1900]
Subject Headings
- Johnston, Frances Benjamin,--1864-1952
- Cross dressing--1890-1900
- Bicycles--1890-1900
Format Headings
Albumen prints--1890-1900.
Portrait photographs--1890-1900.
- Title devised by Library staff.
- Forms part of: Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection (Library of Congress).
- Exhibited: "Who's Afraid of Women Photographers?" at the Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France, Oct. 2015-Jan. 2016.
Medium-1 photographic print mounted on layered paper board : albumen ; photo 20.9 x 14.9 cm, on mount 25.3 x 20.3 cm.
Call Number/Physical Location-LOT 11734-3 [item] [P&P]
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Digital Id-ppmsc 04884 //
cph 3b29741 //
Library of Congress Control Number
Reproduction Number
LC-DIG-ppmsc-04884 (digital file from original) LC-USZ62-83111 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory
No known restrictions on publication.
LCCN Permalink

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Double-Decker Bike Parking for Commuters in USA

Bicycle shelter, National Cash Register [Company], Dayton, O[hio]
Employee parking in Dayton Ohio in 1902 - back to the future?

Bicycle shelter, National Cash Register [Company], Dayton, O[hio] - detail
Two parking levels of bikes visible in parking shed (or "shelter")

In the detail photograph, you can see clearly that the rider-commuter to the right has a clip (or something) to keep his trousers from getting caught in the front ring of the drive train as well as away from the chain. The fellow in the middle would occasionally work late, it seems, since his bike is outfitted with a headlight.
Bicycle shelter, National Cash Register [Company], Dayton, O[hio]
Contributor Names-Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942, photographer
Detroit Publishing Co., Created / Published[1902?]
Source Collection-Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Sunday, June 5, 2016

How Photos and Articles Appeared Across the Nation

Alvey Adee of Dept of State & Bicycle
The original photograph in the Library of Congress collections

The above image of the Department of State official, who happened to be someone who rode to and from work every day on a bicycle.

Adee article example 1
The photograph used in 1914 about Adee's trip to France, published in The Greenville Journal newspaper in July 1914

These kinds of short articles were distributed nationally by different services and often were used to fill up pages with human interest material. In the above version Harris & Ewing (the photography house) was given credit.

Adee article example 2
And the Grand Forks Daily Herald . . .

A rather more cropped version of the photograph and a shorter version of the text, above. They needed to fill up some of the page, but not so much.

Adee article example 3
And the Dakota Farmers Leader

This paper made use of the item as supplied, it would seem, like the first version. The darkness of the photograph in this last example has to do with the quality of the microfilm and (probably) not any real differences in how the photographs would have looked on newsprint.

One sees this sort of thing from time to time in Chronicling America, the searchable database of American newspapers from many states provided by the Library of Congress. Occasionally even involving bicycles!

Friday, July 4, 2014

July Fourth Bicycle Race, 1902

From the the New York Tribune, July 5, 1902, an article about a bicycle track race on July 4, 1902. (I on the other hand went to Nationals baseball game today.)



The largest attendance of the year — fully eight thousand people — witnessed the bicycle races at the Vailsburg track, near Newark, yesterday. While no records were broken, the sport was excellent throughout, and the onlookers watched the finishes of the races with the closest attention. The weather was a little too warm for the spectators, but was of the ideal sort for the racing men, who do their best work when the sun scorches the pine ooze out of the board track.

Vailsburg is a merrymaking sort of a place. The enthusiasts who went to the track yesterday carried their pockets full of firecrackers and pistols. When a finish was to their liking the men and boys arose to their feet and let off noise and din, giving full play to their patriotism and satisfaction at the same time. When Kramer defeated Lawson, just returned from abroad, there was a fusillade of fireworks which made the rafters of the grandstand tremble.
And how did [Eddie] Bald win "in clever fashion?"
Bald, who had a lead of 100 yards, was in in good position from the start. Entering the homestretch Bald was in front riding with all of his oldtime fire and spirit, with nearly a dozen riders in a close bunch behind. One hundred yards from the wire one of the riders In the front rank went down with a bang bringing down five others with him. This left Bald with a clear field before him. He won by nearly twenty yards. None of the riders who fell were severely injured,

Thursday, February 13, 2014

More on the Bicycle of the Future (a View from 1901)

An article in "Modern Culture" from 1901 looks at "The Future of the Bicycle" from a few years later than my previous post that was a view from 1897 - between 1897 and 1901, the market for bicycles collapsed and prices fell and at the same time the automobile was being introduced, along with motor bicycles (motorcycles).

