The History of Cycling in Illinois with Librarian Chris Sweet


(instrumental music) (music ends) I can start for a minute without it. I’m not sure that I need the mic anyway. Carl’s correct that this is my sabbatical project for this summer and this coming fall. At any time you approach a somewhat new area of study, it requires a huge amount of background reading and research, and that’s really the phase that I’m in. So it’s not that I haven’t done anything, but the original discoveries, I think a lot of that is still to come. There’s been a lot of interesting things already just in the couple of months I’ve been on this project. But I think there’s going to be a lot more. We’ll talk about that in just a minute, so I’m mostly just going to cover the early history of cycling in Illinois rather than try to take it up to contemporary times. And we’ll talk about that timeline in just a minute. This image I keep using–it’s my favorite that I have found so far in my research. It is of Mayor Carter Harrison from Chicago. During the bike boom in the 1890s–we’re going to talk about this–there was such a big cycling contingent and cycling lobby–particularly in Chicago–that political candidates pandered to that group, and so this was him with a bunch of his cabinet members on a ten-person tandem up in Chicago. So there’s a political story there as well, and it’s just a great image of the excess of the time, and the Chicago over-the-top mentality. So this seemed like a good place to start. “Few articles ever used by man have created so great a revolution in social conditions as the bicycle.” It seems over the top. It seems bold: you would expect it to come from one of the cycling publications of the time. Interestingly, though, Eleventh census of the United States…usually a fairly conservative, reserved sort of reporting. That’s how they were reporting on the bicycle at the time. So here’s another one talking about the social aspects. I’ll give you a second to read that one. So again, it’s these really bold claims for the bicycle, right? It seems, again, like this is…be coming from manufacturer, be coming from the bicycling magazine of the day, and there were many of them. That was Scientific American. Again, that’s not a publication that was prone to excess, so this gives you a sense of how people were thinking about bicycles at the time. So this is my presentation about the research that I think that I will be doing, and kind of the path forward. So how did I get here? How did I settle on this topic? Over the past summer, I was looking for a sabbatical project. I had a number of ideas, and I spent a couple days on each of these ideas just to see if they were viable, if there was enough there, to see if somebody else had covered it. I had some great ideas, but you get into it. You kind of see: “Nah, too much has been written on this topic. I can’t really add enough substantial. It wasn’t just a good fit.” And I loved this idea! But I thought, I wasn’t sure that this was going to go anywhere, and I got into it. I work as a librarian, right, so I’m good at searching the literature–the background literature. And I kept feeling like I’m missing something. I was like, “There’s got to be something on this. Somebody has to have done this.” I didn’t find a single scholarly article on the history of cycling in Illinois, and I certainly didn’t find any books outside of a couple on Schwinn. Schwinn has been covered very well. This is what we call a research gap, right? Nobody has done this. It’s a great topic. I’m a lifelong cyclist, a lifelong Illinoisan, which I think actually helps to put all this into context. I’ve got a good sense of the mechanics of the bicycle. Plus the geography of the state, and just state history in general. My undergraduate degree was in History, so that’s how I can pull in that particular context. My master’s is Library and Information Science, which is really important when you get into this sort of archival research: going out and visiting special collections, museums, libraries, archives. That sort of thing. The faster I can get through those collections, pull together data, organize that data. It’s all tied to librarianship, right? After my undergrad, I worked for a while as an intern at the Smithsonian, and that’s kind of what peaked my interest in doing this primary source research. It was a great experience. Also worked at the University of Illinois archives when I was there at graduate school. So that’s kind of the skill set that I came with. But, still, to make this a viable, scholarly project for the university, you have to toe the line. You can’t just tell the great stories. There’s so many great stories, and I think that’s what a lot of us are attracted to. As a historian, that’s what I’m attracted to, but then you’re just kind of doing