Monday, May 29, 2017

THE WHEELMEN. San Francisco Call, 27 July 1895

I haven't posted on this blog in ages. I've been busy with a new job, and coaching the Oakland Composite high school mountain bike team(s). Most of my words and pictures go on Facebook or Instagram, which are like greased pans - the content is there, then slides off and is forgotten. Long-form content just doesn't stick, or work. I think I'll start sharing things here, and link it on Facebook, or if the kids on the teams or my friends might be interested - like this article - I'll share it with them via email.

Last Wednesday, May 24, 2017 my wife and I went to Fairfax to hear Joe Breeze speak about "Cycling 1890s Marin: Riding Marin's backroads 120 years ago" at the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. He presented an amusing talk about the Bay City Wheelmen and their outings to Marin, showing where they went, how it relates to current geography (and topography), explaining what things were like back then. The source material for the talk was a Bay City Wheelmen scrapbook Joel Metz found. Joel lent Joe the scrapbook, and Joe and his son Tommy scanned and improved the photos. Joe and Otis Guy had also been researching early clubs, and Joe has invested a lot of time and effort researching what he presented Wednesday. I'd love to see his presentation recorded in a way that more people could see it, and I'd really like to get more friends to come to his next presentation, if he gives one again.

I've always been interested in the local history of cycling. Just days before the talk, I'd received a back copy of Vintage Bicycle Quarterly, Volume 1, Number 3 from Spring 2003, a replacement for the original copy I'd lost. I'd remembered a great story, itself a reprint, told by an older man of a bike ride he'd done from San Francisco to Los Angeles many years before. His name was Frank Y. Pearne, and he was a member of the Bay City Wheelmen. I searched his name, and what do you know, he turned up on my friend Joel's scans of the Bay City Wheelmen scrapbook. I shared this with Joe after his talk, and I emailed him a digitized version of the story. I'll put it here on this blog.

One of the things I learned from Joe's talk was about related cycling clubs in Oakland. There was the Acme Club Wheelmen, whose logo was the "Winged Acorn". This interested me, because I run a series of mountain bike clubs in Oakland for kids, and our Oakland Composite team - composed of kids from across Oakland - doesn't itself have a logo, because we aren't tied to any one school. (The goal of a composite is to get enough kids from schools to form new school teams, and launch them, and to get more kids on bikes.) We borrow the Oakland Tree logo, and we have a variation of the Oakland Athletics elephant, with the globe replaced by a wheel, and the bat by a wrench. (drawn by a young Jasper Arasteh)  I wondered if perhaps the "winged acorn" might be a good logo for our team.

From page 20 of The cyclers' guide and road book of California

From page 23 of The cyclers' guide and road book of California

Researching the club, I came across this article from the San Francisco Call, Volume 78, Number 57, 27 July 1895, which talks about both clubs. You can register an account on the California Digital Newspaper Collection, and then correct content that has been scanned and converted to text, and I did that for this article. It's so entertaining to read what bike life was like in the SF Bay Area before the car changed everything, that I am sharing it with you here. There are some interesting historical bits that require explanation. I'll either link them, or insert an explanation [like this M.F.]


Entries and Handicaps for the Acme Wheelmen's Road Race. 


Acme Club Wheelmen — Road race Fruitvale - Haywards.
Bay City Wheelmen — Run to Petaluma.
Camera Club Cyclists — Run to Centerville.
Crescent Wheelmen — Run to Haywards.
Crescent Road Club — Run to Camp Taylor.
Garden City Cyclers — Run to Alviso.
Golden Gate Cycling Club— Blind run. [see below for definition M.F.]
Liberty Cycling Club — Run to Oakland foothills.
Outing Road Club — Run to park.
Olympic Club Wheelmen — Run to Haywards with Merton Duxbury. [more on Merton in another blog post, little on the internet about him. M.F.]
Pacific Cycling; Club — Run to Laundry Farm.
Royal Cycling Club — Run to park.
San Francisco Road Club— Blind run.
San Jose Road Club— Run to Alviso. 

