Monday, December 10, 2007

Longmont and the bicycle craze of the 1890s

The bicycle craze of the 1890s is well documented and served as a catalyst of change in the woman's movement of the same period. Through Dorothy Large's "As We Were, Life in Early Longmont 1871-1900" book from 1977 (available in the Longmont Public Library), we can get a glimpse of how Longmont enthusiastically participated in the craze, both in supplying casual and heroic riders, and having large audiences come out and watch them. The popularity of cycling even spurs some pointed zingers from the newspaper editor on the subject of sidewalk policy. The advertisements shown here are from the Longmont Ledger newspaper, in the 1897 to 1898 period. The craze eventually was supplanted by the automobile in the next decade but I'm sure it was fun while it lasted.

  1. September 28, 1894. A bicycle race is held at distances of both one mile and 1/4 mile that "proved very interesting and were highly enjoyed by the spectators." H. McKiernan takes first place in the mile. An editorial comment in the Longmont Ledger notes on the side:
    "The riding of bicycles on the sidewalk is an unmitigated nuisance which cannot be abated too soon"
  2. October 12, 1894. Professor Thomas "wheeled" himself over to Greeley last Saturday forenoon but owing to a disagreeable head wind Sunday afternoon, he took the train back to Longmont. (my comment: We know all too much about those autumn winds from the west, Professor)

  3. May 17, 1895. Claude McKiernan and Ed Buckley "feeling the need of a little healthy exercise" decide to "wheel it" to Denver and back. They leave at 6 AM, get to Denver at 10:30 AM. They then spend a considerable amount of time wheeling around Denver before turning back to Longmont, arriving at 5:30 PM.

  4. Also on May 17, 1895. Dr. Ammerman rode down to Colorado City on his bicycle, a distance of 114 miles in thirteen hours! He does the return trip in 12.5 hours. (My comment: nice double-century ride, Doc, averaging around 8.7 mph on questionable roads, I'm sure).

    More sidewalk editorial comments the same day. Interesting that the commentator is considered an "outsider" if he/she doesn't ride?
    "To an outsider who walks instead of riding a bicycle, and who has on two or three occasions barely escaped bring run over by riders who think they own the sidewalks; it does seem a little strange that the Town Board at its last meeting should have voted down a proposed ordinance prohibiting the running of bicycles on sidewalks".

  5. June 25, 1897. The "great road race" from Longmont to Lyons between a horse with cart and a two cyclists was held. The horse and cart, driven by John Hecker, got a four mile head start. Final results: John Hecker first at 38.5 minutes, cyclist #1 Albert Buckley at 44 minutes, and cyclist #2 Ed Jones at 47. "Quite a number of Longmonters drove up to see the finish". This race was was to have taken place a few weeks earlier but the was postponed due to "unfavorable condition" of the road between Longmont and Lyons.

    The contestants have not had enough and want to do it again on July 4! Hecker will drive his horse 8 miles while Albert Buckley "rides his wheel" 12 miles and the stakes are high: a $100 purse! Other bike races are being arranged for this day, as well.

  6. July 4, 1897. The bicycle vs. horse race is the "event of the afternoon". Albert Buckley takes the contest this time on a track race, and wins the 100 bucks. "It was evident at the end of the first two laps that the horse was not in it". A five-mile cycling race also takes place on this day with twelve participants. Ed Buckley takes first prize, perhaps getting his fine form from cycling to/from Denver, winning a pair of "M and W" tires worth $10. (my comment: Montgomery Wards?)

    Finally, to wrap up the day, a "bicycle masquerade" goes down Main Street with 50 wheels in the parade. "Considerable pains have been taken by some in rigging up themselves and their wheels". A precursor to Bike Night Longmont, perhaps? Crowds of people line up to see the folks and their wheels.

  7. July 23, 1897. A "Bicycle Party" was held at "Empson's Gardens" (the canning factory). Anyone who "rode a wheel" was invited, which consisted of a parade and then refreshments, rustic seats, lawn tennis, and "everything in sight"!


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