interesting retellings of events that occurred. So there’s got to be this “so what,” and I’m going to try to cover some of that today. I’m going to tell you some of the really cool, awesome stories, then we’re going to step back, and… Why does it matter? What’s the “so what”? How does this tie in to the big picture? Why is it significant? It’s not just that Chris is a bicyclist and is interested in old bikes and history. That may be true, but I think it’s got a much bigger, broader impact, and we’ll get to that as well. Let me see if I can straighten this out a little bit. We’re missing the side. I’m going to do a very, super condensed history of the bicycle as an object just in a couple of slides. You have to know a little bit about this in order to understand why Illinois was significant, and where it started, and where we got to. The physical object part is important. This is going to be just, initially, about the bicycle as an object. I’m actually more interested in a lot of the social and cultural issues surrounding the bicycle. And so, the two are different. There’s the object, and the evolution of the object, the cultural history of that. But then, how did it impact society? So I’ll try to distinguish between those as well. So this is the earliest thing that we would call…that looks a little bit like a bicycle. Draisienne: it came from Germany. We’re talking about 1817. It was different than earlier models because it had a steering system. There are earlier things that look like this. We call them like a hobbyhorse. The steering mechanism that you can see there was really the innovation of this particular… the start of the creation of the bicycle. So you just kind of walked alongside this. There’s like kids’ balance bikes that are the same for now. Balance bikes for kids that don’t have pedals. You just walk alongside it, you get up a little bit momentum. You can pull your feet up and coast along. Nothing too great, but it caught on for a little while at a time. We’re talking about the social elite. This was not for transportation. It was just for show, for fun. There were a few in America, but they were mostly popular in Europe. So the next big innovation is going to be a boneshaker. They’re also called a velocipede, and the difference–similar to the high wheel sitting here–it’s got front wheel-mounted pedals. So that it had a system to drive now. So this is a big step forward, right? So we went from 1817 to about 1863. And pretty soon they come across the ocean to the US. 1866. Pierre Lallement. There was a big patent dispute. He patented this, and a lot of the early history of the bicycle is about the defense of his patent. Patent law is huge in the early history of cycles. I’m not going to cover that. For the most part, it’s not very entertaining reading. So let’s put Illinois into context here. Stuff’s moving pretty quick, so the first one’s over in Connecticut in 1866. 1867: he starts putting together a few of these and importing some from Europe, and already, 1868, there’s some coming in Illinois. So pretty quick for that day and age, do we start to see some of these bikes here in Illinois. Riding schools became popular, so not only did they want to either sell you a bike or rent a bike, but then charge you for lessons, for instructions, as well. And with this style a bike, there was a bit of a bicycle craze. A bicycle boom not as big as the later one. 1868 and 1869, people really went nuts for these the style of bikes. So here we have one that looks quite similar. These go by three different names: the High Wheel, the Ordinary, or the Penny Farthing. So the difference here: you’ve got a bigger front wheel. And this was just a natural evolution of the other design. After people kind of figured out the boneshakers, the velocipedes, they started kind of playing around on them, racing them. They wanted to go faster, right? So the natural evolution is just to grow that front wheel because as the circumference of the wheel grows, you can go faster, right? That was how the velocipede went to the Penny Farthing design. Some of the other really important differences. You can see it’s got the wire spokes. It’s a very ingenious way of building a wheel. It looks like it’d be really weak, but because of the way that the spokes push and pull together, it makes a really strong wheel. It’s much lighter, It’s more forgiving than the wooden spoked wheels, and they also added rubber to the outside, so you get a more forgiving ride. The boneshakers were called a boneshaker. You can imagine riding a wooden wheel with a metal rim on cobblestone. It’s not a great experience. So a little strip of hard rubber, not inflatable pneumatic tires. It went a long way in increasing the popularity. Why were they ordinary? They weren’t actually called the Ordinary at the time. It wasn’t until what looks closer to a bicycle that we would see today. The safety bicycle. “Safety” because you’re not way up high. They liked it was safer, right? So in order to distinguish between this and the older type of bike, then they started using the word “ordinary,” so the high wheel–ordinary–that’s where that name came from, even though ordinary bikes today look much more like this safety, so this is the actual one of the first ones–the Rover safetys, the picture up there. 