Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Sunday, June 22, 2014

How Bicycles Are Built (in 1896)

How Bicycles are Built. (article)
Author: Monroe Sonneschein
Publisher: [Chicago : : R. Sonneschein], June 1896.
Journal title: American Jewess : Vol 2 : Issue 9.; Page(s) 457-465.

This article provides a surprising type and amount of information compared to others I have seen from this period, particularly since it was intended as a tutorial for women readers assumed to know little about bicycles who would use this information to inform purchase of a bicycle. (While I think it is a interesting article, I'm not so sure that much of what is covered would be useful for a successful bicycle purchase, however.) I think it is worth looking at the entire article - here are some highlights:

HOW BICYCLES ARE BUILT. This article is written with a view of enlightening the purchaser of a wheel, who, as a rule, knows nothing about the construction and mechanical advantages of one bicycle over another.

Scientific men who have made bicycle-building their study all agree that the construction of a modern safety is one of the most delicate and intricate problems in mechanics, easily taking rank with locomotive or bridge-building. In most high-grade wheels there are about one hundred separate and distinct parts. Including duplicates, there are some seven hundred and fifty pieces in all. The puzzles and conundrums propounded by the wise men would seem easy of solution in comparison with the task of assembling the parts of a bicycle into one compact, rigid and smoothly-running machine. It is an undertaking requiring the highest degree of mechanical intelligence.

In a gun,"the factor of safety," as it is termed by engineers, is never lower than 12, which means that it is designed to be 12 times stronger than the strain it is calculated to withstand. In general machinery, the "factor of safety" is from 4 to 5; but in a bicycle it is but 1 1/4, in order that the machine may be as light as possible. It can therefore be readily understood that the greatest care must be exercised in its manufacture.
Guns are designed to be safer than bicycles?? Apparently.

Image from the book "A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Ricycle. . . " by Frances E. Willard, 1895. This book is available here -

More from "How Bicycles Are Built:"
A bicycle frame must be designed to withstand all manner of strains, such as longitudinal, tortional and vibrational, and their many combinations. It must stand up well in collision and the shock consequent to a fall at high speed. And right here let me state that too much rigidity in a frame is almost as faulty as not enough of it.

The bearings of a bicycle are perhaps its most interesting feature. The wear upon these parts is almost constant, and the material used should be of the finest steel tempered in oil all the way through, and not only case-hardened, because casehardening is merely hardening the outside of the metal. When such a temper is used, the hardened surface soon wears through; and the balls, reaching the softer metal of the inside, in a very short time eat away the bearing.

After the frame, the putting together of a bicycle wheel is the most important step in cycle-building. Each spoke is tested to support a hanging weight of not less than 1,000 pounds. The hub-the foundation of the wheel-is turned from a solid bar of steel. A hole for the axle is bored lengthwise through its center, as well as many smaller holes in the flanges around the outside of its ends, to hold the spokes.

In the wooden rim there is, of course, a hole for each spoke. These holes are "countersunk," and "washers" are introduced to prevent the spokes from pulling through the rims; for it is an interesting fact that, while the weight in a wooden wheel stands on the spokes, in a bicycle wheel it hangs on the spokes, the spokes above the hub supporting most of the weight. Were it otherwise, the wheel would quickly collapse; for while the tiny wires are capable of bearing an enormous lengthwise strain, they would immediately bend under a trifling compressional one.
Wheels with rims made from wood were still common at this point.
There is no device known to mechanics which minimizes friction to so great an extent as the ball-bearing. Running parts equipped with it may truly be said to possess the poetry of motion; yet how few among the thousands of wheelmen understand its magical workings!
The complete articlehas additional details about bicycle manufacturing practices of the 1890s.

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, January 18, 2014

When Capitol Hill Staffers Were "Bicycle Crazy"

1896 was the height of the 1890s "bicycle craze" - when cycling was highly fashionable and popular. So much so that this short article appeared in the [Washington DC] Morning Times on May 24, 1896.
EVERYBODY around the Capitol has gone bicycle crazy. As a consequence more people are limping around the corridors than one would suppose. They are all learners. So it is no strange thing to hear every person laughing when some one comes limping along. Most of them have been there before and have gone through the same experience. The case of the clerk of a prominent Presidential candidate illustrates the heartlessness of the initiated, of those who can dodge a cable car, coal carts and street sweepers all at once. He was limping along the corridor when he was greeted by a friend with:
"Halloo, Billy; sick?"
"No; bicycle."
That was all except the laughter.
Since most cyclists were riding fixed gear bicycles at this time, either with no brakes at all or primitive spoon brakes, it was not just that many cyclists were learners but also that cycling was generally more risky since stopping (in particular) was more problematic.

