collapse


Dim

  • Grand Tour Winner
  • *
  • Country: gb
  • Posts: 8403
  • Liked: 3365
    • Velorooms
  • Awards: Race Preview of 2014Best Post 2012
The American Wheelmen
« on: March 04, 2014, 17:40 »
Wandering the web yesterday evening, and more specifically the Open Library I came across publications by the "American League of Wheelmen", the first American Cycle Touring group, that started in the late 1800's and still survives today to some extent, as the League of American Cyclists. They also acted as the governing body for Cycling in America till the turn of the 20th century.

Throught the late 1800's they were the leading group for pushing for improved roads and cycling infrastructure with membership peaking at over 100,000 in 1898, but found themselves overtaken by the American Automobile Association in the early part of the 20th century. Now it has around 20,000 members and still survives in some form.

Whats fascinating though is their booklets and pamphlets produced around the turn of the last century. they offer a fascinating insight into not just cycling at the time, but also social views of other countries.

The one that really caught my eye in the "Guide to Cycling In Europe" Download ~pdf


Some excerpts, but its an excellent read :D

Quote
Of all the portions of the world, Europe offers the best field for the use and enjoyment of the bicyle" 1898. Wheelmen of the United States look forward to a European Tour as the crowning pleasure of their cycling lives

On England

Quote
The natural scenery while never approaching grandeur is always pleasing..In America the english lakes would hardly rise above the dignity of ponds, and the mountains would be called good sized hills..

Bemoaning the lack of water available in England :D

Quote
England is not a good country for an American teetotaler. Public wells and fountains are few and far between. he country is dotted thickly with wayside "pubs,"
where ale and stronger drinks can be had without stint, but if you order lemon squash they will charge you sixpence making it rather expensive"

On the French

Quote
"The frenchman thinks his own language the best in the best in the world and does not trouble himself to learn another even when his patrons are largely composed of English and Americans.

Tipping waiters is considered an outrage, which amuses me, thinking that over a century on, huge parts of the american working population rely on tips for their income.

Quote
At the cafes in Paris there is an unwritten law that the waiter who brings your order, even if it is not more than a glass of cafe noir, must receive five or ten centimes (one or two cents). This I consider an outrage, and trust there are persons brave enough to refuse it, though I have not yet succeeded in getting my courage up to this point.

But its the insights into the areas that are fascinating..

Quote
Throughout Normandy the road is surfaced with a hard flint, which wears the tire of a bicycle like a steel file, and small particles of which have points as sharp as needles. These
little pieces of flint will puncture a thin American tire with the greatest ease, but make a hole so small that it is often difficult to find it. One such tire was punctured fourteen times in one forenoon in 1896. French tires are made much heavier for this reason.

On Switzerland

Quote
Well constructed roads not kept as carefully as they should be.. long grades up which one must walk

On Italy

Quote
A continuous tour awheel can hardly be made in italy with comfort".. "the hotels in smaller places are anything but comfortable

On Germany

Quote
There is plenty of bad tasting water served by maidens in national costumes.

The costs of travel...

Portland to Liverpool, round trip on a steamer returning via Montreal, $75
English hotels. room, 75c., plain breakfast, 36c; dinner, 75c; plain tea, 38c ;attendance, 25c (plain breakfast being bread and butter).

noting that "you may tip the chambermaid sixpence for her good looks and pleasant ways"

Dress...

Also fascinating is the section what to wear. For instance in France it was considered rude not to wear your full coat while riding, the writer advises against it, but warning the traveller to put on his coat before entering a city or he will not be welcomed at the taverns and hotels.

The section on women riding is also brilliant.



Further Reading
Cycling in Europe 1898 ~pdf
The league of American Cyclists on Wikipedia
Publications at the Open Library
Publications at Archive.org
Publications at the Smithsonian
Allegations of Corruption and need for reform in the late 20th century
  • ReplyReply
  • « Last Edit: August 22, 2014, 15:53 by Dim »

    Dim

    • Grand Tour Winner
    • *
    • Country: gb
    • Posts: 8403
    • Liked: 3365
      • Velorooms
    • Awards: Race Preview of 2014Best Post 2012
    Re: The American "Wheelmen"
    « Reply #1 on: March 04, 2014, 17:51 »
    And some old footage, date unknown

    "An 8mm. home movie of a Chicago bike club's train trip to Beloit, Wisconsin. A sign within the film reads "League of American Wheelmen: Cycle Train Excursion."

  • ReplyReply

  • Dim

    • Grand Tour Winner
    • *
    • Country: gb
    • Posts: 8403
    • Liked: 3365
      • Velorooms
    • Awards: Race Preview of 2014Best Post 2012
    Re: The American "Wheelmen"
    « Reply #2 on: March 04, 2014, 21:10 »
    Page 58 of the Guide to Europe

    Quote
    Dutch children are by all odds the most ill-mannered in Europe.

    Mwahaha.
  • ReplyReply

  • M Gee

    • Road Captain
    • Country: us
    • Posts: 1654
    • Liked: 1414
    • The user formerly known as hiero
    Re: The American "Wheelmen"
    « Reply #3 on: April 05, 2014, 00:05 »
    I have saved the pdf for reading material whilst I am in Saudi, where presumably reading material is at a premium.