1885. So what are some of the changes? For the first time we’ve got a chain-driven rear wheel. Instead of fixing pedals to the front, you’re connecting it to the rear wheel with a chain. That means you can shrink the size of both of the wheels, and you can take a mechanical advantage of gear ratios, right? You can alter the size of the sprockets, and you can go fast on a bike without a huge wheel. It’s was a big innovation at the time. And things moved pretty quickly across the Atlantic again. So they were just introduced in ’85. They were refined a little bit the next year. By 1887, the US Manufacturers had said, “Yeah, this is the way that the industry is going. Let’s get on board.” So they were starting to be made here. So stuff’s happening pretty quickly. The Dunlap, the pneumatic tire. Big Innovation: 1888. So these are the earliest inflatable tires. People didn’t think they were going to work. They thought they were going to be slower, they thought they were going to be puncture-prone, and they were. They were very puncture-prone at the time, but it turns out they were a big step forward. They were faster, they were more comfortable, and they were lighter. So despite the fact that they punctured, and they had other problems of rolling off the wheels, it was a big step forward. So one of these pieces, the history that I’m coming across, some of the research… An early Peoria history claims that one of the first times these wheels–the pneumatic tires–were used in racing was over in one of the Peoria racetracks in 1892. That’s pretty significant, and it’s plausible. Historians, we’re skeptical. We want to make sure. I’d like to see this documented in more than one place before I say that, “Yes, it really happened.” But the history that I found that in 1896. It’s a contemporary of the time period in history, so that it’s certainly part of what was going on. They also were faster, safer, and cheaper than the ordinaries, and this kind of set the stage for the boom. We’re not going to move a lot further forward, but there weren’t a whole lot more developments, right? So the freewheel–the ability to coast and not have the pedals keep going– the first free wheels were around 1900, and the very early, very clunky derailers were around 1914. The last one, I put on there just kind of for fun. There really wasn’t much else going on in major innovations until Dura-Ace STI, so these are the shifters that you shift on your bars. The cyclists will recognize them. I think eight speed was the perfection of that shifting. Those were the major developments. Now we’re going to get to history of cycling in Illinois, and now I shifted my projector so half my poster’s off the wall there. American Crescent Cycles, it was one of the big Chicago manufacturers, and they did some just gorgeous, gorgeous posters. There’s a book of them over on there. So, what are the pieces? What am I going to argue? What’s my niche? How do I fit into what’s already been done? So I think I’m going to make the claim the Illinois was the most important state for the early development of bicycling in America. That’s fairly bold, and it’s not been argued in that way before. So that’s one of my big claims. The bicycle played a formative and significant role in the social, cultural, and economic and industrial development of Illinois. I think I can show that. I think it’s been forgotten, I think it’s been neglected, but I think that’s something that I can definitely show. I can show this as well. Schwinn is overshadowed and dominated the history of cycling in Illinois. Schwinn’s a great success story; everybody knows I’m right. They weathered all the ups and downs, the booms, and the busts of the bicycle industry. The best in the country, they were around for the longest. They dominated the industry. And stuff has been written about Schwinn and the rest of the Illinois manufacturers, the rest of the Illinois history kind of got buried, I think, because of Schwinn. So the other big manufacturer was out at Hartford, Connecticut: the Pope and Columbia, Columbia bicycles from Pope Manufacturing. And Pope did a lot to create the bicycle craze, just to create the bicycle culture. He was instrumental in creating good roads for bicycles. But all that work, he had so many publications, right? The historians look at that. It’s kind of skewed the