In 1880, the League of American Wheelmen was formed to promote bicyclists' interests. Over the next decade, local clubs of cyclists or "wheelmen" formed throughout the country. While many engaged in bicycle racing, most were formed as social clubs, with dining and drinking almost as important as riding. The Long Island Wheelmen, The Brooklyn Wheelmen, The Century Wheelmen, The Nassau Wheelmen, the Dean's Cycle Club, the Riverside Wheelmen, the Greenwich Wheelmen, Manhasset Cyclers, the Lexington Wheelmen are just a few of the local groups represented in articles about the popularity of cycling. By 1898, according to the League of American Bicyclists' web site, the League had more than 102,000 members, including the Wright Brothers, Diamond Jim Brady and John D. Rockefeller. Many clubs had meeting halls and admitted women as well as men.
Susan B. Anthony (in a February 2, 1896 interview with The New York World) said:
"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood."
In 1880, part of New York City's Washington's Birthday celebration featured a rallye of all the bicycle clubs from the New York area and from as far away as Hartford, Boston, Trenton and Philadelphia. The route stretched from Third Avenue in New York City to Tarrytown, NY, where the participants would dine and then return to the City (a round trip of at least 50 miles.)
An article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (7/22/1895) details another ride which passed through Freeport on the way to Patchogue. Among the names listed in the article is one Fred Ward, whose bicycle shop is pictured below.
Note the motors on some of the bicycles. Beginning with early models in the 1860's, motorized bikes like those designed by French and German inventors (most notably Gottlieb Daimler in 1885) entered the market and in 1895, the DeDion-Buton company of France designed a lightweight, 4-stroke combustion engine which allowed the mass production of motorcycles. This was rapidly copied by Harley-Davidson and Indian and American motorcycle companies quickly made up for lost time.
Anyone with information about Mr. Ward and/or the location of his shop is invited to contact the Library.
Further reading in the Hewlett-Woodmere collection:
- Herlihy, David V. Bicycle: the history. (Yale, 2004).
- The noblest invention : an illustrated history of the bicycle / by the editors of Bicycling magazine (St. Martin's,
- Woodforde, John. The Story of the Bicycle. (Routledge, 1970)
From our Historic newspapers: (New York Times requires ProQuest login):
- "Brooklyn Wheelmen in Freeport" Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 22, 1895, p. 4
- "Brooklyn's First Cycle Club." The New York Times, June 11, 1894, p. 3.
- Doings of the Cyclers, The New York Times, April 26,1896, p. 12.
- "Gossip of the Cyclers: Brakes on Bicycles to be the rule next year." The New York Times,November 29, 1896, p. 7.
From other Internet sources:
- A brief History of Bicycling from the Bicycle Museum, Orchard Park, NY
- Early bicycles from the Bicycle Cultural Center
- History of the Motorcycle
- Motorcycle Mania: origins of the motorcycle
- The Bicycle Uniform from Head to Foot" from The Wheelman (1994).
- League of American Bicyclists