There will be a big road race over the ten-mile course from Fruitvale to Haywards to-morrow afternoon at 2 o'clock between the members of tha [sic] Acme Club Wheelmen. This club is noted for its fast road-riders, and to-morrow's event will be exciting and closely contested, as the men are all well trained and will ride their best. The following are the entries and handicaps: W. A. Burke, C. M. Castleman and G. A. Nissen, scratch; O. L. Pickard, J. H. Otey, H. Hutchinson, 2 1/2 min.; H. W. Phillips, B. E. Elford, A. H. Agnew, William Greavs, George Brouillet, 3 1/2 min.; J. E. Scott, E. A. Rogers. A. C. Hewlett, 4 mm.; George Humphrey, B. J. Sears, L. W. Sherman, 5 min.; J. A' Chyner, S. Archer, C. Lauffin, J. L. Wetmore, 5 1/2 min.; T. C. McKinstry, M. E. Laubratich, 6 min.

With twenty-three such good men in a road race it should be well worth witnessing. Burke is said not to be very well and Kay not show up as well as his record warrants. The others are all right and the pace will be hot from start to finish.

The Crescent Athletic Club Wheelmen of Berkeley will hold a one mile track race for club members at the Oakland Trotting Park on Sunday, August 4. The club should be warned not to give any prizes for this event, as it would be a violation of a rule which the League of American Wheelmen is strict in enforcing and would result in all the riders being suspended for thirty or sixty days. To-morrow the club will have a run to Haywards to see the Acme road race.

Next in importance to the Acme race comes the big joint club run of the Bay City Wheelmen and Imperial Cycling Club to-morrow to Petaluma under Captains Dodge and Johnson. The men will take the 8 o'clock Tiburon ferry and train to San Rafael, riding from there to their destination, some twenty-two miles away, over a rolling country and good roads. The Bay Citys will turn out fifty men easily and the Imperials as many more. What the effect will be on quiet Petaluma when these hundred noisy cyclists reach there is not hard to imagine. Some of the men will ride home after lunch and others will take the train. [This is memorialized in a page from the Bay City Wheelmen's scrapbook, "28 Jul 1895 BCW/Imperial joint run to Petaluma". I wonder if Joe or Tommy Breeze have this in higher resolution? M.F.]

R. M. Welch of the Racing Board will undoubtedly suspend F. C. Heineman and E. C. Barley from the L. A. W. for one year for racing against each other last Sunday when he had expressly advised them not to do so. Several of the papers have taken this up as though it was a matter of great concern. Had the riders in question been crackerjacks it might have been a loss to the sport; but they are only ordinary class A handicap riders at best, with minor reputations for speed. It is well that the racing board can use them as "terrible examples'' to the racer who dares disobey its mandates. Chairman Welch has proved himself by long odds the most efficient representative of the Racing Board we have ever had out here, and his decisions are much admired for their impartiality and fairness.

The Crescent Road Club will hold a run to Camp Taylor to-morrow. The start will be made from the clubrooms. 811 Octavia street, at 7:30 a. m., taking the 8 o'clock Sausalito boat and train to San Anselmo. This is one of the prettiest trips near San Francisco, and the ride is very easy.

Under the guidance of Captain F. W. Paulson the Pacific Cycling Club will ride to Laundry Farm to-morrow, starting on the 9 o'clock broad-gauge boat. [Laundry Farm is the old name for what is now Leona Canyon, near Merritt College. It's just a few miles from my house. See this cool map overlay.]


[What is a broad-gauge boat? Apparently it is 14 feet 2 beam wide. This relates to rail gauges somehow, and may be a waterway measurement as well as a boat measurement. - MF]

Merton Duxbury will start on his long return trip across the continent to-morrow morning, leaving from Seventh and Market streets at 9 a. m. A large number of wheelmen will be there to see him off, and he will be escorted a short distance by the Olympic Club Wheelmen. There is no truth in the rumor that Duxbury is to return here next spring to ride in the Olympic's relay team. Duxbury will take the 9:30 boat to-morrow morning, and wheel via Livermore to Stockton, where he is to meet T. R. Lillie, the holder of the present transcontinental record, which Duxbury is going to try to break. [Read the linked article about Theron "Teddy" Rufus Lillie. M.F.] Then he will ride to Sacramento, and from there follow the Central Pacific Railroad tracks to Ogden. From this point his route is not positively mapped out. The record he will try to beat is fifty-nine days from San Francisco to New York, and Duxbury thinks he can bring it down to fifty-four days.

There will be an important meeting of the Olympic Club Wheelmen Tuesday evening, July 30. The question of holding a road race over the San Carlos course Sunday, August 18, will be discussed.