This photograph illustrates the suggested approach for coasting with an 1890s fixed gear bike, with the rider putting her feet on pegs on the fork while the pedals spin below - she does have a brake on this bicycle, at least

A photograph of fashionable young then-Washingtonians, some with their "wheels," near the U.S. Capitol

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Wheelmen - Rise and Fall (of the Use of that Word)

This is a somewhat random post, as I think about it in advance. Hmmm.

In the 1880s-90s, the term "wheelmen" was most commonly used word to describe (male) cyclists as a group. Therefore if one is using a search engine sort of approach to mining in the digitized newspapers of Chronicling America (up to 1923) or Google books, one will generally get more results using "wheelmen" than "bicyclist(s)" or "cyclist(s)."

This can be confirmed using an Ngram viewer that is available that works against the Chronicling America body of newspaper text. It returns the frequency of particular terms in the corpus over a period of time (here, 1865-1922).

Ngram results - wheelmen
"Wheelmen" (red line) rises - then falls (click image for more detailed view)

"Wheelmen" (the red line) starts up around 1890 and takes off, peaking in 1896-97, then falls just as quickly as it went up. By 1910 is practically gone. The terms "wheelman," "bicyclist" (which gets the plural also), and "cyclist" (also gets plural) have a similar trajectory to one another and also peak in 1896-97, but really it seems "cyclist" goes forward as the most used term - but not so much (per million words) as in the 1890s! (By the way, "wheelwomen" was also a term used during the late 1800s and the Ngram curve for it is like of "wheelmen" but on a lower level, going up, then down.)

Ngram results - bicycle
"Bicycle" (red) is overtaken by "automobile" (green) (click image for more detailed view)

When you open the viewer the "demonstration" search is for "telephone," "bicycle," "automobile," and "telegraph" - this shows the same rise and fall of all things bicycle in newspapers, which presumably reflects their significance in society, to some extent anyway. Of the four, "bicycle" shows the most dramatic rise - and then later, fall. It must mean something - but I'm not sure what - that the fall of "wheelmen" as a topic in newspapers starts before any significant discussion of "automobile(s)" in newspapers.

I was reminded of this in part by seeing a reference to the recently published book that uses the word "wheelmen" in the title about Lance Armstrong, Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever - talk about "rise and fall." Do anyone still want to read about Lance? I'm surprised.

Friday, May 3, 2013

National Bicycle Week in May, 1919

From the Ogden Standard (newspaper), May 03, 1919.

"Ride A Bicycle"-National Bicycle Week, 1919
Don't you wish you had one?

Over four million bicycles are in daily use in the United States. Nearly a million more will come into daily use this year. This is National Bicycle Week-May 3 to 10. This is the week to buy a bicycle to get the greatest good from it this spring. RIDE A BICYCLE

Saturday, April 13, 2013

1896 Bicycle Built for Seven - the "Sept"

An article describing the (claimed) only seven seat bicycle of the day in Referee & Cycle Trade issue of April 23, 1896. At the time three and four seat bicycles were general used to "pace" riders who would draft behind to set certain categories of bicycle speed records and in certain races - to have a seven seat version would likely not be faster, so this is something of a publicity stunt, I think.
- - -
Sharpless & Watts Are Its Makers, and It Is a Marvel of Constructive Ingenuity.
- - -
Philadelphia, April 21.—There is now on exhibition at the extensive bicycle factory of Sharpless & Watts, at 1520-22 Sansom street, that Goliath among bicycles—an account of the building of which appeared in these columns some weeks ago—the only septuplet in the world. The frame is practically seven ordinary single diamonds firmly joined together, with all the joints securely brazed, forming a sort of truss bridge between the contact points of the front and rear tires—a wheel base of 16 feet. This will give some idea as to the length of the monster.

It is constructed throughout of l 1/4-inch tubing, and, although no special fittings were required in its construction, David Watts, a member of the firm, is authority for the statement that the toy is worth a "cool thousand." As must be imagined, the strain on the front forks will be immense, but Mr. Watts has provided for this by constructing them of inch tubing, into which 7/8-inch tool steel is driven, insuring the necessary rigidity. This feature of providing additional strength at points of greatest strain is a peculiarity of the entire construction.

An innovation in a strengthening way, which is necessitated by the extreme length of the structure and the immense load it will be called upon to bear, is the introduction of long arches of angle steel, extending on either side of the frame from the front to the rear diamond; at every point of contact these angle steels are firmly brazed. This is also an idea of Mr. Watts', and insures a rigidity which he says is noticeably lacking in pacemaking machines of a similar character.