history. Just because he was so prolific. And then downstate, you know, it’s not just a Chicago history, a lot of this, Illinois history of Chicago. But Peoria was a major manufacturer. Peoria was the second largest city in Illinois at the time. They had a lot of manufacturers, they had a lot of racing in Peoria. They had their own tire company, so Peoria plays into this history as well. So this is what I think will be my rough chapter structure for an eventual book. This is what I’m playing with right now. industry, racing, women’s rights, politics and good roads, religion, development of the automobile, downstate. The two with question marks, I’m not sure I can get a chapter out of them, but..maybe. So this is the fun part, I think. This is what really attracted me to this story. The bicycle boom: for those of us that like cycling, are interested in it, How big was this boom, you know? Where was the country at around 1900 versus where we’re at today? So let’s go through some of these and see what kind of a case I can make. So the 1890s, country’s smaller, smaller population. We have 500 bicycle clubs in the US. Chicago had 50 different clubs with different uniforms, different insignia. Around 10,000 members in bicycle clubs. You had to pay to be in these, so that’s not just cyclists. 1896, this was a count, but they had 5,000 men and women ride to work in Downtown Chicago. From a commuting infrastructure perspective, Chicago’s way smaller. You get 5,000 at the time, these are big numbers. Chicago had an industry, like a trade show, right? They had 100,000 people in attendance with 225 exhibitors. That’s some pretty big numbers. Again, remember that Chicago is much smaller than it would be today. By 1896, this is a nationwide estimate, Americans had spent $300,000,000 on bicycles, and then $200,000,000 on related products, so this isn’t like fringe. This is a major economic driver of the time. It was big money. Companies buying each other out, everybody trying to get in on this slice of the pie. 1897. 300,000 Chicagoans, so one-in-five, were riding bikes. That’s pretty good. We’re not there any longer. League of American Wheelmen: their membership peaked at 100,000, so I looked… USA Cycling, that’s the biggest cycling organization today, has 62,000. The League of American Wheelmen today is like 20 or 30,000. So it was big. Everybody was interested, everybody wanted a bike. They wanted to watch bicycle rides. So what else we got? This is Chicago. The Fair Department Store. They moved 1,000 bikes a day during the height. Can you imagine just the logistics of getting 1,000 bikes in and out of the door every day? That’s how big the boom was. I don’t know how long that lasted, but that was a statistic that for a while, they were moving 1,000 bikes a day out of the department store. In 1899, 1.2 million bikes were sold in the US. I should contrast that. I don’t know what today’s number is, but it’s probably not a whole lot off of that one. So 1890, the US census of manufacturers, there was only 27 companies listed whose primary line of business was the manufacture of bicycles. By 1900, it had grown to 312, and Illinois had 60. That sounds pretty impressive, right? If you know anything about bicycle manufacturing today, there’s not very many at all in the country. There’s kind of a new resurgence and small craftsmen doing handmade bicycles. That’s starting to come back around. But even the big factories, your Specialized and Trek, Schwinn, who’s no longer in Chicago… There’s only a handful, and most of them outsource their overseas production anyway, at this point, and so these numbers are skewed. For the census, the census was only if that was their primary line of business, so the numbers were much bigger than that. There were more than sixty in Illinois, but if you also sold farm implements as your main line of business, you didn’t get counted. If your main line of business was repairing bicycles, but you made a couple in the back, you didn’t get counted. So it was much bigger than what we’ve got there. Alright, so let’s move on to Illinois bicycle industry. So I’m just going to cover a few. I had that chapter structure up there, right? I’m just going to pick a few of those. We don’t have time to get into all of them, and we’ll look at a couple of these and see where we get. So the Tribune, 1896, they say that Chicago is the bicycle center of the United States. Well, I mean, it’s the Trib. So there’s some city pride there going on, right? But I think that they were making a legitimate argument. Then, there was a Chicago bicycle directory. I’ve had a chance to look at this at the Chicago History Museum. It’s a couple hundred pages of only Chicago manufacturers. It wasn’t just bikes. All the parts, the pedals, the lights, the saddles. Chicago was huge for that kind