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A Craze for Cycling

This slideshow contains 18 items
1
Herbert A. Coffin on bicycle, ca. 1900

Herbert A. Coffin on bicycle, ca. 1900

Item 27851 info
Maine Historical Society

The bicycling craze was for everyone. Men. Women. Children. Racers. Club enthusiasts. Leisurely pedalers.

Each group found something slightly different to appreciate in cycling. The bicycle might provide exercise, entertainment, transportation or a way to enjoy the outdoors.


2
Home of George W. Richards, Houlton, 1897

Home of George W. Richards, Houlton, 1897

Item 13874 info
Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum

High-wheel cycles first burst on the Maine -- and American -- scene in 1869.

While bicycles -- known as velocipedes -- were quite popular, patent disputes halted production of the vehicles.


3
Cyclist and mail carrier, Portland, ca. 1890

Cyclist and mail carrier, Portland, ca. 1890

Item 27931 info
Maine Historical Society

By the 1880s, however, the bicycle was back. Some riders still used the high-wheel "ordinary," but that cycle was challenging to ride, especially for women because of the high seat.

This Portland cyclist was barely taller than the front wheel of his "ordinary."


4
Start of Bicycle Race, Fairfield, 1887

Start of Bicycle Race, Fairfield, 1887

Item 8142 info
Skowhegan History House

Racing was quite popular, first on indoor tracks, then outdoors.

Note the assistants holding up the cyclists as the race is about to begin at a track in Fairfield.

The contestants are Cal Weir and Howard Breen of Portland and Roland T. Patten, at right, of Skowhegan, a consistent winner in the races.


5
Edgar C. Dunton, Skowhegan, 1888

Edgar C. Dunton, Skowhegan, 1888

Item 8143 info
Skowhegan History House

Edgar C. Dunton of Skowhegan poses for a formal indoor portrait with his Expert Columbia bicycle.

Some cyclists, known as wheelmen, belonged to clubs that promoted racing, recreation or other bicycling pursuits.


6
Bicycle Race at Fairfield, 1888

Bicycle Race at Fairfield, 1888

Item 9045 info
Skowhegan History House

The League of American Wheelmen was a national organization that promoted bicycling but also lobbied to improve roads in order to make the sport safer.

This LAW Maine division sponsored this Fall Race Meet at Fairfield Park, October 11, 1888.

In the photo are Roland T. Patten, Skowhegan; W. C. Aier, Fairfield; W G. West, Portland; and C. H. Crosby, Bangor.


7
Bicycle Race at Oak Grove Park, Springvale

Bicycle Race at Oak Grove Park, Springvale

Item 9779 info
Sanford Historical Committee

While the racers at Fairfield were riding the high-wheel ordinaries, competitors at Oak Grove Park in Springvale competed on "safety" bikes that featured nearly even wheel sizes, a lower seat, and a chain-driven system that moved the pedals away from the front wheel.

The new bicycles were easier to mount, easier to ride, and more appealing to a larger audience.


8
Jack Lawrence, Saco, on Bicycle, ca. 1900

Jack Lawrence, Saco, on Bicycle, ca. 1900

Item 25401 info
Dyer Library Archives / Saco Museum

Still, racing was a popular activity as safety bikes largely replaced high-wheelers by the turn of the twentieth century.

Jack Lawrence of Saco was a well-known racer on safety bikes.

He earned the title "Champion of Maine."

Lawrence, who also sold bicycles, was a member of the York County Wheelmen.


9
York County Wheelmen's Banquet, Saco, ca. 1890

York County Wheelmen's Banquet, Saco, ca. 1890

Item 23826 info
Dyer Library Archives / Saco Museum

The York County Wheelmen's Association, which was established in 1883, held annual banquets, dances and outings.

All of its members were men.

Maine had innumerable bicycle clubs by the turn of the twentieth century -- many of which had women members as well.


10
League of American Wheelmen, Belfast, 1891

League of American Wheelmen, Belfast, 1891

Item 4233 info
Maine Historical Society

About 50 communities had bicycle clubs affiliated with the League of American Wheelman, shown here at their 1891 gathering in Belfast.

Besides promoting cycling and lobbying for better roads, the LAW published newsletters and maps of cycling routes that helped hobbyists and more serious cyclists find appropriate venues for their rides.