To assist the front man to steer—for it is a single steerer—an ingenious device of springs on either side of the front handlebar has been utilized which will take much of the strain off him to whom is entrusted that important function.
Sept (seven seat) Bike
A photograph of the "Sept" from the next issue of Referee & Cycle Trade of April 30, 1896
Back to the last man the tread is 5 1/2 inches; beyond that point to the rear sprocket it is a half inch more. The whee's are 30 inches in diameter, and the spokes are a little less than an eighth of an inch in thickness and fastened to barrel hubs measuring 2 1/2 inches in diameter in the center. With forty teeth in the large sprocket and ten in the rear the gear is 120 inches. The chains throughout are the best Perry Humber 1/4 inch. The 2 1/2-inch tires, which were specially made by Morgan & Wright, are a half-inch in thickness. The weight of the machine, "all on," is in the neighborhood of 175 pounds.

Mr. Watts, on being questioned as to his idea in building the mammoth -wheel, said, in substance: "We built the 'sept' merely to announce to the cycling world at home and abroad that right here in Philadelphia there is a plant which has facilities for constructing wheels of any pattern or dimensions. Of course, we intend to exhibit, it, and it will no doubt prove a good advertisement in its way. Do I think it can be safely managed at high speed on the track? I most certainly do—provided the track is a properly constructed one; and if we can get seven good men on it, and a track that isn't too small and is properly banked, the records will have to come our way. No; we don't intend to race the Atlantic City 78-mile-an-hour express, although I haven't the slightest doubt that we could hold our own against that world-beater for a short distance. I hope to see our pet on the track before long, when the local public will have an opportunity of sizing it up."

There are modern seven-seat bicycles, but the best known (see below) is a novelty item - in a number of cities you can rent one for your company or organization to use for "team building" exercises, for example.

Orient Quad bike, 1898
A more typical multiseat bicycle of this period used to "pace" racers

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The State of Cycling in Russia, June 1897

Американский обзор езды на велосипеде в России 1897

From The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review - an extended overview of cycling in Russia, primarily with an eye to business opportunities selling American bicycles in Russia. What is the market? Who is riding? Why? And so on. The list of regulations governing cycling in Russia are, to say the least, daunting. The Czar's empire took second to no country in this area.

I have reproduced the text of the entire article here as well as including an image of part of the article as it appeared in the original publication (on rather brown paper ~).
In the Land of the Czar

Washington, D. C, June 11, 1897. Consul-General Karel, at St. Petersburg, has transmitted a special report to the State Department concerning cycling in Russia. Mr. Karel prefaces his report by saying that as so many inquiries have reached his office concerning the state of the bicycle trade in Russia he thought that a report to the department on the subject would not be inappropriate.

Of course, on account of the severe climate, bicycles can be used only in the summer.

Very little riding is done until after May 1st. Before any person is permitted to ride he must first pass an examination before some cycling association, of recognised standing and secure a certificate of proficiency. When this is obtained the applicant must present himself before the proper city authority, and by exhibiting his certificate will receive a permit to ride. The permit is issued without any charge, but all riders must pay a certain amount in revenue stamps and must provide themselves with a book of rules and regulations, which is sold by the city and costs about $1.13. The permit is good for one year and dates from May 1st.

Upon the payment of another fee a registered number for the bicycle is issued. This number is in plain white figures on a red plate and must be fastened to the machine both on the front and on the back, so as to be clearly visible to the police and public in case any mishap occurs or there is any breach of the regulations.

Land of Czar

The regulations provide that:

1. Only "low" wheels, or safeties, shall be ridden, and that each rider shall always carry his permit guaranteeing proficiency. Before the permit is issued the rider must file with the City Governor a photograph of himself, to be used in cases of trouble.

2. Every bicycle must be furnished with a bell and at night with a light, and the numbers spoken of must be in sight; that on the front, so as to be seen from either side of the wheel and that on the back, from the rear or the front.

3. Every rider must carry with him at all times, and must show to the police when required, his book of regulations.

4. Fast riding is prohibited.

6. All riders meeting pedestrians, vehicles, or other riders must keep to the right.

6. When passing pedestrians or vehicles going in the same direction riders must keep to the left.

7. When approaching corners or when near pedestrians riders must ring their bells, but bells must not be rung needlessly.

8. If horses take fright riders must get off their wheels and lead them, and when in crowds must do the same.

9. Wheelmen may not ride abreast, and where there is a party of them there must be at least fourteen feet of space between the riders.