of stuff. So they claim that two-thirds of everything in the country came from 150 miles of Chicago. So you draw a circumference around Chicago, you get Peoria, you get Milwaukee, you get like the Gary, Indiana area. But most of it was coming out of Chicago. So here’s a great argument that Illinois really was the dominant force in bicycle manufacturing. Again, there might be a little state pride–hubris–coming into there, but I think that the research is going to back those up. This is a Jeffrey catalog that the high wheel here is from the same manufacturer. This you can’t see very well, but it’s another one of my favorite images that I’ve come across. That little inset shows an Indian who shot his horse and jumped on the bicycle. (crowd laughs) So there’s a lot going on there, but I mean the symbolism is–and this is what was happening– horses were losing value, and they couldn’t sell them. They lost value Bicycles were replacing horses at a really fast rate. Horses were expensive to maintain. A lot of people couldn’t afford them. You had to feed them, you had to house them, you often had to hire a stable manager to take care of the horse. So this is emblematic of what was going on at the time. I’m just going to pick a few of these. Western Wheel Works, they made crescent bicycles. Here again, this is another demonstrable fact that they were one of the largest, probably the largest, bicycle manufacturer in America. Huge buildings. They employed 1,000 people, they sold 25,000 safeties in 1881. But look at how fast that goes up. 57,000 by 1895, 70,000 in 1896. Of course, there was a bust after this. There was a boom and bust period. The bust started happen around 1900. The industry got saturated. There were too many manufacturers. Prices drove way down. A whole bunch went out of business. There was a bicycle trust that came together and forced other people out. So there was a bust period after this, but this gives you a sense of how important, and how big it was. So I mentioned that Schwinn is the real success story. A lot of people know that Schwinn was around for a long time. The longest-running American bicycle manufacturer. They weathered all the ups and downs. It was close. Sometimes they almost went out of business, but they always found a new way to stay in business, to keep selling bikes. They tried automobiles for a little while. Didn’t really go as well for them as some other companies. They tried motorcycles, and that did go well up to ’31. And then they really marketed to kids. The bikes you will remember: the stingrays, the bikes with the big fenders, lights. The tanks that looked like a motorcycle. That was one of the ways that they managed to stay afloat when everybody else went under. They survived up until ’92. That was their first bankruptcy filing for a company that’s survived for a hundred years. And then they moved to Colorado, so they’re still in existence, owned by somebody else, but they’re not an Illinois company any longer. So this is the back and forth. Those are some of the stories. So what? Why does this matter? Why is it a good topic of historical inquiry? It’s a big component of the Second Industrial Revolution. The First Industrial Revolution was more East Coast, would have been things like ship building, gun making, clock making, where they learned to do assembly line, interchangeable parts, that was the First Industrial Revolution. This was kind of the second one, so they took those techniques. They ramped them up, they scaled them up, Often sewing machine companies led to bicycle manufacturing, and then the bicycle manufacturing led directly to motorcycles and automobiles. This company that we keep mentioning, Gormully & Jeffery, they had a bicycle called the “Rambler.” Anybody remember a car also called the Rambler? You own a Rambler? Nice. So this is a case where they had so much success with the Rambler bicycle, they said, “We’re hanging on to that name because it’s got name recognition.” So they kept the Rambler name, and they applied it to their automobile manufacturing. When they started making cars, they moved from Chicago up to Milwaukee, but they’re one of many that got into motorcycles and automobiles. They’re over in Peoria. The Duryea brothers made one of the early automobiles It’s really just two bicycles welded together with an engine on it. A lot of the early cars were bicycle frames welded together with some real basic engines or batteries. In the early days of automobiles, electric cars were battling it out. So they had battery-powered, and eventually the steam-powered and gasoline-powered won out. It further established the manufacturing dominance of Chicago in the Midwest, created new manufacturing techniques. Stamping was one that the crescent bicycle did. The ability to stamp out parts rather to forge them, make