The Camera Club Cyclists will have a nice ride to-morrow. Captain Argenti will lead them to Centerville, noted for its kindness and hospitality to wheelmen. There will be a number of ladies on the trip. Members will take the 8:45 narrowgauge boat and Alameda train.

The Racing Board has issued its bulletin No. 16, dated July 25, 1895, as follows:

Sanction issued— July 29, Santa Barbara Wheelmen. Santa Barbara.
The Racing Board is not permitted to sanction racing on Sundays. A club may contest one or more races open only to members of the club, and if no prize is offered in any event and no admission charged the public the board will not take cognizance of the affair. Of late these events have been arranged with more formality than was ever contemplated. Public attention has been attracted by announcements through the newspapers of the entries and their handicap allowances and by publication of the results. All this is misleading to the board. To avoid misunderstanding and suspension of contestants clubs will be required in future to give notice to the board In advance of all such events. Class A men are warned that to compete with class B men in such races is the equivalent of the competition in public which forfeits their class A status. 
R. M. Welch, 
Representative National Racing Board.

Blind runs are quite the proper thing with cycling clubs now. The idea is that the captain alone knows what the destination will be, and as he leads the men to it by the most circuitous route possible you can imagine the uncertainty of the riders as to where they are going. About noon the end is reached, wherever it may be, and the fun is all the more enhanced by an appetizing luncheon ordered beforehand, to which the riders always do full justice. The Golden Gate Cycling Club will have one of these runs to-morrow, and Captain Maass promises a jolly time to all who attend. The San Francisco Road Club will also go off on the same kind of a jaunt, under Captain Korn, leaving the clubrooms, 726 Golden Gate avenue, at 9 A. M.

The California Cycling Club will hold one of its never-to-be-forgotten smokers tonight at the clubrooms, Twenty-second and Folsom streets, for members only. [As far as I can tell, a "smoker" is a party. M.F.] Captain Burke of the Californias is a wise man, and he knew better than to call a club run after a smoker, so the members — that is, those who feel like riding — will probably go to the park. Next Sunday, August 4, the club will go to Napa, where they will be the guest of two of its members now resident there.

The Oakland Y. M. C. A. Cycling Club will have several pleasant runs by twilight during August, all on Friday nights. Last night the club went to Piedmont, returning via Lake Merritt. August 2 will be a moonlight run to Berkeley via Telegraph avenue — ladies are invited on this run; August 9, to Diamond Canyon and home by Hays Canyon and New Broadway; August 16, to Alameda and home by High street and East Oakland — ladies again invited; August 22, to Laundry Farm and return.

Alameda is an ideal town for lovers of the wheel, and has now three large clubs, the Alameda, Diana and Diamond Cyclers, all of which had well-attended runs last Sunday. The Alameda Club went to Alvarado, while the other two clubs stopped at Haywards. The glories of the oid Alameda Club promise to be revived in its young namesake, which has secured handsomely furnished clubrooms on Park avenue. Jesse Ives, whom many an old-timer will remember, but who had given up riding for some time past, has caught the fever again and cast his lot with the Alamedas.

At a meeting of the San Francisco Y. M. C. A. Cycling Club, held last Tuesday evening, the following officers were elected : Joseph Sims, president; Robert S. Boyns, vice-president; W. B. Hughson. recording secretary; James Keller, financial secretary; J. Sims, captain; Percy Burr, first lieutenant; Bert Waterman, second lieutenant.

The Outing Road Club held a most enjoyable smoker at its clubrooms, 1539 Eddy street, last evening. The members invited their friends and a jolly time was had. Refreshments were served and a varied lot of amateur talent served to keep things lively until early hours. President Stamper of the Outing Club has just returned from a trip through Lake County. He says the roads are beginning to get dusty, but he had a most delightful trip. To-morrow the club will have a run to the park.

Last Monday night the Liberty Cycling Club [photo is of their "ladies' annex" M.F.] held a theater party at the Tivoli. Nearly all the members attended and greatly enjoyed the evening. Thursday evening the club held a dance at Mission Turn-Verein Hall, which was well attended and very enjoyable. Norval A. Robinson acted as floor manager, and dancing was indulged in until midnight. The club members rightly believe in enjoying social as well as cycling pleasures during the week, and will have these hops regularly hereafter. To-morrow a run will be held to the Oakland foothills, leaving on the 9 a. m. creek-route boat. On August 4 the members will ride to Bolinas. The ladies' annex to the club is growing rapidly, and under the guidance of Mrs. Robinson promises to become quite a factor before long.