10. Riders must not ride or lead their wheels on the sidewalk,

11. Riding in bicycle costume without a coat is prohibited.

12. Riding on certain streets named by the City Governor is not permitted.

13. Any violation of any of these regulations causes the rider to forfeit his permitand it cannot be renewed for another year.

Previous to February 1st, 1897, women were prohibited from using the wheel, but now the restriction has been removed. There are in St. Petersburg four bicycle clubs and in the suburbs three more. In all there are about 7,000 cyclists in the Capital.

Wheels are imported in large numbers, principally from Germany, England and the United States, the proportion being in the order named.

There are five factories in Russia which manufacture bicycles, two being in St. Petersburg, one in Moscow, one in Warsaw, and one in Riga. There are a number of smaller concerns hardly large enough to be called factories where wheel parts after being imported are assembled.

Two of the factories spoken of are English, that at Warsaw being the establishment of the Singer Cycle Co:, and that at Moscow of the Humber Works.

Wheels made in Russia sell for from $42 to $67, the German wheels from $77 to $92.50, the English wheels from $82 to $128.50, and the American wheels from $103 to $128.50. Although the American wheels are the most expensive, they are preferred on account of their superior finish and their greater durability. Only the high-grade American wheels have been imported.

The whole number of wheels imported in 1896 was 10,609. The duty on finished wheels is about $9.26 per wheel; on unfinished wheels in parts, is about $6.18 each.
Sovremennyi velosiped (1895) - my scan (современный велосипед)
Examples of bicycles in an 1895 Russian book

Another earlier 1895 American look at Russian cycling.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Folding Bike Idea - of 1896

In the The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal issue for April 9, 1896 there are a number of pages with smaller ads for different cycling related products and smaller companies selling bikes.

Folding Bike
A folding bike for the 19th century

There are not all that many truly new ideas in basic bicycle design.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Cycling Events - 1897

In looking at American newspapers from the late 1890s, I found these two illustrations from the St Paul Globe and the Washington Times looking at cycling and Easter 1897.

An amusing illustration showing a variety of cyclists who would riding in an annual Easter cycling event

With an expectation that as many as 10,000 would be riding if there was good weather - that's a pretty high number. At the "opening of the Bicycle Easter Egg." From the St. Paul Globe, April 11, 1897.

In Washington the expectation was that "thousands" would be out riding - again, depending on the weather

From the Washington Times, April 18. 1897

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Peter Akmatow-Dombrowski, Russian Racer of 1896

From The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal issue for March 26, 1896.

RUSSIA'S FUTURE CHAMPION - Peter Akmatow-Dombrowski and His Many Brilliant Performances.

Peter Akmatow-Dombrowski, the subject of this sketch, will, it is safe to predict, play a leading role on Russian race tracks the coming season; in fact, there is little doubt that he is the best man on the track in Russia to day. He is a native of Kiew and twenty-one years of age. Although active at racing since his fifteenth year, he was not prominent until 1895, when at Moscow he came within a fraction of an inch of winning the Russian mile championship from Djakow.


This being the first time he had met the faster men of his country, his performance caused intense surprise. All previous minor events in which he started were won by him, this being his first defeat. He holds the Eussian unpaced records for the quarter, eighth, and half verst, and the quarter English mile.

Coverage of foreign cyclists and particularly outside of western Europe at this time was quite unusual.

"The Scorchers Have Taken the Town" 1897

Humor of sorts, apparently

From "The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review" issue for June 18, 1897.

When they whiz by ~

Mark, mark!
The dogs do bark;
The scorchers have taken the town;
Some in rags and a few with jags,
But every mother's son of them with a wild and almost uncontrollable desire to run somebody down.

I have blogged about what a "scorcher" was in the 1890s before.

Monday, March 18, 2013

American View of Russian Cycling, 1895

Американский обзор езды на велосипеде в России 1895

Article text from "The Referee and Cycle Trade", November 18, 1895

The full text of this (alas) unillustrated item is above, but I provide some highlights below.
CHANGING THE RUSSIAN - The Bicycle Said to Be Putting a New Face on Muscovite Characteristics.

. . . Not only does the new steed rule in the hurried Anglo-Saxon lands and in the busy Germany, but the Gaul and the Slav and the women of both have been swept away by the fashion and the Bois de Boulogne and the winding alleys of Yelaguine island are even as Battersea park. . .
and this extended reference to Tolstoy~
Carry the cycle into the world of thought; we can see at once that it has effected, or is effecting, a vast and subtile change. Already the mysticism of the Slav character must have received its deathblow. Introspection is essential to the mystic. Now, he who cycles (also she), if he introspects, is sure to be reminded with painful suddenness of the solidity of externals. Even a Russian mystic will become more practical after running into a steam-roller or down the bank of a canal. The familiar types of Muscovite fiction will vanish or remain but as fossils in a museum. The Tolstoic creed (which is not, by the way, the Tolstoic practice) of property, asceticism and non-resistance is blown to the winds in a sprint through the parks. Preach to a cyclist that all cycles, his own in particular, should be the property of everybody; that it is his duty to abstain from riding, especially on his own machine; and that he must take cheerfully the cutting of his tires—and in a second you will be preaching to the eddying dust, while the breeze bears back to you the lessening sound of a scornful toot.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Latest In Bicycling Costumes for Women (1895)

From a long Los Angeles Herald article from August 4, 1895.