the process faster. That’s just one example. Distribution networks using the railroads and using the Illinois waterways, they really figured out how to leverage those and to move massive quantities of bikes. Marketing schemes that were adopted by other industries. One of the Peoria bicycle companies claims to be the first to have sold on a payment installment plan. And as far as I know, that’s accurate. They were the first one to accept installments on a bicycle. Alright. Racing. I’m gonna do a couple of slides about racing. It’s got a great history, and it it brings a lot of different things together. So there’s different types of racing just like there is today. Some of the early races that were super popular were six-day races, and it seems almost absurd, but these were huge spectator events. When I say six-day races, I actually mean racing for six days. How far can an individual cover in six days? They had to sleep a little bit, but they didn’t sleep very much. They’d sleep a couple hours. They get back on, and if somebody was trying to get ahead of them at that time, they’d have their team manager waking them up, getting them back on the bicycle. By all accounts, they were drugged up with all kinds of amphetamines. It wasn’t illegal at that time. You know, anything to keep ’em awake, and keep ’em pedaling, and this is on a tiny little velodrome, an indoor wooden velodrome track. 2,000 miles for an individual. The Tour de France, over about three weeks, is 2,000, and we think of that as a major… One of the hardest endurance competitions. I can’t even imagine riding around a track. That’s the worst part. It’s like a quarter mile, so times four for a number of laps. People died, and people got really sick, so they outlawed 24 hours. So the promoters as soon as they outlawed one person doing it, they said, “Okay, we’ll do two-man teams.” So two-man teams, that survived for a long time. It was just two people would ride together, and they’d alternate on and off for six days of racing. One of the six-day racers, he raced a lot of other things, too. This is one of the early cycling champions, Bobby Walthour. It almost reads like an Evel Knievel list of injuries that he’s had there. 28 fractures of the right collarbone, 18 to the left, 32 broken ribs, 60 stitches. It was kind of a rough sport. The meat-packing industry was one of the sponsors of these things because they were so calorie-intensive, so that’s kind of a listing of just what one contestant would have eaten. Two dozen eggs, six tenderloins, fifty slices of toast. So just spectacles. Huge, huge spectator events! When they were held in Chicago, I found references to… Babe Ruth would love to go to these things when they’re in town, Al Capone would go watch six-day racing. In Madison Square Gardens, all the actresses, the actors, would come out, watch six-day racing. This is where Prems came from. So it’s like 1 in the morning, people are riding around the track like in a death march, and they put out 100 bucks or something, you know, “Whoever wins the next mile gets 100 bucks.” And, you know, they would go like crazy, and then slow down again, so huge spectator events. Pullman Races. This is the community of Pullman up in Chicago. Pullman were the fancy railroad cars like the sleeper cars, the dining cars. Pullman was a big industry in Chicago, so this was a huge race. It was the biggest in the country, possibly in the world, at that time. It attracted 100,000 spectators. I had to look it up, but like Soldier Field, I think is like 60,000-ish now. So way more than would go watch a game in Soldier Field would come out to watch bicycle races. It was huge spectator sport. Big money as well. Peoria was one of the most famous tracks. The Peoria Historical Society’s collection at Bradley has this poster. This is a really large poster of the Lakeview Stadium. That’s where the races were held, and this shows some of the international competitors. They came from overseas to race in Peoria. It was quite common for them to do that. So it has some of the international competitors and some of the local Peoria racers as well. I think I’m going to find more of these. I’m just starting to pull some of these together. There were a lot of world records that were set in Illinois. This is just some of them. I think this list is going to grow. So there’s a quarter mile in Decatur, The third and the half mile were both set in Chicago, and the mile was set in Peoria. So this was part of a national circuit, and Peoria was one of the biggest race tracks on the national circuit. Big prize money, all the best competitors come in there. Alright, so good stories, interesting thing, world records, fun stories. So what does that mean? What does that tell us? I think it tells us quite a bit, actually. Some of the first debates between