Monday, June 15, 2015

Cycling in the 1890s

Los Angeles Bicycle Club in the 1890s
After the invention of the safety bicycle, cycling became very popular in the 1890s. You no longer had to be a young, fit daredevil to ride, which made cycling possible for a much larger segment of the population. In addition to being a fun activity, cycling was also a very practical mode of transportation. Henry Ford's Model T, which brought automobiles to the masses, was not manufactured until 1908. Your choices for transportation in the 1890s were limited to:
  • Walking
  • Riding a horse or in a carriage
  • Train
  • Streetcar
  • Bicycle
 Not surprisingly, many chose a bicycle as their primary means of transportation.

At that time, cyclists were known as wheelmen. A national organization known as the League of American Wheelmen had been formed in 1880. They pushed for better roads, since most roads at that time were unpaved. The organization is still in existence today, but has changed its name to the League of American Bicyclists.

Although bicycles allowed many people much greater freedom to travel, not everyone was happy about this. Theater owners and booksellers lost money because cycling provided another leisure activity. Public transportation suffered a major decline as many people rode their bikes to work and other destinations. Laundries also lost money as those who road their bikes to work opted not to wear starched shirts and collars. Perhaps the ones who were most upset about the cycling craze were preachers, since many in their congregations would go riding on Sundays instead of  attending church. One preacher warned that

"These people are heading to a place where the roads are not muddy due to the high temperature"

No comments:

Post a Comment