The Royal Cycling Club is now comfortably located in the new quarters at 1017 Golden Gate avenue. To-morrow the club will have a run around the city. The club proposes holding a series of monthly five mile road races shortly for a valuable trophy, which must be won three times to become individual property, similar to the idea now being carried out by the San Jose Road Club. Secretary Lichtenstein of the Royals has just returned from a trip to Lake County. He was accompanied from Santa Rosa by C. E. Brooks and C. Temple. The trip was very pleasant.

The members of the Golden City Wheelmen had a delightful trip last Sunday. They rode to Palo Alto and were entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Howse. They spent the day there and did not start on the return trip until 7 p. m. Therefore most of the journey was made in the dark, and coming around the bay road it was very thrilling to say the least. All arrived home safely about 10 o'clock.

E. L. Douglas, J. G. North and H. E. McCrea, the Los Angeles crackerjack, have joined the Bay City Wheelmen. After August 1 it will be necessary to carry lighted lanterns while riding in the park between sunset and sunrise. The rule will be rigidly enforced, and there has been such a demand for lanterns since the notice was posted that there is a scarcity of them in the market. Nearly all the wheelmen approve of the new ordinance, and drivers of vehicles in the park are particularly pleased.

R. S. Crawford, a bicycle manufacturer of Hagerstown, Md., arrived here this week in a private car on a pleasure trip. He brought a number of friends, including the Mayor of Hagerstown, and under the guidance of Edwin Mohrig they have been seeing the city. The party will soon leave for Southern California.

The dates thus far arranged for the National circuit on this coast are: San Francisco, November 1, 2; San Jose, 7, 8, 9; Santa Rosa, 16; Los Angeles, 21, 22, 23; Santa Ana, 28; Riverside, 30. Other dates will doubtless be arranged before long and we will surely see some grand racing out here in November, as all the crack riders will be with the circuit and some may winter here.

The Diamond Cycling Club of Alameda now has thirty members and more are coming in at every meeting. A smoker will be held shortly and several club runs are scheduled. Nile green and pink have been adopted as club colors. The club has two fast tandem teams, the Marriott brothers and the Middlemass brothers.

The Garden City Cyclers and San Jose Road Club will attend a clambake at Alviso to-morrow. Next Sunday the Road Club will also hold a five-mile race over the East San Jose course.

The regular bi-monthly meeting of the California Associated Cycling Clubs will be held next Saturday evening at the rooms of the Bay City Wheelmen, 441 Golden Gate avenue. All delegates are requested to be present.
[I have tried, so far in vain to figure out who "Spalding" was. M.F.]


It's amazing how many clubs there were, and how active they were. Many had clubs, actual buildings or houses where they met. Place names were different. Read the history of "Haywards". "Laundry Farm is a place name for a canyon (and former resort) in the Oakland Hills near where I live. The "big road race", from the Fruitvale neighborhood (now part of Oakland) to "Haywards" (The Haywards Hotel was in modern Hayward, probably near modern-day 22380 Foothill Blvd) was a handicap race, a kind of racing still common in other places, but gone from the USA. (The famous Dipsea running race uses a handicap system.) In the text above, they talk about W. A. Burke, C. M. Castleman and G. A. Nissen being "scratch". This means they get know time advantage, and start last. Each of the people listed after them gets a head start, with the amount of time in minutes they're allowed to have before the scratch racers listed. T. C. McKinstry, M. E. Laubratich would have started first. I imagine they went along Foothill Blvd. You can explore what it used to look like - before Highway 580 changed things - in old maps at Old Oakland.

From The cyclers' guide and road book of California
Interesting how rules for prizes, mixing categories (AKA "sandbagging"), inter-club racing were so regulated. I believe the League of American Wheelmen was the governing body for bicycle racing back then, I guess via its "Racing Board". See Racing rules, 1895 / prepared by the Racing Board. League of American Wheelmen,.

I couldn't find any modern text for Merton Duxbury. Quite a bit of historical text about him. If I get bored and find more free time, I'll create a post for him.

"There will be a number of ladies on the trip." and "ladies are invited on this run" - this was a sport for men. Women were beginning to be free to ride bikes, participate as equals in society. "In 1897, one amateur photographer, Rose Cantwell, was a member and 1st Vice President of the Camera Club Cyclists."