Bicycle Suits for Women 1895
Illustration that accompanies the article

SHE DESIGNS BICYCLE SUITS - That is How a Chicago Woman Is Coining Wealth - SHE IS AN ARTIST IN THIS - Tells Fair Bicycle Riders the Kind of Clothes They Ought to Wear. Says Bloomers Will Soon Be the Street Costume.
This article is quite long, so I will only reproduce some of the text here - the full text is available in the online digitized version.
A clever little woman on the West Side is proving herself a benefactress of womankind and, at the same time, earning a good living. Her name is Helen Waters. She designs bicycle costumes for women, says the Chicago Times-Herald, Mrs. Waters is a petite young woman with big brown eyes and a "wide, kind smile." She is extremely brisk and energetic, and possesses some original ideas as to the proper garb for women who ride. She is a member of the Illinois Cycling club, and is a skillful and rapid rider, although she does not aspire to record-breaking honors.

. . . . .

"Do you mean to say that bloomers will be worn us a street costume next summer?"

"I don't wish to be too hopeful, but things look that way to me. I, for one, will be glad if it is so. A woman who has once worn bloomers dislikes to put on skirts. I know it from my own experience and that of others. As you see, I wear them about the office all the time and have even ventured to wear them on the street cars to and from my home. However, occasions arise when 'discretion is the better part of valor,' and then off go bloomers and on goes the skirt. I hope you won't laugh at me when I say I find the skirt uncomfortable."
This kind of cycling human interest story was common during the high years of the cycling craze in the 1890s. The article is about a woman in Chicago but was published in Los Angeles, likely published in numerous cities through some then-publication network for these kinds of not-very-time-sensitive stories. This particular story had two different elements of interest - the subject's changing of women's attire and her financial success, earning a "good living."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inaugural Simplicity - 1895 View


From The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The next President of the United States will have a glorious opportunity to emulate Jeffersonian simplicity by riding to his Inauguration on a bicycle and going through the ceremony with his trousers tied in at the ankles.
New York Tribune filler item July 28, 1895.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Parents, Guns, Bicycles in 1938

From a series of interview extracts described as "parental problems" from the Library of Congress American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. The collection is described as follows: "These life histories were compiled and transcribed by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940." The materials are presented with images of the typed interviews as well as searchable full text.
My son, now a boy of seventeen years of age, had his heart set upon a gun. He implored us to give him a gun as a birthday present. We, being rather 'modern' and against lethal firearms as a means of developing youngsters, were opposed to giving him a gun and at last persuaded him that a bicycle were a better present-even though it cost us more. But our neighbor's case was different. Their son, a chum of our boy, wanted a bicycle. The mother, however, remembering a bad accident that once happened to someone she knew was in fear of a bicycle but had no objection to a gun. So their boy, wanting a bicycle, got a gun. Our's, wanting a gun, got a bicycle. Both boys, as things turned out, were quite pleased, for by exchanging their gifts each had, frequently enough, the present he at first desired. And we, baffled parents, had no alternative but to philosophise upon the irony of things.

Parental problems - gun or bicycle for the teenager?
The typed page from which the above text was taken

The document makes clear that the person interviewed was in New York City and that the interview was done in August of 1938. Presumably the name of the "worker" is that of the writer, not the interviewee.

STATE New York
ADDRESS 51 Bank St. N.Y. City
DATE August 26, 1938

Sunday, January 6, 2013

1897 View on "Woman and the Bicycle"

This book, The Out of door library. Athletic sports. published in 1897, has several chapters about cycling, including "Woman and the Bicycle" by Marguerite Merington. Apparently Ms. Mergington was a playwright. And the bibliographic record tells us that "The chapters in this volume originally appeared in Scribner's magazine."

The text is a little high-flown, or something.
Woman and the Bicycle
By Marguerite Merington

The collocation of woman and the bicycle has not wholly outgrown controversy; but if the woman's taste be for the royal pleasure of glowing exercise in sunlit air, she will do well quietly but firmly to override argument with the best model of a wheel to which she may lay hand.