amateur and professional came about from cycling. It was regulated by the League of American Wheelmen, and if you know anything about the history of Olympic sports, this is a huge debate between amateurism and professionalism. And the early debates got started here. How do you police it? What makes a professional? What makes an amateur? This is a fairly big issue that was first raised by cycling. Sponsorship of athletes as a marketing strategy really arose with cycling. It was one of the first one where manufacturers really got behind ’em. It was mostly bicycle manufacturers but companies as well. They would sponsor riders in order to get their name out there. This was new. This is the first time that this had been done with athletes. Sports promotion: the promotion of events. The event promoters put these on. It was huge money. It was huge money in Chicago, it was big money in Peoria. There’s a story about one of the managers in Peoria ran off with the gate proceeds, and that’s what tanked racing in Peoria. He just collected all the gate proceeds, and he left town. And that’s what tanked racing in Peoria. They couldn’t pay their prize purses. Racing became the primary driver of technological innovation. It was the racers that demanded lighter equipment, faster equipment, so a lot of the racers were driving the technological innovation. That’s where it was coming from, and this has continued to persist. This is true today as well. There was a very early national, nationwide challenge to segregation, racial segregation. Originally, the League of American Wheelmen, their bylaws let anybody race. African-American, white, it didn’t matter. There’s a great success story: Major Taylor was one of the first, no, he was the first African-American world champion in any sport. And so he was just showing up everybody, and to the North’s credit, they were alright with that. They let him race. He encountered some prejudice during the races, but he was able to race on pretty much all the Northern tracks. There was the southern, you know, south of the Mason-Dixon line contingent of the League of American Wheelman that said, “No, this has to be where to draw the color line. We only want white racers in our events if it’s sanctioned.” And sanctioning was important. If it wasn’t a League of American Wheelmen event, it was chump change, so they were defeated for two or three years. They kept bringing up this issue. “You said, ‘Let’s draw the color line, let’s draw the color line.'” Then they got the national conference to Louisville, and they just had enough votes to insert the color barrier so that it said, “Only white riders can compete.” And that really drove a splinter in the organization. It was really what killed off the League of American Wheelmen. It came back around, but that’s part of the early history. It’s tied up in the racing side of things. Alright. Women’s rights, gender issues, there’s a lot here. The cartoon is from Puck Magazine. Puck was the first political cartoon magazine. They covered bicycling a lot because it was a hot topic at that time. So Rational Dress Movement is part of this. Over on the side is what’s known as the Gibson Girl from Scribner’s Magazine, and it was kind of the prototypical–the new woman of the day. She’s got the divided skirt. You can’t tell as much in this picture, but that’s a bloomer: divided skirts rather than the long skirts. And cycling really brought some of these issues to the forefront. The little blurb I put up there was about a Chicago school teacher who wore her cycling uniform to work. She caught some flack for it. She stood her ground, and they backed down at that time period. So there’s a success story. And there’s more like that comes out of Chicago and Peoria as well. These cycling clubs held lots of balls. Cycling was way more popular than something like football, so the cycling clubs had football teams that would play each other when they weren’t racing each other on bikes. That’s just the way that it was at the time. That was one of their pastimes. They had big, elaborate balls, and they had one in Chicago where the women came in the bloomers, the new style of dress. And it raised a stink. The first time they tried to do another one, and the police appeared to try to enforce a dress code, and following that, Chicago alderman said that any woman dancing in bloomers, the cycling bloomers, the new style, where they equated them to a common prostitute. It was at the right time and place to be pushing these issues. What is the “so what”? The bicycle arrived at this time period when women were advocating for more rights and equal treatment. As a history reminder, it wasn’t until 1920 that women’s suffrage… voting rights were approved across the country, so this was in that period of ferment right before that. The dress