Showing posts with label women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label women. Show all posts

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Cost of Cycling for the "Modern Athletic Girl" of 1896

"Modern Athletic Girl" of 1896
WHAT THE "MODERN ATHLETIC GIRL COSTS. The Various Items of the Necessary Summer Sporting Outfit. From The Journal newspaper (New York), Sunday June 26, 1896 (

The Journal newspaper of 1896 in New York carried far more pages than other urban newspapers in the U.S. at the time and worked hard to fill the pages up with various kinds of human interest material. 1896 was the height of the so-called "bicycle craze" in the U.S. so here we have an article that combines that topic with women and sports. Probably because of the exceptional popularity of bicycling at the time, it is discussed first, then golf, hunting, and other sporting endeavors. Cycling is also given here as the most expensive at almost $200.

The father of an up-to-date society girl who decided to take up athletics this Summer consented with pleasure to buy his daughter a $100 wheel, thinking that $125 at the highest would be all the money necessary for him to spend on her bicycle outfit. The following Is an' Itemized account of the bills which were sent him for everything pertaining to her bicycle outfit: Bicycle, $100; lamp, $5; cyclometer, $1.25; bell, 50 cents; foot pump, $1.50; bicycle stand, $2.50; lock, 50 cents; silver name plate, $2; knee protector, $3.50; Summer bicycle costume, made to order of linen homespun, $25; linen knickerbockers, $5; one pair low bicycle shoes, $4; one pair boots, $6; three pairs of silk stockings, $G; three pairs golf stockings, $6; linen hat to match suit, $3; six shirt waists, $18; pair of gloves, $1.35, making a total of $191.10.
Arguably the amount and cost of the "required" clothing is intentionally varied and high in order to support the article's point that such activities are expensive; it is more interesting to see what are given as typical accessories, including lamp, cyclometer (measuring distance covered), bell, footpump, stand, and lock. (I wonder how the lock would have worked - in looking at ads and articles about cycling at the time, I have not commonly observed a lock set-up for bicycles.)

Detail - "Modern Athletic Girl" of 1896
Detail of above illustration with woman on bicycle

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Unusual Bicycle Messenger Photograph

Telegraph messenger, Berlin  (LOC)
Telegraph messenger, Berlin - during WWI persistent link to this Library of Congress collection item, a digitized Bain News Service photograph.

Bicycle messengers in the US 100 years ago or so were usually teenage boys, hardly old enough to serve in the army, but apparently in Berlin this was not the case since with the men off serving, this woman was a bicycle messenger. Her attire, with long skirt, is not particularly practical for this activity (but it could have been worse). Her single-speed bicycle with a simple spoon brake with a step-through frame is probably not inferior to a mens that would have been used for this purpose at the time.

Presumably this photograph was taken before the United States joined the war against Germany.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Overman Wheel Co. Victor Bicycle Lithograph

Victor bicycles, Overman Wheel Company, Boston, New York, ...
Three women on bicycles

Will H Bradley was the American illustrator who did this, which was to be included in an issue of Harper's Magazine. Published in 1895, this is just before the height of the "bicycle craze" of the 1890s.

This is an for the Overman Wheel Company and their Victor bicycles.

Title-Victor bicycles, Overman Wheel Company, Boston, New York, ... / Will H. Bradley
Summary-Three women on bicycles.
Created / Published-1895.
- Lithograph printed by Harper & Brothers, New York.
- Reverse: cover by M. Parrish for Harper's Weekly, Christmas, 1895 [can't see since encapsulated with backing sheet].
- Promotional goal: US. D41. 1895; US. K22. 1895.
- This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.
Medium-1 print (poster) : color.
Call Number/Physical Location-POS - US .B732, no. 25 (B size) [P&P]
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA>
Digital Id-cph 3b49660 //; cph 3a17246 //; cph 3a29202 //
Library of Congress Control Number-2002721219
Online Format-image
Description-1 print (poster) : color. | Three women on bicycles.