I have only reproduced here the text of some representative paragraphs from the beginning, middle and end of the article but it is not very long and may be interesting to read the entire thing.

The introduction is written in a rather overdone style I often see in articles written around this time.
THERE still are those, as there were ten years ago, who persist in their contention that the days of the bicycle are far spent, just as there are those who commune with nature on a spring day with their fingers in their ears and admit the earth is beautiful while they lament that the birds have ceased to sing in the tree tops. And because it takes all manner of people to make a world, there doubtless are those also who confess that wheeling exhales a most seductive influence, but who will resist it for the same reason as of yore; they will wait until bicycles are cheaper. Not while green Nature allures when winter wanes, and mankind enjoys his liberty, will bicycling or some kindred recreation lose its fascination. The industry has felt an impulse to renewed activity, and while it is in a measure true that this spirit of optimism is perennial, the conclusion is so logical that it must be shared by everyone.
The article then reviews the history of the bicycle's development and makes the following conclusions:
All sorts of impossible inventions continue to emanate from the patent office, but the prospect of another radical step forward on present approved lines is obscure. Advancement is not an abstract condition which exists as a natural course,and the improvement of the bicycle cannot be said to cover a century, but was rather confined to two decades.

There have necessarily been greater variations in the different designs for the last ten years than reason demanded, but the amount of experimentation to which it is attributable has not been without a favorable effect on the present high standard of excellence. Every important feature has been carried to opposite extremes in order to attain the happy medium, and possibly with an ulterior motive of keeping the public curiosity whetted by constantly changing fashions. But now there is no longer need to perpetuate that expensive custom of adopting a radically different design every year, and marking wheels a scant year old down to bargain counter prices. Evolution has been toward uniformity. . .
Here the writer has in mind bicycles for general use and not a bicycle used by a professional racer, which would have been a much more narrow market at that time. Since then, of course, it has turned out that there can be a great variety of bicycle types overall, but here question was whether there would be some additional leap to improve bicycle technology comparable to the introduction of the pneumatic tire.

The article then has the following flowery conclusion:
While prices are not actually increased this year, it augurs well for the quality of the bicycle that there is a tendency to buoyancy in this direction. With the public clamoring for prices lower than the cost of a good bicycle, there was a flood of inferior wheels, cheap in all save price, assembled from a fortuitous medley of unrelated parts and pieces. The sale of assorted parts has decreased, which means that with wheels of established reputation within the reach of all, the profit in home made work is lost.

So give the bicycle its due. It will live though a few immunes deny it the right. It will bear the same relation to the motor bicycle that the horse does to the automobile. Society will resurrect it as a fad; indeed it may even now be bent upon it since King Edward of England is an enthusiast. And society will eventually drop it again without affecting its stability. For as a leveler of distances between the city pavements and the green of country earth it is a boon to the nature-lover, while its utility appeals to man's commercial instincts.
"A bicycle is to a motor bicycle as a horse is to the automobile" is not how things have worked out, but the basic logic that the bicycle's "utility appeals to man's commercial instincts" seems to be true for some today at least, if we take "commercial" to mean "it's economical."

Columbia Catalog 1900
A good quality bicycle from 1901 at the reduced (from 1897) price of only $50

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Modern Lugged Frame & 3D Printing

VRZ 1. a tack bike frame with 3d printed lugs from Ralf Holleis on Vimeo.

A clever use of 3D printing to create lugs for a bicycle frame. I am not someone who pines for a bicycle-as-work-of-art like this, but there is no reason I can think of not to use a technical approach like this to build a bicycle frame that would more pedestrian in appearance but good to ride.

From a bicycle "accessories" (mostly parts) catalog of 1900

The elegance of a lugged bicycle frame to me is that it is the way most good (and I suppose some other) bicycles were built for the better part of 100 years.

My 1982 Bridgestone with a lugged steel frame

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Complete Streets" in 1905??

On the local WashCycle blog, I recently bumped into this new item video. I was only a little surprised to find that in it, as an example of "complete streets" from over 100 years ago, they use video footage from an American Memory collection.