reform, it hastened the dress reform. Got rid of the great, big Victorian corsets. Women had real mobility for the first time in history. Like I said, it was expensive to own a horse and a carriage. Usually the males drove when they went out. Bicycle’s a lot more mobility. There was a lot of medical debates back and forth about whether or not cycling was healthy for women. All kinds of just absurd things, but there was a lot of absurd things in the medical literature of the time. But these debates back and forth, and the push-back they got from from woman cyclists, really pushed us towards relying on medical evidence rather than just the… any one doctor might think is the best route. So it drove some some of the medical profession as well. So that was a couple of the areas that I think will be developed into chapters of an eventual book, so I wanted to kind of pull this together with, you know, going super local. What was the history here in Bloomington? And there’s definitely a couple of things. So this gives us a sense of when the first bicycle started to appear: 1869, 1869, 1875. It’s actually interesting. So there’s a riding school. Lyman Ferre advertised a riding school. Nine days later, he’s got competition. L. Mattern. So something was going on. These guys were in competing lines of business. They weren’t just bicycle manufacturers. They sold household furnishings or farming implements as well. The last one is just something about kids riding bikes around Franklin Square, and the police getting called on them because it was illegal to ride bikes on the street at the time. I can’t get my Powerpoint quite centered there. (chuckle) so picture on the left is the Bloomington Bicycle Club, that’s 1883. Pretty early in the history of the evolution of the bike clubs, so the very first one… 1878 in Boston, 1879 in Chicago, Peoria was 1881, and Bloomington was 1883. Like I said, these were very big, social elite things to do at the time. They had just gorgeous, huge club houses where they held balls couple times a month. They held races, but they also held just regular rides, outings on the weekend. The century was popular then like it is now. To ride 100 miles, to ride a century. That’s a cyclist identification card, this is actually from a Bloomington rider. 1902. For Wesleyan colleagues, here’s a nice interesting Wesleyan tie in. I found some of these old advertisements in the Wesleyan Echo, which was for, really, advertising the university. It went out to alumni and students as well. These are the ones that were certainly in the business of manufacturing bikes. Wasn’t the only thing that they did, but these were the three from Bloomington that I’ve found so far. This one’s really funny. It talks about a professor that bought a bike from them, and if you give a reference, if you let them know that you’re Wesleyan students, they are going to give you a good price on the bikes. Baby Bliss is one of the interesting stories. I missed that on my my Schwinn slide. The Schwinn slide had a picture of Baby Bliss as well. Baby Bliss was from Bloomington. He claimed to be the largest, the fattest man in the world. This was, remember, the period of like Vaudeville. The sort of grotesque, the carnival sort of atmosphere. Bicycle manufacturers wanted him as a spokesperson because it showed their bikes were strong. If It’ll hold him up, and he claimed his weight varied all over the place. In one of these things, he claimed 740. 502 over there. He really used that to his advantage. And he has ties to local politics down here, but he was pretty big. His name keeps popping up at different places in the cycling literature. He raced, and these were handicapped races, so they gave him a good handicap. He raced quite a bit, from what I’ve been able to find. And a lot of manufacturers wanted him to ride their bikes to prove their strength and durability. That was how you distinguished yourself at that time period as a durable bike. Alright, we’ll still end up with a little bit of time for some questions. The research that I am doing now and will be doing, Illinois Wesleyan is supporting that through a couple of different grants. I wanted to mention that up there. I want to thank Marty for bringing the high wheel over. It really brings the physicality to what we’re talking about. The physical object. And it’s something that was actually produced in Chicago, which I think is great. The McLean County Museum for hosting us. One of the bikes that I’ve restored is a 1950s Huffy Tandem that we ride around Lexington on. So I condensed that as much as possible to stay within the time frame. I do hope we get some some questions, And also stick around and take a look at the stuff that I brought along, and the bike as well. (audience applause)

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