Never did an athletic pleasure from which the other half is not debarred come into popularity at a more fitting time than cycling has to-day, when a heavy burden of work is laid on all the sisterhood, whether to do good, earn bread, or squander leisure; no outdoor pastime can be more independently pursued, and few are as practicable as many days in a year. The one who fain would ride, and to whom a horse is a wistful dream, at least may hope to realize a wheel. Once purchased, it needs only to be stabled in a passageway, and fed on oil and air.

No, this is not nearly as readable as Bicycling for Ladies written by Maria Ward and published in 1896.

Interesting that the text does reveal something about the anticipated pace of riding for a woman rider:
An hour of the wheel means sixty minutes of fresh air and wholesome exercise, and at least eight miles of change of scene; it may well be put down to the credit side of the day's reckoning with flesh and spirit.
Also, as usual much time is spent discussing the best attire for women riders. Here the author indicates that for some riders, special attire was not practical since they might be riding to or from work (for example) that would obviate the ability to wear anything other than clothes suitable for the destination - and that this is OK.
Short rides on level roads can be accomplished with but slight modification of ordinary attire ; and the sailor-hat, shirt-waist, serge skirt uniform, is as much at home on the bicycle as it is anywhere else the world over. The armies of women clerks in Chicago and Washington who go by wheel to business, show that the exercise within bounds need not impair the spick-and-spandy neatness that marks the bread-winning American girl.
The phrase, "armies of women clerks" reminds me of the 1899 video of Parke-Davis employees leaving at the end of the work day that shows a fair number of bicycle riders, both men and women - dressed not in special cycling clothes but in their regular work attire (or so it appears).

As usual, poor cycling posture is subject to criticism, but a man is used to model this rather than a woman

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sarah Grand & Cycling - A Later View (1899)

Sarah Grand was a British feminist who traveled in the United States to lecture (and presumably sell more of her books). In an earlier post, I looked at an 1897 article about her suggestions for optimal cycling attire for women. (This article was published as filler material in a number of newspapers in the United States.)

I have since found a similar sort of filler item, but a shorter one from 1899, Sarah Grand and Her Bike, that uses a photo of Ms. Grand to demonstrate that she was not a "new woman" who practiced what she preached - she did not "ride in bloomers or trousers."

Sarah Grand with Bicycle
Illustration with article from the Kansas City Journal., June 04, 1899

The Creator of the "New Woman" Does Not Hide in Bloomers or Trousers.
From the New York Journal

Sarah Grand, the author of "The Heavenly Twins" and the creator of the new woman in literature, rides a bicycle. We might expect her to ride in bloomers or trousers, or some other garment unlike any thing worn by the "old" woman, but instead of that we find her dressed in skirts of a decorous and graceful length.

Mme Sarah Grand has had herself photographed in bicycling costume just as she is about to mount her wheel. She has had this done because she wishes the public to know just what an ideal new woman looks like. You may see her on this page.

Sarah Grand is entitled by marriage to bear the good old Irish name of "McFall," but with curious taste she prefers the remarkably pretentious name of "Grand." Her husband was an army surgeon and she was separated from him. It is said that he was the original of the wicked colonel In "The Heavenly Twins," who was fond of long glasses of brandy and soda and of pretty girls, and for these sins was boycotted by his voting wife and brought to a sudden and terrible end by the author.

Sarah Grand is engaged regularly in literary work, but she achieved no success comparable to that of "The Heavenly Twins."

The full article as it appeared

A little research reveals that the photograph of Sarah Grand that was the basis for the newspaper illustration, claiming to show her as a "new woman" not wearing her suggested cycling attire was from 1896, before she made her declaration against using traditional women's clothing for cycling.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Russian Winter Tale - Bicyclist Chased by Wolves

A Bicyclist Chased by Wolves
From the Alexandria [Virginia] Gazette, November 11, 1892. Newspapers apparently had to fill their pages and had access to general interest stories of this sort - this one appears to have been published in several papers across the U.S. around the same time. No illustration provided, alas.