At about 22 seconds the American Memory footage from 1905 starts, ending at about 40 seconds

The piece is about a town in England where they are implementing a different kind of traffic control approach, in effect reducing barriers between different types of transportation modes, including motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. They support this approach (in small part) with American Memory footage taken from "A trip down Market Street before the fire". This is an unusual set of short films created while driving down Market Street in San Francisco in 1905, before the Great Fire of 1906. It is considered valuable documentation of what the street looked like at that time.

Screenshot from American Memory
A number of bicycles are shown riding along with the cars, horses, street cars, and pedestrians

The annotation in the LC record and the statements in the video by the British urban planners reflect different analysis of the 1905 footage. In the annotated American Memory record it states that: "The near total lack of traffic control along Market Street emphasizes the newness of the automobile. Granite paving stripes in the street marking ignored pedestrian crosswalks, making the crossing of Market Street on foot a risky venture." The British urban planners, however, regard this as the "natural order" of things that has been ruined by stoplights and that stoplights (etc) only appeared "in the last 50 or 60 years" - in order to "segrate traffic from other aspects of life."

And, as I noted, they do not identify the source of their film clip, or that fact that it was clearly orchestrated (the cars, for example, have been observed to be the same cars over and over again, apparently driving around the block and getting back into view of the filming camera to make it appear there were more cars in the city than there actually were) and likely nothing like the natural state of SF traffic at the time. The kid on the bicycle shown above, for example, looks back to regard with interest the camera shooting the film that now includes him.

Full version of the film done in 1905, originally in three parts

Bicycles appear with some frequency; the riders seem fearless as they operate near the street car.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Finding Lucien Lesna, French Cyclist

I browse bicycle-related items in the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) from time to time. Sometimes it is not that easy, given the descriptive metadata provided, to understand what or who some photographs are.

Lucien Lesna, French Cyclist (1898)
Identified in this Copyright deposit simply as "Lesna"

I happened upon this photo that came to the Library originally as a copyright deposit, presumably from the photographer's studio ("Van Norman Studio" that is applied to the photo). The only description that the Prints & Photographers had was his name, Lesna, which they did work out was his name.

Here is the minimalistic but better-than-nothing descriptive portion of record in PPOC:
Title: Lesna / Van Norman.
Creator(s): Van Norman, George H., photographer
Date Created/Published: c1898.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Summary: Lesna on bicycle.

Now before I move on to what else I learned about Mr. Lesna (and how I learned it), a comment about this image. In the record, it says: Reproduction Number : LC-USZ62-99752 (b&w film copy neg.) What this means is that this image was not produced from the original photograph that was deposited at the Library of Congress but that at some point (decades ago, most likely) someone paid to have a copy made of that photograph for which there is a "b&w film copy neg."[ative] and that negative was digitized. This is a reproduction of a copy, not the original.

Also, the only JPEG provided on the Library of Congress site is a not-terribly-good 37 kb version - if you look at it closely, there are haloing artifacts and general mushiness. This was done years ago when smaller JPEGs seemed like a good idea for speedy delivery. If you look at the JPEG I produced with IrfanView from the TIFF that is also available on the LC site, it also has some mushiness issues (likely reflecting the copy negative and not the original) but you can certainly make out more detail. The smaller version embedded in this page looks nicely sharp compared to the slightly larger (in height/width in pixels) 37 kb LC version. So . . . it may be worthwhile if you want to look at details to use the TIFF (or create your own derivative) and not rely on the LC JPEG. But with a digital reproduction of a photographic reproduction you are only going to get so much detail in any event.

Lesna JPEG image detail
Haloing in LC JPEG visible around writing and spokes

So, knowing only that this was someone named Lesna who was in one of many towns named Springfield in the U.S. around 1898, how did I learn more? Like any sensible person, I started with Wikipedia. Simply searching "Lesna" brings up various towns - "Lesna" means "spring" (the season) in several Slavic languages and apparently is used for a town name. Searching "lesna cyclist" locates articles about several French bicycle races from the right time period where someone named "Lucien Lesna" won, for example Bordeaux-Paris in 1901. Alas Lucien Lesna has no article in Wikipedia - or rather, in the English Wikipedia. But in the French version there is a short article listing some of his victories (but no biographic info). And it has the same photo from LC. (The person who put it into Wikicommons also decided the LC JPEG was crummy and he or she produced a JPEG about the same size as the one I ended up with. Ha.)