Victor Bicycles Poster,1896
This poster, also be Bradley for Overman, is probably better known.
Title: Victor Bicycles Overman Wheel Co. / / Bradley.
Creator(s): Bradley, Will, 1868-1962, artist
Date Created/Published: Boston : Forbes Co., [1896]
Medium: 1 print (poster) : lithograph, color.
Summary: Poster advertisement for Overman Wheel Company's Victor bicycles, showing a woman watching another woman riding a bicycle. Includes art nouveau style flowers.

OOPS! I eventually realized that I blogged separately about these two different items some years ago. Here, however I consolidated the information. And expanded it, slightly. Oh well!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Paris Poster Featuring Cyclist-Photographer

Première Exposition Internationale de Photographie (poster)
Note the camera attached to the handlebars

Title-Première Exposition Internationale de Photographie
Summary-Woman riding a bike with a camera on the handle-bars.
Created / Published-1892.
- Color lithograph by Affiches-Camis.
- Promotional goal: Fr. K94. 1892.
- Exchange, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
- This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.
- Caption card tracings: 1. Photographers 1892. I. Title. II. 1892.
Medium-1 print (poster) : color ; 130 x 100 cm.
Call Number/Physical Location POS - Fr .A48, no. 1 (D size) [P&P]
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Digital Id-cph 3b49687 //
Library of Congress Control Number 2002721228
Reproduction Number-LC-USZC2-1787 (color film copy slide)
Online Format-image
Description-1 print (poster) : color ; 130 x 100 cm. | Woman riding a bike with a camera on the handle-bars. LCCN Permalink

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Women Bicycle Racers of 1898

Women Seven Day Racers, NYC, 1898
"Young women who will strip for the seven days bicycle race championship" - click through to Flickr to zoom

From the New York Journal and Advertiser, November 13, 1898, photographic supplement.

Riders identified are Tillie Anderson (who today seems the best known of these riders, with an entry in wikipedia), Clara Drehmel, Lissette (last name not given, identified as "Mlle. Lissette" who was a French rider), Lizzie Claw.

This newspaper often tried to appeal to what one could consider a prurient interest - here, the notion of the women racers "stripping" in order to race (which is demonstrated in a sequence of photos on the page).

Simpson Chain with two women riders 1896
Lissette shown in mid-1890s photo from France

Friday, December 30, 2016

Profane Parrot Cyclist of 1896 (Human Interest Journalism)

The Sunday edition of the New York Journal of the late 1890s ran 40 pages or more, which was a lot of space to fill for a newspaper of that time. Some of the space was filled with human interest stories associated with fashionable or trendy topics of the moment, such as cycling. Below is a reasonably typical example, going on at considerable length about not very much.

It seems from other articles that at least at this point in the "bicycle craze" the New York Journal was not in favor of women wearing bloomers, so perhaps the paragraph (indicated in bold text below) is more an expression of the point of view of the publication and not just the parrot.

A Profane Parrot that Rides a Bicycle

A BICYCLIST parrot Is a conspicuous figure of life on the Boulevard and other uptown thoroughfares which are given up to the riders of the wheel. Everybody Is to be seen on a bicycle nowadays: old women, old men, babies and so forth. It is, therefore, not surprising that a parrot should make his appearance, for no creature could be more active, gay and sociable.

But this particular bird deserves mention for other reasons than the mere fact that he rides a bicycle. His conversational eccentricities are the amusement and the terror of the bicycling community.

The bird's full name is Don Cesar, and his owner Is J. J. Walsh, of No. 490 Sixth avenue, who tells endless stories of the indiscretions of the bird.

The Parrot that Rides a Bicycle

Do not expect to hear that Don Cesar turns the pedals of a bicycle himself by any means. Even If that were possible he is too averse to hard work to consent to any such arrangement. When he wants exercise he takes it on the wing, but the tongue is the member which he chiefly loves to agitate.