Mr. Fred Whishaw gives in "Land and Water" an account of his being chased by wolves in the district of Pakoff. He had gone to Russia with a bicycle, and at the time he fell in with the wolves was on his machine, having covered a distance of some 12 miles in an endeavor to "head" some elk. I had (he says) ridden but a mile or two on the return journey when it struck me that I ought to alight and refresh my machine with a few drops of oil but hardly was I on foot than, happening to glance back along the road, I saw something which at first sight caused a thrill of pleasurable excitement, but soon gave place to very different sensations. Hardly a quarter of a mile behind, and coming toward me at the long gallop which covers the ground at a wonderfully rapid pace, were five large gray wolves. I saw the leader raise his nose, and, catching sight of me, cock his ears and give tongue, just as a dog might. There was no doubt about the fact. I was being hunted. I was speedily up and away, and as I caused the pedals to whirl in a manner to which they were entirely unused, I tried to calculate coolly the probable relative swiftness of bicycles and wolves. I had at least ten miles to go before I should reach safety. I might possibly do that in three-quarters of an hour, if the machine and my breath held out. Could the wolves accomplish the distance in less time? The situation was by no means one for trifling. When I had ridden a couple of miles or so I ventured to glance back, the result being the instantaneous conviction that the wolves had gained upon me. They had gained a hundred yards at least. At this rate I quickly calculated that they would pull me down just about two miles before I could reach my destination and city of refuge, Lavrik; unless, indeed, they could not keep up the pace, which i flattered myself was rather hot.

Another two miles and another peep behind me. The wolves were barely two hundred yards away now, and coming along as though they enjoyed it. I could swear that the leading wolf licked his lips as he saw me look around. I tried a spurt. The road was as level as a billiard table, and I strained every nerve to the utmost, but even as I did so it was borne in upon me that spurting would not do. I must slacken off at once, for I could never keep up the terrific rate at which I was now traveling. In fact, I must economize all my staying powers in order to last out the distance at even my former rate of progression. Then suddenly an idea occurred to me. I would ring my bell loudly and continuously, and see what effect this would produce. I pressed the gong, and turned to observe whether the sound would check my pursuers. The effect was instantaneous. No sooner did the first clang of the gong ring out than the wolves, every one of them, stopped dead and disappeared behind the trees. I gave a yell of defiance and delight, and dashed on, ringing away for dear life. But my triumph was short-lived. Oh looking back a few moments after I found that my foes were again in full pursuit. However, I had gained a little.

On we flew, my gong sounding harsh and strident in the silence of the forest. It was magnificent; at least it would have been if it had not been so horribly dangerous. There was a rut trodden by horses running all along the very middle of the road. I avoided this and rode at the side, which was smooth, for the runners of the light sledges do not as a rule wear the snow. It was easy enough, of course, to avoid the rut when riding straight ahead; but while looking round there was the danger of my front wheel slipping into it. and either checking the way of the machine or even causing a capsize. I had just turned my head to look round upon my pursuers for the twentieth lime - alas! they were still gaining, and were now within fifty yards. Hearing a loud clatter in front of me, I turned back again to see what new danger threatened me from that direction. In thus twisting back and round again I allowed my front wheel to go out of the direct line. The next instant I was in the rut, and. before I had time to see what was happening, was, with my trusty bicycle, buried a couple of feet in the snow at the side of the road. I gave myself up for lost. All this did not take long to happen, and as I emerged from the snow I was in time to see two things. The first object that met my gaze was a magnificent bull elk, followed by four smaller ones, just in the act of trotting across the road, not ten yards from me, striding through the snow at a long trot, their heads well raised and resting back on their shoulders. The other object was the little pack of wolves. Scarcely fifty yards behind me when I upset, these were upon me in a moment, and I had barely time to seize the heavy spanner of my machine and put my back to a tree when, to my delight, the wolves - then but five yards from me - pricked up their ears, passed me like a flash of greased lightning, and darted away in pursuit of the elk. I picked up my bicycle, and. to put it mildly, rode away with all speed. I think I rode those three miles in "record time," anyhow, I was fifteen minutes less than two hours from the start when I scudded into Lavrik, and if I had not ridden twenty-eight miles I must have done very near it.

Frederick Whishaw wrote a book about his travels in Russia, "Out of doors in Tsarland; a record of the seeings and doings in Russia" in 1893 but it does not include this story or anything about travels with a bicycle. The above tale seems to have come from a journal, Land and Water, published in England by the "Country Gentlemen Publishing Company" and does not seem to have been digitized. Yet.

Wolf from Flickr

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Santa on Bike; Letters to Santa, 1897

Santa Riding a Bike (1897)

From the Richmond Dispatch newspaper, December 19, 1897. Illustration above accompanied the text of dozens of letters to Santa Claus from children in Richmond Virginia, including these that have requests for bicycles.
Dear Santy Claus:
I want you to bring me a bicycle, a lock-bracletle, a doll-baby, sewing machine, and nuts, candies, fruit of all kind,and popcracker all kind; and bring them to my address, 216 N. 21 St.
Your little friend.
The next letter is from the same family ~

Dear Saunta Cause:
Please bring me a gun, a pound of shot, a bicycle, and some fireworks; that is all. I live at No. 216 21st Street.
Your little boy.