With this knowledge that Lesna was a French cyclist, how did he come to be photographed in one of the many Springfields? Presumably he was on a racing tour of America. And in fact, a search of Chronicling America brings up this page with this headline: "MORE RECORDS SMASHED Michael Defeats Lesna in the Great Twenty-Mile Race. The Frenchman Makes a Gallant Fight" that is datelined "Springfield, Mass." September 16, 1897. (So apparently the photographer only deposited at LC the following year.)
Fifteen thousand people howled Jimmie Michael, the Welsh wonder, around the track at the bicycle races this afternoon for twenty miles until he finished over an eighth of a mile ahead of his rival, Lucian Lesna, and established a world's record for sixteen miles and upwards. The contest was a beautiful exhibition of bicycle riding and Michael's superior pacing and fine head work contributed to his victory.

Illustration for article in San Francisco Call about Lesna

Another article in the The San Francisco Call from June 4, 1897 describes his arrival in America from Australia.
LUCIEN LESNA, CHAMPION CYCLER - He Is the Greatest Long Distance Rider in the World. Arrived Here Yesterday From a Successful Pilgrimage to Australia. Can Ride Twenty Miles at a Two Minute Gait,and Now Holds All Australian Records - Lucien Lesna, the champion cyclist of France and also the champion long-distance rider of the world, arrived here yesterday morning on the steamer Mariposa from Australia and is stopping at the Palace.
Thanks in part to Mr. Lesna's uncommon name and in part to the large amount of newspaper content digitized and searchable, it is possible to find out rather a lot!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Racing Without "Stimulants" Over 100 Years Ago

Doping in cycle racers has been well documented going back into the 1890s. Whole books have been written about Choppy Warburton, the Michele Ferrari of his day.

Famous racer from over 100 years ago, Bobby Walthour provides an example of discussion of doping in the press over 100 years ago, in 1901.

Madison Square Garden Bicycle Racing
From "The World", December 1901, showing Madison Square Garden for a six race. At bottom, rider Bobby Walthour says he'll ride without "stimulants"

"No, we do not take stimulants in any form, unless it is coffee now and then when we grow a bit sleepy. On the other hand they tell me that these foreigners use drugs. They use strychnine, which is a muscle stimulant. It is a bad business for them and sooner or later they will feel the bad effects of it."

"A man to do well in a race of this kind must keep his body clean and well nourished, and once he begins to take alcohol or strychnine he might as well just stop. I think we will win without much difficulty."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Circuses & Bicycles 1900

Someone at work knows I am interested in historical images of cycling so she emailed me a link the this image in the National Library of Ireland's Flickr area.

Photo from the National Library of Ireland

Title - Mr Minton ? & Mr Lloyds, Circus on spiral rail, circa 1900
Main Author - A. H. Poole Studio Photographer
In Collections - The Poole Photographic Collection
The National Library of Ireland

I have to say, this is not exactly the most impressive feat involving a bicycle, but for a small circus . . . in fact, it would seem like setting up that spiral would have been a lot of work, so one guesses that they did something with it beside have this guy ride the bike up it. And what happens at the top, anyway?

A Library of Congress search for "bicycle" and "circus" brings up mostly posters.

Cropped and rotated image of 1900 circus poster from Library of Congress online presentation

Title: The Adam Forepaugh and Sells Brothers, America's greatest shows consolidated--The miraculous Melrosas
Date Created/Published: Buffalo, N[ew] Y[ork] : Courier Company Lith. Dept., c1900.
Medium: 1 print (poster) : chromolithograph ; 71 x 105 cm.
Summary: Poster showing circus performers riding bicycles on tightropes.
Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-10501 (color film copy transparency)

Most (if not all) of the LC digitized circus posters are like this one, taken from a color negative that was produced before digitization from the original was more commonplace. I rotated the image (deskewed) and took out the color bars. The LC version is here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

U.S. Post Office Carriers With Bicycles (1903)

Another short video (silent film) taken from a paper roll that was printed for copyright deposit that is part of the America at work collection in American Memory.

TITLE - Carriers leaving building, U.S.P.O. [Version 2]

CREATED/PUBLISHED - United States : American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, 1903.

SUMMARY - Male letter carriers of the U.S. Post Office are the subject of this series on the Postal Department. The camera was placed to show a large number of uniformed mail carriers as they leave the main post office to deliver letters. They can be seen walking down the steps of the building toward the camera position. Some mount bicycles and ride away, while others just walk. There are also some women in the film.