    My only comment is a kvetch: how did this thread get associated with a title like "League of American Cyclists"? Whoa. The "LAC" has never existed, to my knowledge. The LAW was, in name at least, an institution. The LAB is a bastardization of a name, based on PC politics, and in my thinking, a complete waste of energy. On reading the history available from this thread, I quickly see why the LAW/LAB was the ineffective and impotent organization that I experienced when I was an active bicycle advocate in the late 1980's.

    So, at some point, should I have the time, and the drive, and if I live long enough, I am going to restart the L.A.W. - since it is eminently arguable that the current organization has no specific claim to the historic name. I'm going to give chewbacca the first option at arguing the case. Of course, this will likely never happen. But, jic.

    Changing topics - the film "LAW - train trip to Beloit"? Dating likely post WW2, late 40's, early 50's. Not likely earlier than 1946, nor later than 1955. But hey, that's only my opinion. And it was fun little film to watch!
  • ReplyReply
  • . . .He had the bit between his teeth, and he loiked the taste, mate . . .

    Dim

    • Grand Tour Winner
    • *
    • Country: gb
    • Posts: 8403
    • Liked: 3365
      • Velorooms
    • Awards: Race Preview of 2014Best Post 2012
    Re: The American "Wheelmen"
    « Reply #4 on: April 05, 2014, 00:35 »
    I have to admit, prior to finding those PDF's i'd never heard of League of American Wheelmen, nor had I heard of League of American Cyclists either, I had a breif conversation with Vanessa O'Connell about their book being title "Wheelmen" as a cap doth to the originals.

    From what I've looked at the League of American Cyclists certainly seem to claim to be a natural if not legal continuation of L.A.W. but i would need to read much more.

    What is fascinating, I chose the Guide to Europe as an example just because I found it fascinating, but also in places histerical, but when you dig into some of their old publications regarding roads, road safety, much of what they were campaigning for is still being campaigned for today. In many ways they were ahead of their time.
  • ReplyReply

  • mew

    • Road Captain
    • Country: us
    • Posts: 1944
    • Liked: 700
    • 💜craig walsh💜;💜Krebby💜
    Re: The American "Wheelmen"
    « Reply #5 on: April 05, 2014, 03:49 »
    Love the comments re other countries' 'discomforts' or shortcomings  :D
    such travels were very rare in those days for a 'vacation' especially a cycling Tour..and unlike those living in Europe who found it easier to cross borders and cultures..coming from the isolated US must have been a real eye opener ..adventurers!!

    Love reading stuff like this..thankx for dredging it up dim  :) :hi
  • ReplyReply

  • M Gee

    • Road Captain
    • Country: us
    • Posts: 1654
    • Liked: 1414
    • The user formerly known as hiero
    Re: The American "Wheelmen"
    « Reply #6 on: April 06, 2014, 16:27 »
    I have to admit, prior to finding those PDF's i'd never heard of League of American Wheelmen, nor had I heard of League of American Cyclists either, I had a breif conversation with Vanessa O'Connell about their book being title "Wheelmen" as a cap doth to the originals.

    From what I've looked at the League of American Cyclists certainly seem to claim to be a natural if not legal continuation of L.A.W. but i would need to read much more.

    What is fascinating, I chose the Guide to Europe as an example just because I found it fascinating, but also in places histerical, but when you dig into some of their old publications regarding roads, road safety, much of what they were campaigning for is still being campaigned for today. In many ways they were ahead of their time.

    I googled L of A Cyclists again, jic, came up with zip.  Yeah, the League of American Bicyclists is the natural descendent of the L.A.W. It's just that, in reading the detailed history, it seems the whole thing ceased to exist a number of times. What continuity there was was a progression from one to the other. I was being somewhat facetious, although I still think a far better job could have been done with the organization.

    Although, all the organizational splintering of purpose and energy that went on in the 70's and 80's was possibly unavoidable, due to the personalities involved. The guy who got BikeCentennial cranked up on that course of action was definitely the "Road Captain" type - not one to follow others. I'm trying to remember the NYC group who got involved in a lot of bikeway design advocacy. They were pretty much the same - doing their own thing. But, like BikeCentennial, they made an impact. LAW would have had to have been big and successful when those others came along, in order to absorb that energy. And, in spite of the historic value of their name, they were a bit player in the scene, in my opinion. I don't think they were the movers and shakers, but they WERE there, and adding energy to the mix.

    The L.A.W stickers were a thing of desire back when. That winged wheel, the triskelion theme, bounded by LAW. How cool is that! Very.
  • ReplyReply

  • M Gee

    • Road Captain
    • Country: us
    • Posts: 1654
    • Liked: 1414
    • The user formerly known as hiero
    Re: The American "Wheelmen"
    « Reply #7 on: June 03, 2014, 23:10 »
    Btw - dim - thanks for the links and the wonderful book and quotes from when the L.A.W. was in it's prime. And thanks to whomever left the Benoit film link.

    For some reason this thread popped up to the top of my screen today. On re-reading, I guess I wasn't in the best of moods. I left kind of crochety replies, if you ask me, or if I say so myself, and I do. ;)  Can't say I know why the L.A.C. annoyed me that day.

    Anyway, I forgot my manners - and did not make it plain that the OP and other replies with history were valued, and enjoyed.

    Hope you're having a fine day.

    H
  • ReplyReply

  •  



    Top
    Back to top