He perches in the middle of the handle-bars, on the spot where some enthusiastic bicyclists place their babies. There he stands and vociferates and scratches himself. Now and then he ducks his head down to see how the front wheel is going. It Is a wonder that he has never punctured the tire and dislocated his beak, but that has not happened yet.

Occasionally he leaves the handle-bars and takes a fly into the air. For a parrot he is a good flyer. Having taken a view of the crowd, of the river, or whatever may be in sight, he returns faithfully to the wheel. Mr. Walsh slackens his speed slightly when the bird goes flying.

Don Cesar Is a green and red parrot of South American birth. At one time he belonged, like most parrots, to a seafaring man. During that period of his career he visited the principal ports of the world and learned at least four different languages. These languages consist chiefly of profanity.

It brings prosperity to have a parrot on board ship, just as it means means certain misfortune to have a black cat. Once Don Cesar was left ashore in a saloon in Rio Janeiro by a thoughtless mariner. The ship had weighed anchor, but a deputation of seamen, having represented the gravity of the situation to the captain, the longboat was manned and Don Cesar was rescued. When he was safe on board he swore with such vigor that every one was satisfied that he would have brought evil to the ship If he had stayed ashore.

One of the most dangerous things a sea man can do is to give away a parrot who has learned nautical ways. But Mr. Walsh earned the friendship of a sailor to such an extent that he gave him his parrot, Don Cesar, a bird of rare experience. Now, the bird has changed his proud position of mascot on a ship to the equally eminent one of figurehead on a bicycle In the streets of this metropolis.

Don Cesar's favorite languages are Spanish, Italian, French and German. You may hear him almost any evening on the Boulevard carrying on a monologue of this sort: "Noni d'un chlen, veut-tu ficher la pals'?"."Corpo dl Bacco."."Tas d'idlots."."Caramha."."Allez au diable."."Pesta."."Ach du lieber Gott!"."Oh, la, la!"

According to his owner Don Cesar becomes speechless with rage at the sight of a woman in bloomers. He sets up a fierce, hoarse shriek, which he keeps up for several minutes, at the end of which he is in danger of falling off the handle-bars. Evidently he has old-fashioned ideas on the subject of women. He believes that they should stay in petticoats. When they are so attired he is very affable, submitting to have his head scratched, but, sad to relate, he does not relax his profanity.

Don Cesar enjoys bicycling very thoroughly, otherwise he would not go riding. He gets the best part of it, the fresh air and the excitement, without the exertion and the fatigue.

Of course he behaves himself interesting at other times than when he is on the wheel [bicycle].

It is his habit to salute his master when he returns home, at whatever hour this may be. His favorite greeting Is: "Hello, popper! I see you!"

He repeats this a number of times In a very loud voice, accompanying his remarks with a shrill, mocking laugh. This trick used to cause a little embarrassment to Mr. Walsh when the hour of his return was one which he did not wish to have announced to his family and all his neighbors. Any attempt to silence Don Cesar by threats of violence or throwing a cloth over him was met by louder shrieks. Don Cesar proved utterly incorrigible in this respect, and so his owner has become very regular in his hours.

Croozer Test Ride

Nowadays people often use trailers to travel around by bike with their animals - usually dogs, such as this photograph reused from Flickr shows. I don't recall seeing any parrots on handlebars, though. I have thought about having a trailer for my family dog perhaps in a few years when she is a little older and might appreciate it (more).

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Eliza Jane - A Woman Cyclist of 1895

Celebrated in song.

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


Complete Song, Words and Music, 40 Cents.

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


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

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

Oh, have you seen, etc.

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

Oh, have you seen, etc.

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

Ooooh, have you seen, etc.

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

Oh, have you seen, etc.

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

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

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

Oh, have you seen, etc.

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

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

Oh, have you seen, etc.

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

Oh, have you seen, etc.