NOTES - Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company; 22Aug03; H34973.
Cameraman, A. E. Weed.
Cameraman credit from Niver's, Early motion pictures, p. 48.
Filmed August 5, 1903 in Washington, D.C.
Source used: Niver, Kemp R., Early motion pictures, 1985.
Received: 2/2000 from LC lab; ref prints and dupe neg; preservation; Paper Print Collection.

USPO cyclists image from video
Screen grab from video showing several mail carriers with bicycles

If one believes the summary, some of the mail carriers are off to deliver mail on bicycle - perhaps one of them is shown later in this video (with his "flying dismount"). In the 1890s bicycles were very expensive relative to workers' incomes - by 1903 the prices had fallen quite a bit but securing them somehow would still seem useful, but this video and photos I see rarely suggest anyone locked their bikes up in public. Bikes are visible, stacked against one another leaning against a wall - if they were riding every day, one would expect something a little better than that.

The summary states, "there are also some women in the film" - yes, but the two I notice are at the very end and are not letter carriers (and don't get on bicycles, either, unlike the Parke Davis employees video that shows many women riding).

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Flying Dismount" Delivery - 1903 Video

Another short bicycle video from American Memory.

Special Delivery Messenger makes a "flying dismount"

Special delivery messenger, U.S.P.O. [United States Post Office]

CREATED/PUBLISHED - United States : American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, 1903.

SUMMARY - As the scene opens, the front of a house, the shrubbery, a staircase, and the sidewalk are visible. From camera left, using a flying dismount, comes a bicycle rider in the uniform of a special delivery messenger. After parking his bicycle, he goes up the stairs to the front door of the house. A woman emerges, he hands her a letter, returns to his bicycle, then rides off out of the scene.

NOTES - Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company; 22Aug03; H34970.
Cameraman, A. E. Weed.
Cameraman credit from Niver's, Early motion pictures, p. 307.
Filmed August 7, 1903 in Washington, D.C.
Source used: Niver, Kemp R., Early motion pictures, 1985.
Received: 2/2000 from LC lab; ref print and dupe neg; preservation; Paper Print Collection.

I wonder where in Washington DC it was done?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Russian Diplomats as Cyclists in 1895

Article in the Washington Times from 1895 describes the spread of cycling among foreign diplomats assigned to Washington, including the Russian minister.
Diplomats Proficient Upon the Shining Wheel

Russian and Austrian Ministers Are Expert Riders, and the Chinese Attaches, in Gay Costumes, Are Bicycle Devotees.

The bicycling craze has taken a strong hold on Washington society, and has extended into the diplomatic corps.

The foreigners have become greatly interested in the fad of the hour, and many of them are already proficient riders of the shining wheel.

The first to lend in this respect was the Russian minister, Prince Cantacuzene, who no sooner was able to keep his equilibrium upon the "bike" than he induced his daughter to become accomplished in the same manner. Every afternoon during last autumn, and almost every late afternoon during the winter, the Prince and Princess Cantacuzene might have been seen spinning over the miles of smooth asphalt in the city on their bicycles.

At first, of course, when the bicycles were brought out and placed in front of the legation they created no end of excitement in the neighborhood, and the dwellers along that particular square made a brave showing on the front porticos and at the windows to watch the mount and triumphal start.

Gradually, however, as tho novelty wore off, the prince and his young daughter, who were debarred from taking any active part in the season's gayeties on account of the fact that the Russian legation was in mourning for the death of the Czar, were allowed to depart upon their afternoon bicycling trip without this attendant notoriety.
Later in the article it is noted that at this time there was some modesty among cyclists ~
As a matter or fact, the favorite place with the members of the diplomatic corps, and society generally who ride the bicycle, is the great open space back of the President's mansion, "Executive driveway," as it is sometimes called now, since the old name of "White Lot" has been abandoned by the fashionables.

There the bicyclers congregate in large numbers all during the spring and autumn evenings directly after dark, for as yet the majority of society has no fancy for being stared at in daylight when bicycle riding.
The Czar who died in 1895 was Alexander III, the father of Nicholas II, who was overthrown by the Bolsheviks in 1917. I hadn't realized, but his heir for a time was his brother, who was killed in a bicycle accident in 1899: "The death of Grand Duke George, Czarevitch of Russia . . . the hemorrhage which caused the death of the Czarevitch was the result of a fall from his bicycle which be sustained while on an excursion in the hilly country near Abbas Tuman. The paper adds that he died near the scene of the accident." (From another newspaper article.)