11
Skowhegan Wheel Club, 1894

Skowhegan Wheel Club, 1894

Item 9043 info
Skowhegan History House

Clubs and individual entrepreneurs sponsored bicycle tours, many of them quite lengthy. The Skowhegan Wheel Club had annual tours to Quebec, for instance.

Riders in the mid 1890s used cyclometers to record their mileage, bragging about a season's total that topped 1,000 miles.

Clarence Rice of Woodfords reported in September 1895 that he had ridden 4,480 miles that season – and hoped to reach 5,000.


12
Bicycle Club members, ca. 1895

Bicycle Club members, ca. 1895

Item 14784 info
Maine Historical Society

Bicycling enthusiasts praised the many benefits of cycling: exercise, fresh air, health, improved family relationships, diversion for men from drinking, and women's dress reform.

Much discussion filled magazines, newspapers, and, no doubt, private conversations about the appropriateness of women riding bicycles and, especially, of what they wore while riding.

It was clear that Victorian clothing – long and heavy – would be inappropriate. Many women opted for bloomers.

Gwen Mason wrote, "The first lady who rode a diamond frame machine in Portland is Mrs. William Haggett, who rode a Monarch on a stationary rest, at the New York Cycle Show, making 100 miles in four hours and fifty-three minutes. She looks very trim upon her eighteen-pound racer in a light brown suit, consisting of red sweater, brown bloomers, cap, leggings, and jacket."

Mason praised the new costume that "discards the long trailing skirt and adopts that which clothes each leg separately."

These three riders, however, chose more traditional dress.


13
Bicyclists relaxing, Scarborough, ca. 1895

Bicyclists relaxing, Scarborough, ca. 1895

Item 10797 info
Maine Historical Society

"Even Portland has cast aside her usual slowness and helped to prove that 1895 may be here, as it has been called elsewhere, the wheeling year," Gwen Mason of Portland wrote in Maine Outing magazine in August 1895.

She added, "Indeed, it must be when a little city, handicapped as it is by bad roads and its lothfulness to adopt any new sport or fad, in six months brings forth over three hundred devotees among the feminine population."

Some of those devotees may be among this group resting in Scarborough


14
Portland Wheel Club, 1897

Portland Wheel Club, 1897

Item 6003 info
Maine Historical Society

Portland had several bicycling organizations.

The Portland Wheel Club was organized March 21, 1880 "to increase interest in bicycling."

For many years, it kept rooms in downtown Portland where it held its meetings.

The Pine Tree Wheelmen also had rooms in downtown Portland.


15
Puritan Bicycle ad, Portland, 1897

Puritan Bicycle ad, Portland, 1897

Item 27930 info
Maine Historical Society

1896 has been called the height of the popularity of the "wheel." Portland had a reported 40 businesses that sold more than 80 makes of bicycles.

Apparently, there were plenty of customers.

In May 1895, Maine Outing magazine noted, "There is a great boom in bicycling at South Portland this spring, there being at least forty new wheels. Old and young are learning to ride, and there are some amusing spectacles afforded by the novices."


16
Bicycles at Philpot's Store, Springvale, ca. 1900

Bicycles at Philpot's Store, Springvale, ca. 1900

Item 9767 info
Sanford Historical Committee

Marketing of bicycles took various forms.

Fred Philpot, a photographer and merchant in Springvale, displayed dozens of bicycles outside his store and piled packing crates high to gain further attention.


17
Storer Street, Saco, ca. 1910

Storer Street, Saco, ca. 1910

Item 25460 info
Dyer Library Archives / Saco Museum

Jack Lawrence, the bicycle racing champion, owned a garage in Saco.

Lawrence and his family and friends are pictured outside the garage in about 1910.

A small sign on the building reads, "J.G. Lawrence Bicycles, Phonographs and Records."

The sale of bicycles could be combined with any number of other items.

Some of the frequent combinations were bicycles and sewing machines and bicycles and watches or clocks.

Some of the earliest bicycles were made or sold by carriage makers.


18
A. H. Fogg and Company, Houlton, 1896

A. H. Fogg and Company, Houlton, 1896

Item 13855 info
Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum

Almon H. Fogg & Co. of Houlton sold hardware, nails, glass and building supplies.

An advertisement in 1896 noted that the business also served as manufacturer's agents for "Axes and Bicycles," as well as dealing in various food items and tobacco.

A group of men and boys pose outside the store. Two of the men have bicycles.


This slideshow contains 18 items