From Songs of Suffrage where it explains:

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

Puck Magazine - Bicycle = "Dress Reform" 1895

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The "American Girl" of 1897 - to be Thankful for on Thanksgiving

In the St. Paul Globe newspaper this article was titled "The Queen of Thanksgiving" but the same article was published in a number of newspapers across the country (with various titles). The article has a large illustration portraying the American girl (or woman, really) of 1897 in various settings.

"American Girl" & Thanksgiving (article illustration)- 1897
Full version of the illustration for the article about the "American girl" of 1897

The full text of this article in the Sunday November 21, 1897 issue of the St. Paul Globe talks about many positive aspects of the "American Girl," stating that, ". . . Thanksgiving day, '97, will find the American girl, as all other Thanksgivings have found her, not emancipated, for she never was enslaved, but free as the bright, frosty air that wooes her athletic frame, sending the bleed coursing swiftly through her veins and imprinting the charming tinge of robust health on her cheeks." One can argue that point, of course, but the description of women and cycling that follows seems to suggest that some things have been changing:
A good place to view her at her best will be from the sidewalk of any smooth-paved street of our cities, or from the pathways of macadamized country roads. Here, in the nattiest and newest of bicycle rigs, she will be seen, with her cheeks aglow, her bright eyes sparkling, her pretty hair dancing merrily in the wind, bowling along a-wheel at a pace that surely has nothing in common with chains or fetters, unless it be the bicycle chain that enables her to challenge the wind to a trial of speed and beat the old flirt in a canter. The manner in which the American girl has taken advantage of this glorious sport bears ample testimony to the fact that when she wants a thing she will have it and knows how to take the fullest advantage of what is hers by right. If the shades of the dear old grandmothers of the days of wheel and distaff could return to earth next Thursday and gather along the highways and byways where laughing, chaffing, free and happy columns of wheelwomen fly by, they will surely return to the land of shadows with feelings of regret that their lot was not cast in an era when women find more healthful means of employing their time than the laborious and confining duties of the old-fashioned home life. That the change is vastly for the better even the most disgruntled and cross-grained critic of the up to-date womanhood will admit. Instead of the pale-faced, narrow-chested woman of the wheel and distaff era, the spectator who chooses a front seat to view the passing show of Thanksgiving day '97 will see a long procession of rosy-cheeked, lithe-limbed, happy, healthy and wholesome specimens of femininity that speak contentment in every action.

"American Girl" & Thanksgiving - 1897 (detail)
Bicycling "American girls" - to be thankful for on Thanksgiving

There is a certain polemical aspect to this that speaks to the power relationship between men and women at that time which I think it is possible to separate from the way that women and and cycling are portrayed. In other words, trying to say that women are don't need emancipation because they enjoy the benefits of cycling is not a terribly good argument against emancipation, but the way women and cycling in 1897 are described here (aside from the period writing style) tells us that cycling was in fact a change for women at that time. Just not the last change . . .

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"The Prudent Buyer Selects The Shirk"-1890s Bicycle Poster

I found the poster in the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog - The Prudent buyer selects the Shirk, the latest, neatest, and lightest bicycle in the world - It cures the blues. It saves the shoes. It brings content and merriment.

The full record for it is here.

Cropped Shirk Poster
My cropped version of this poster from the Library of Congress

Even though the Library of Congress has determined with reasonable certainty that this item was published in the 1890s and is well out of U.S. Copyright coverage (that is, before 1923) it is still not made available off the LC campus for some reason (other than a thumbnail). However various businesses that publish reproduction posters have had someone visit the Library in person and copy a high resolution file and although I can't make the 4.5 megabyte tiff available here I can at least provide a better image than the tiny thumbnail gif.

The colors as shown in this image are probably not accurate - below is an uncropped version where you can see a color strip but I can't interpret that since I don't have an original one handy to compare to. The main problem here is that this is a scan of a color slide made of the poster and not a scan of the original poster. In other words, a reproduction of a reproduction. It's better than nothing (much better!) but not as good as it could be.