It does seem Czar Nicholas II did ride bikes, as shown here and here

The most well known photo of a cyclist in Russia from today is shown below, taken by a writer for the New Yorker who lives in Moscow:


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Getting On a Bike, 1899-Style

Dr. Neesen's Book on Wheeling published in 1899 has this guidance:

In learning to mount, head your wheel for the down grade, place your left foot on the little projection on the rear axle, shove off with the right foot, raise up on your left foot, and balance that way until the right pedal rises to its height, then place the right foot on it, glide into the saddle and seek the left pedal with the left foot. Experts are in the habit of mounting directly from the pedal as a horse is mounted. This requires considerable skill. Dismounting, however, is done from the pedal. Just as the pedal reaches it lowest level, and is about to rise, stand up on it and fling the other leg over the saddle. Mounting from the pedal is done in the same manner.
Of course, this mounting from a peg on the left of the rear wheel is quite different than what is generally done today. One may wonder why they felt that "considerable skill" was required to mount the bicycle as we typically do today, and the answer would be that this is a fixed gear arrangement so that whenever the bike moves, the pedals spin - there is no coasting possible - and this would make getting on a moving bike with the left foot on the left (spinning) pedal more difficult, assuming you try to get moving and get on at the same time (which apparently was the thinking).

I noticed an image at work that needed to have its "title construct" (a made-up title that describes what the cataloger sees in the image) updated.

Bicycle Print
"Man on bicycle pushing to follow bicycling man in distance" - the original title given

In fact, this is a man getting on his bicycle, perhaps to give chase to the other cyclist. You can tell by where the left pedal would be compared to the right and where his left foot must be - he has his foot on the "peg" and is getting ready to swing himself up onto the seat.

Following my advice, the title was changed to this: "Man in foreground mounting bicycle to follow bicycling man in distance."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Starting a Search for Bikes in a Trove

A week or so ago I posted some information about some places I go to in order to find information about the history of cycling, including photographs, newspaper articles, and books in the public domain (that is, not under copyright).

Another good starting point for bicycle history research is "Trove", a search system from the National Library of Australia. Trove has several positive aspects for beginning research - one is that their search includes many types of collection materials, including photographs and manuscripts as well as books (and others). Also, for some of the materials, in particular photographs, they have "ingested" metadata for collections outside of the National Library of Australia and even outside of Australia. The metadata has to be available to them in an appropriate format so they can do this but as a "one-stop" starting place it's great.

Walthour, Motor Pace Racing
Bobby Walthour racing in France, a 1908 photograph found in "Trove" - Walthour is below on the track, just being passed

I recently read (and enjoyed) a biography about the famous American cycle racer Bobby Walthour (that I also reviewed). I wasn't terribly happy with the one photograph of Walthour I found at the Library of Congress. Searching for "Walthour" in Trove turns up photographs, newspaper articles, and books (and some stuff that isn't the right Walthour, but it isn't very much and I can ignore that). The newspaper search in Trove is one area where the search is limited to Australian "content" but unlike the U.S. Chronicling America, it extends to 1954 rather than 1923. It says something about Walthour's international racing reputation that there were articles in Australian newspapers about his racing achievements, mostly winning races in Europe in the early 1900s. His retirement from racing was also reported in Australia. (Arguably Walthour and Major Taylor set the stage for Lance Armstrong's achievements, but the gap of ninety or so years erased any popular awareness of them.)

There are 23 photos (now) in Trove with "my" Walthour, including several that are far more interesting than any I had found earlier. As it turns out, almost all the photos in Trove are from Gallica at the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF), part of a collection of press agency photographs, Agence Rol. Agence photographique.

Walthour Track Racing
Walthour riding (probably warming up) in France (1909) - note incredible size of front chain ring and "negative rake" of the fork

To display results from other institutions' collections, Trove transfers you to the other institution's website - so to see BnF materials you end up using Gallica. So having been led there by Trove, I turn my attention to Gallica. And as it turns out, when I search Gallica directly for "Walthour," I find some Walthour photographs that haven't reached Trove - six additional photos from Agence Meurisse.