1212 Floyd Avenue,
Dear Santa Claus:
I want a bicycle and a watch and chain and a harp and a drum. That's all.
Your little boy, ELLETT READY.

Dear Santa Claus:
I wish you would bring me a bicycle and a bunch of switches; a pack of popcrackers, a box of candy, a air-rifle, and a pound of shot. Yours truly,
1401 Grove avenue.
Several letters are worded as if Santa's delivery of the items personally isn't part of how they understand things ~

Dear Santa Claus:
Richmond. Va. Dec. 2d.
Please send me a bycycle, and it will be thankfully received.
Yours respectively,

Dear Santa Claus:
Please send a bicycle and a wagon & goat and harness. From your little boy,
1123 Floyd Ave., Richmond, Va
A number of letters included requests for others ~

Dear Santa Claws:
I am a little boy 3 1/2 years old. I want you to bring me a bicycle, and a pack of popcrackers, a horn, and some candy. Phase bring Minerva (our colored girl) a bicycle, too, and my little brother Harold, something pretty. I am going to be a good boy, and go to bed real soon. Please come, Santa Claus; don't forget.
I was surprised by the extent of the requests made by many of the children's letters; this one balances that out somewhat.

Richmond, Va,
207 S. Pine St
Dear Santa Clause:
Christmas is nearly here, and I would like for you to bring me something nice. I will be thankful for anything that you bring me. From your little boy,

A few years ago I had a blog post with the similar illustration, shown below, taken from an ad for Stearns bicycles from the bicycle industry journal "Cycling Life" (issue for December 24 issue, 1896).

Santa On Bike (1896, Cycling Life)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas-time & New Woman Cycling Attire (1897)

Sarah Grand was a British feminist and writer - somehow an article about her development of a more modern cycling costume for women riders came to be published in a newspaper in Los Angeles in 1897. Wikipedia notes that she had traveled in the U.S. to publicize her novel mentioned in the article. The byline for the article is given as London.

From "The Herald" (Los Angeles) December 26, 1897.

The illustration shows a much more structured design than the article describes

I have reproduced the highlights of the article, below.

By a judicious combination of ideas based on Shakespeare and common sense, Madame Sarah Grand, the world famous authoress of "The Heavenly Twins," has evolved a bicycle costume for women that is a startler. She calls her new bicycle dress for women her "Christmas bicycle costume,"and considers that in devising it she has given additional cause for rejoicing among women during the coming holiday season.

To begin to explain Madame Grand's costume, it is necessary to take the Rosalind of Act II, in "As You Like It," and, using her as a lay figure, to build the Madame Grand costume around her. Madame Grand is an enthusiastic admirer of Shakespeare, and the more she studied the free and easy grace of Rosalind of the russet doublet and hose, the more she became convinced that, had bicycles been in use during the Shakespearian era, the doublet and hose would have been the costume that level headed women would have adopted. . . .

So Madame Grand proceeded to think out her Rosalind bicycle costume, discarding one by one the nineteenth century articles of dress that fettered the sex when awheeling.

"No waist for me," said Madame Grand, at the beginning of her studies. "A waist on a bicycle is absurd. I can never bear to ride In anything tight, especially corsets, and I like to feel free and comfortable." And away went the corsets, and after them the waist, then the skirt and the bloomers, until Rosalind the lay figure was deprived of everything that pertained to modern costuming, and stood ready to be rehabilitated . . .

The costume is made for winter wear, although it can be fashioned readily enough into an attractive summer rig for the athletic girl. It is made of white fur . . .

"Nothing is unfeminine for a woman," she said, when asked about this point, "unless she chooses to make it so. I think we are beginning to show nowadays that we can do many things which used to be thought 'unfeminine,' and be womanly nevertheless. Bicycling Is one of them, and the wearing of a rational bicycle costume goes with it. The skirt is evidently not the thing. I have had two bad accidents from mine catching, and it was made by an excellent tailor. This is what led me to devote a good deal of thought to the subject, and made me come to the conclusion that an
easy and pretty costume might be modeled from Rosalind's dress."

One of several copies of a photo of Sarah Grand with a bicycle in 1896, but nominally under copyright of some sort.

Unfortunately I do not see any immediate possibility for access to Cycling World Illustrated, the magazine from which the image of Ms. Grand and her bicycle was apparently taken. The Online Bicycle Museum does have some pages of 1896 issues on line that are entertaining and particularly about women riders, but not complete issues.

Since I wrote this post, I discovered another later article about Sarah Grand and her cycling attire that I have a separate blog post about.