LC record
Title The Prudent buyer selects the Shirk, the latest, neatest, and lightest bicycle in the world / Ottman, Chic.
Date Created/Published [189-]
Medium 1 print (poster) : color.
Summary Woman riding bicycle.
Reproduction Number LC-USZC4-3017 (color film copy transparency)
Call Number POS - US .O87, no. 1 (B size) [P&P]

One reason I was surprised to find this poster was that it is for a bicycle company I had not heard of before - generally bicycle posters from the 1890s seen now are for companies that were relatively well known then and anyone (like me) reading a bit about cycling in those days would know of them. I had not heard of the "Shirk" bicycle company.

To see if I could find any references to it, I searched The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review volume for 1897 and found passing two mentions of it (in 1,088 pages of text) - one was this somewhat amusing description of a suspicious bicycle sales company, where Shirk appears in a list of bicycle manufacturers of the day available from that dealer.

The New York Cycle Co., of 434 Ninth, don't seem to care to talk very much about where they get their wheels or about their business methods in general. They offer "unredeemed" bicycles at "one-third" value, but just what they mean is past guessing. Among the cycles noted are Columbias, Syracuse, Pacers, Rambler, Spalding, March, Worlds, Flyers, Niagaras, Shirk, Liberty, Victors, etc., men's, women's and children's wheels. They also exchange or buy outright and take wheels for storage. Their advent has caused some under-surface speculation among the "regulars," and their plans are carefully noted, as this is about the first time, so far, that anything of the kind has been observed here.
Full article is available here.

At this distance in time (and given the relatively small amount of research I have done) I can't understand who the main target audience for this bicycle company was - the bicycle is described as the "latest and the neatest and the lightest" - would these have been considered particularly good sales values for women, since the poster features a woman rider? Other than "it saves the shoes" it makes no mention of this particular bicycle being a good value, which was often a theme of bicycle ads at this time. A puzzle.

"The Prudent Buyer selects the Shirk"
Version as presented uncropped by the Library of Congress

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Contented Woman Cyclist (1896 Poster)

Ride a Stearns [bicycle] and be content (1896)
Ride a Stearns [bicycle] and be content

From the Library of Congress' poster collections.

Title : Ride a Stearns and be content / J. Ottmann Lith. Co., Puck Bld'g, N.Y.
Creator(s): Penfield, Edward, 1866-1925, artist
Date Created/Published : [1896]
Medium : 1 print (poster) : chromolithograph ; 152 x 116 cm.
Summary : Poster advertising Stearns bicycles, showing a woman cyclist.
Reproduction Number : LC-USZC4-6645 (color film copy transparency)

This is a scan of a color transparency copy of the original and not a direct scan of the original item. I have cropped and rotated the image that is on the LoC site, which is here.

what is not so clear to us today from the poster is that the rider is coasting - since this is a "fixed gear" where is no coasting with feet on the pedals. In order to coast, you put your feet up on small posts on either side of the fork (that are not visible, but are there) while the pedals continue to go around.

A clearer image of coasting from 1896

In the example above, you can see that this bike does have a single brake for the front wheel, which is a "spoon brake" that is activated by a rod that presses down against the front tire. Trying to stop a coasting bike that didn't have a brake would involve somehow getting your feet back on the spinning pedals - not so easy.

Bicycling For Ladies - Cover
Another woman rider coasting - she looks happier than just "content"

Saturday, February 9, 2013

1896 Ice Bike Demonstrated by Woman Rider

Short article about ice bike demonstration in The San Francisco Call, January 19, 1896.

An Ice Bicycle.

A bicycle has been invented for traveling on ice or snow, says a New York paper. The long runner or skate, which replaces the front wheel of the bicycle, in itself is made for ice alone, but when the machine is used on snow-clad roads a metal shoe is fitted over the skate, and it is claimed that the machine will carry a rider over the ground, or rather snow or ice, at a greater speed than the regulation wheel.