Walthour Portrait
Walthour portrait from Gallica, Agence Meurisse, 1909

So while Trove is a good place to start a search, perhaps its greatest benefit is introducing you to other search systems that you can search further, such as Gallica. Each of these systems has its own pecularities - Gallica, for example, seems to offer only low resolution images as its "high res downloadable" versions, which while adequate for web display such as in this blog would be poor choices for any printed usage.

Sometimes one wants newer material. One good resource to keep in mind is the image search in Google for their Life magazine archive - a search for "bicycle" turns up a wide variety of items from the 20th century. I was surprised to find that six-day races were being run as late as 1948, as shown in this photograph. Apparently this image search retrieves using an exact match, so a search on "bicycle" doesn't find items where the description would have only included "bike" or "cycling" - but the related item information is smarter, and from previous six-day race photo, I found this rather astonishing six-day race photo of "Bicyclist William Anderson reading a letter while biking during a six day bike race." Is it really possible to ride this way?? And we worry about talking on a phone while riding! But then I suppose he isn't out in traffic with cars . . .

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fire Fighting Bikes in Germany (1910)

In an earlier post, I looked at an article in the Scientific American from 1896 about a four-seat bicycle that carried a pump to fight fires - a cycle-borne fire engine, in Germany.

Qaudricycle Fire Engine
Line-drawing illustration from Scientific American article

Looking for articles about six-day races at Madison Square Garden in the early 1900s, I bumped into an article in the New York "Sun" of 1910 titled, "Fire Fighters of Europe" that looked at the kind of equipment used and compared it to what was used in New York City. Five different photographs show unusual approaches, such as a boat-as-fire-engine in Venice, plus a photo showing the bicycle-fire engine in a small German town.

German Bicycle Fire "Apparatus" (1910)
A photograph of a similar unusual bicycle

It is a little difficult to see the details in this image (which was produced from microfilm of the newspaper) but it appears that this cycle is not the same as the 1896 model - the pump unit seems to be near the front, and it looks like there are three riders on each side and not two, so this looks like a six-seat bicycle.

The article's author suggest that, "It is a swift and effective method, but is not likely to be imitated in this country."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Evolution of the Racing Bicycle in 1908

Evolution of the Racing Bike (1908)
From The Evening World, December 1908

Perspective from an article written before a six-day race in New York on the progress from high-wheel bicycles to the modern safety bicycle.
Old-timers on High Wheels were Endurance Champions

Modern Cycle Is an Airship Compared with the Pneumatic Vehicle of Other Days.

During the running of the six-day bicycle race in the Garden next week, the question more likely to be heard than any other is whether those among the fifteen teams who can stand the gruelling pace in the test of the final days when stamina counts are not greater endurance than those who first brought ths six-day record to America. The answer is furnished by a member of The Evening World's sporting staff who has witnessed nearly all the great six-day events in America from March 13 1886 when Albert Schock in Minneapolis hung up the worlds record of 1,008 miles for seventy-two hours-twelve hours a day-down to 1899 when Walter Miller and Dutch Waller set up a mark of 2,733 miles 4 laps in Madison Square Garden.

Conditions are vastly different to-day from those of 20 years ago. The modern bicycle, pneumatic tired and weighing only 22 pounds, is an air ship compared to the 50 pound high-wheeled boneshaker with Its hard rubber tires and 57-Inch wheel. Then there is the difference of the scientifically banked track and the unbanked turns of twenty years ago, when a "header" meant almost certain death. Training methods have also changed, the six-day rider of today training almost exclusively for speed and under the team arrangement being relieved on the track at any time, while the old record holders were trained for endurance.

Old Timers Had Endurance

Speed has a deteriorating effect similar to the long steady grind, but when I think that Schlock never once left the tract in the first three day except to change wheels, and that his entire resting time was 40 mlnutes in the 72 hours it seems to be the most marvelous test of endurance I have ever seen-unless it be that of Mlle. Louise Armaindo, who beat Jack Prince in a 24-hour race because she never quit riding in the whole time. In the match race between Prince and Schock in Minneapolis, March 1886, when Prince set up a new world's record of 1,040 miles, neither man was off his wheel more than ten minutes for the entire 72 hours. This race, by the way, was for $1,000 a side, the largest side bet ever made in a similar contest in America.