Ice Bike

Miss Davidson, who is young and enthusiastic, mounted the ice wheel at a rink last evening with but little difficulty, and, after a few "wobbles," started off around the rink gracefully. The half dozen spectators were astonished at the perfect work ing of the machine. After two or three turns about the rink Miss Davidson did a few fancy moves and then dismounted.

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."

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

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Bicycle - the Great Dress Reformer (1895)

As noted in any earler post, the Library of Congress has digitized many of the "centerfold" color illustrations from Puck magazine - this one from 1895 demonstrates how both men and women's attire were affected by the interest in cycling. And 1895 was not yet the height of the cycling craze.

Puck Magazine - "Dress Reform" 1895
Both men and women's attire were affected by the "bicycle craze"

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

Full record and TIFF.

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.

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.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Early Bike Commuters - 1899 Video

44 second video copied from American Memory

It appears that the film starts just as the rush of workers on bicycles and on foot begins at the end of the work day. Was the policeman at left there every day to maintain order? While the copyright deposit date is given as 1903 the actual date of filming is July 5 1899. They would be just back from the previous day's national holiday (one assumes). Filmed in Detroit.

Parke Davis worker 1903
Screen grab - note a fair number of the riders are women

TITLE - Parke Davis Employees

CREATED/PUBLISHED - United States : American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, 1903.
SUMMARY - Photographed from a single-camera position, this film encompasses a scene of a large number of people either walking or riding bicycles as they leave what appears to be a factory. The title indicates they are employees of a drug firm.

NOTES - Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company; 11May03; H31670.
Cameraman, F. S. Armitage.
Cameraman credit from Niver's, Early motion pictures, p. 245.
Duration: 0:44 at 20 fps.
Filmed July 5, 1899 in Detroit.
Source used: Niver, Kemp R., Early motion pictures, 1985.
Received: ca. 1991 from LC lab; ref print and dupe neg; preservation; Paper Print Collection.

Parke Davis worker 1903
Number of riders builds . . . no one wears a helmet, of course, but they all seem to wear hats

Parke Davis worker 1903
One fellow politely doffs his hat to the police officer

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Cycling a Benefit to Women" (1897)

Cyclists in Washington 1897
From the Summer Washington DC Evening Times cycling page
Cycling a Benefit to Women.

Women, perhaps more than men, are benefited by wheeling. Before the bicycle was perfected, horseback riding was the only outdoor exercise of the kind suited to feminine needs, and good, gentle, sound riding horses were hard to find, expensive to buy, and still more expensive to take care of, so that few women kept one. Good bicycles, although costly, seem to be within the means of almost every person; at all events hundreds and thousands of women and girls who never could have owned a horse go gaily over our streets and roads on bicycles that are quite equal in price to any but the finest Kentucky steeds. The good effect of this change from sedentary indoor life to free and exhilarating exercise in the open air is already quite noticeable even to the casual observer. Prejudice has rapidly given way before the fascinating progress of what at first seemed but the fad of an hour. and we have already become accustomed to seeing sunbrowned faces, once sallow and languid, whisk past us at every turn of the street. The magnetism of vivid health has overcome conservative barriers that were impregnable to every other force. And this is, let us hope, but the beginning of a revolution, humane and soundly rational, which will bring an era of vigorous physical life to women.

From the Washington Evening Times.
July 31 1897

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Swedish Inflatable Helmet Won't Go Away

Several news sources, including Slate have given some coverage to further developments of a "invisible" (inflatable) Swedish bicycle "helmet". (I put "helmet" in quotes because as an American, I'm aware of the importance of tort law, and I suspect that what these folks have created doesn't amount to a helmet but is some sort of "inflatable cranial protection system" or the like.)

The instigation for this coverage would seem to be a new video depicting the work of the two Swedish women who came up with this idea and who have slogged away for seven years (at least; it isn't clear) on its development as a commercial product.

A brief description of how the "invisible" bike helmet has gotten to where it is today

Slate presumably covered this cycling news because of the "man bites dog" nature of it - most coverage in the general press of bicycling is like that (or else scandals with Lance Armstrong et al). The Slate author is highly skeptical, focusing in particular on the cost ($600) and that the thing is only usable once and then needs to be replaced (for another $600, apparently).

My thinking is (perhaps) a little more nuanced.

More or less instantly inflatable personal crash protection devices are not new, leaving aside car air bags (which are attached to the vehicle, not to the person). Riders in cross country equestrian events can use a vest that inflates when the rider is "separated" from the horse. (This development was a result, it seems, of Christopher Reeves' accident.) Here is one example. The cost is roughly comparable to the invisible helmet, but it is reusable. In short, the basic idea is not so radical as it might seem.

There is a difference, of course - the invisible bicycle helmet completely replaces the usual helmet a cyclist would wear while the inflatable equestrian vest augments a safety vest that was being worn otherwise to improve it. From the standpoint of improving safety (as the number one goal) it is easier to identify with the "augment" approach than with the "replace" approach. In fact, if one wanted to enhance safety of bicycle riders, the simplest way to do that is to wear a better helmet - a motorcycle helmet - and not an inflatable helmet (that has to work its way up around your head to do its work).

The main goal though is not so much safety as to have some safety while serving the all important desire not to muss one's hair or to be uncomfortable (which one of the inventors declares traditional bicycle helmets to be) and to have something that doesn't make your head look like a "mushroom" (which is a statement in the video . . . ).

Bicycle helmets are a relatively recent development - one can review the Wikipedia article on bicycle helmets to confirm this. Early helmets were not very good in various senses; but since the development of the polystyrene foam approach now used it feels like we are stuck with helmets that should and could be better in protecting a rider's head. Looking at how to improve today's helmets would seem more useful than switching to a $600 alternative exotic option.

But yes, anything that sits on your head may muss up one's hair - there is little to be done about that. Making a helmet that is comfortable seems more easily rectified. The "it isn't attractive" aspect has been addressed by a number of companies, including these options from a company called BandBox

The whole fashion statement aspect of cycling can be amusing - Nutcase makes helmets that are intended to be more appealing (I confess I'm not sure why) to a certain audience and I see them here in the D.C. area, but in the summer it seems a little crazy - a helmet with less ventilation? Little tiny holes? Talk about comfort ! (or lack of comfort . . . ) Quite reminiscent of early Pro-Tec bicycle helmets in appearance, but given the greater amount of foam, likely less comfortable.

Perhaps these folks could get the price down to more like $300 (although who knows - part of their price has to be their insurance or whatever to fight law suits from those who decide the thing didn't protect them when they have a hurt skull notwithstanding use of the product) and make it so it is reusable - would it make more sense? I have trouble getting too excited about it even then, but who knows, someone might be pleased to pay six to eight times the cost of a regular helmet to avoid mussed hair. Here in heat-and-humidity land, I'm not sure I see that wearing a big fluffy scarf-collar thing around my neck is more appealing than a ventilated helmet. This isn't Sweden.

A particularly interesting question not addressed directly in the video (although sort of implied) would be whether this helmet is safer than a typical bicycle helmet for the user. I would assume that if it works correctly, your head is happier bouncing on a firm air pillow to absorb shock than polystyrene foam.

There is also the theory that has some support that motorists ride more carefully around cyclists who are not wearing helmets than those who are. So this "helmet" could be useful in encouraging motorists (who would not perceive the protection of a helmet) to be more careful around cyclists wearing this device.

There are apparently endless issues to consider here - but I'll stop now.

Hains Point loop
I don't know, I think the helmet adds some joie de vivre