Tag Archives: victorian bicycling

A Race with a Phantom: 1892

bicycle racer 1888

A GHOSTLY BICYCLIST

A Wheelman’s Story of an Effort to Overtake a Phantom Who Rode an Old-Fashioned Wheel

“I used to ride in races and only last year I spun around the track at my home in the east, but I was cured of the sport in a rather remarkable manner,” said a visiting bicyclist at the races of the Garden City Cyclers to a San Jose News reporter.

“The story is a strange one,” he continued, “and I have never told it to any one yet that I think really believed it, but so firmly am I convinced of the reality of an incident that was frightful in some of its details, that for fear of a repetition I have not had the courage to ride in a race since. “The races were run on a half-mile horse racing track that had been rolled and otherwise partially prepared for the purpose. I had never been especially fast, but just before the event I had bought a new pneumatic tire racer, one of the first seen in that part of the country. The machine was a beauty, full nickeled and with the object of making a display more than anything else, I entered for the five-mile race with a fifteen-minute limit, the conditions being the same as those of the last race in San Jose yesterday that Wilbur Edwards won.

“There were seven starters in the race and we had ten laps to make. I thought we were making rather slow time, and from some remarks that I overheard from the judges’ stand when we passed on completing the eighth lap I was certain that it would be no race, as the winner would not make the distance within the time required. By this time I was well winded and was sure that I would not come out first, but I did not feel in the least disappointed, as I had not expected to win the race when I started.

“In the beginning of the ninth lap, however, as I was tolerably well in the lead, I thought I would spurt a little, so I forged ahead and was allowed to make the pace for a while, each of the riders having done this in turn before me. I had been in the lead seemingly only a second when to my surprise I saw just ahead of me a strong-looking rider on an old-style solid-tire wheel. I had not seen him pass and did not know that any such man had entered the race in the first place.

“The stranger was well in the lead and I felt so much ashamed of myself to think that I was plodding behind on a new style racing pneumatic while he was making the pace at a swinging gait on a solid tire that I just dug my toe nails into the track, so to speak, and did my utmost in an attempt to pass him. It did no good, however. I could not decrease the distance, although spurred on as I was, my speed, as I afterwards learned, became something terrific.

“When I passed the grand and judges’ stands at the end of the ninth lap for the finish there was tremendous cheering. I could not understand what it was all about as I did not consider that my efforts on a pneumatic flyer to catch a man on a solid tire with a spring frame were worthy of much applause. I did not have time to look around and see what the rest of the riders were doing.

“On I flew like the wind, every muscle strained to the utmost in my endeavors to catch the stranger, who kept swinging along about ten feet in the lead. I felt that he must tire out at last, so I did not relax, but rather increased the immense strain to which I was putting every fibre of my being. When we neared the grand stand I could hear thunders of applause rolling up to greet us, and when I was within fifty yards of the scratch I made a last desperate effort to pass the stranger.

“In the strain that was upon me I shut my eyes and paddled like lightning. When I was certain that I had crossed the tape I looked up just in time to see a terrible spectacle. The wheel of the rider ahead struck something. He was thrown forward and struck on his head. I was sure his neck was broken and blood gushed forth from his nose, mouth and ears. The sight was horrible and in my exhausted state I could stand the strain no longer. I fainted and fell from my wheel.

“The next thing I knew I was stretched out on a blanket in the rubbing-down room with a crowd around me. As soon as the boys saw that I had recovered consciousness all of them began to talk to me at once. They congratulated me on my wonderful victory, all declaring they had never seen anything like it before. They all wished to know, however, why I had exerted myself so much when I was so far in the lead. I had left all the rest of the riders far behind, and yet I swept forward and saved that race, coming in just inside of the fifteen-minute limit.

“When I spoke of a rider that I was trying to catch all were dumb with amazement. They had seen no such wheelman and the judges had given me the race. When I described the man I saw and his wheel he was recognized as being identical in appearance with a man who was killed under similar circumstances several years before in a five-mile race on the same track. It is scarcely necessary to state that I almost fainted again when I learned that I had been urged forward by a spook. I have never had the courage to get in a race again for fear that there would be a repetition of my former terrible experience. I had before heard of ghostly riders on horseback, but it was my first and I hope it will be my last experience with a spook on a bicycle.”

Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 24 October 1892: p.6  

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Wilber Edwards [1872-1951] was a record-setting speed-demon from San Jose, California who set the “paced” world speed record for one mile on a bicycle: 1:34 minutes, on 9 February, 1895. This story, in a chapter of ghosts haunting the roads and the out of doors, appears in The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past. That free-wheeling person over at Haunted Ohio has also told of a dead cyclist who won a race and wonders if this story somehow inspired that legend.

Mrs Daffodil has written previously on ghosts who ride velocipedes.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

A Costly Cycling Suit for a Millionairess Wheelwoman: 1897

cycling suit

SWELL CYCLING SUIT

One Ordered for a New York Girl Is to Cost $715.

The most expensive bicycle suit on record has just been ordered at one of the swellest tailors in New York.

The girl who meets the bill is worth a million in her own right, is an athletic beauty and a reigning belle in the ultra-smart set.

The suit which makes the bill is the most elaborate ever designed in this country. It is lined with silk, finished with jewels and will cost a lump sum of $715.50.

Two “Scott and Adie” shawls at $75 apiece will be employed in making the skirt and jacket. And, by the way, these English shawls are the very latest thing for any sort of fancy outing suit.

The skirt will be stitched half way to the knees, with the lines of stitching not over a sixteenth of an inch apart; this is the new device to stiffen the lower part of the skirt without adding to the weight.

The edges of the jacket are also stitched, and, together with the skirt, it is elaborately braided, which latter touch adds some $25 to the expense.

Bloomers and linings of suit throughout will be of silk—not less than 16 yards of silk to be used, which gives another item of $22.50. With the bloomers having been ordered, half a dozen, [add] interlining of the finest lawn at $2.50 a pair.

Loose jackets are no longer the correct thing for the crack bicyclist. The newest waist is tight-fitting always, and worn with a series of vests and shirt fronts.

It sounds very simple just to say: “I shall order at least three vests for my new bicycle suit,” doesn’t it? Well, that is what the “millionairess” in question did, and these three vests are going to cost $25 apiece. The principal color in her suit is green, so she has ordered one vest of sage green, one of geranium red, embroidered in black and gold, and one of white broadcloth, embroidered in silver. With these vests she will wear snow-white linen shirtfronts and black satin ties.

And $25 is not so very extravagant for a vest, when you stop to consider that the garment is made when the material is wet and has to be molded to the figure.

A Panama straw hat, fawn color and trimmed with scarlet and green, will add one $10 item, and bicycle boots of finest leather will add another of $18. Golf stockings in mixed greens and tans will be worn in place of the high top boot. An entire box of these stockings has been ordered, as it is difficult to match them exactly. Fifteen dollars a half dozen will buy the softest and best in the shops.

But the crowning extravagance of this particular “biking” maid is yet to come. Her belt of elephant green leather is clasped with a buckle of oxidized silver set with emeralds. The buckle is in the form of two bicycle wheels; the rim of each wheel is bordered with small green stones, a large single emerald forming the hub. This trifling decoration to adorn the “slender waist” of the pretty wheelwoman will cost treble the price of her wheel; that is to say, exactly $300. N.Y. Sunday Journal. 

Willmar [MN] Tribune 6 July 1897: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Scott and Adie” is a misnomer for “Scott Adie,” of The Royal Scotch Warehouse, Regent Street. They were manufacturer to Her Majesty Queen Victoria (and all the foreign courts, said their trade card.) They dealt in homespuns and Cheviots, Shetland shawls, gowns, jackets, suits, tartan ribbons, plaids and rugs.  The vests, which sound delectable, were probably made of felt, which offered protection from wind and damp. Mrs Daffodil is well-versed in basic arithmetic, but even her creative book-keeping skills cannot make out how the items listed above total $715.50. There is some ambiguity in the bloomer department, one fears. Mrs Daffodil makes the total $743.00. $150 for shawls, $25 for braiding, half-dozen bloomers at $25 each ($22.50 + $2.50? or is $22.50 just for silk linings?), $75 for three vests, $10 for hat, $18 for boots, $15 for stockings, $300 for emerald belt-buckle. Or $630.50 if bloomers are $2.50 per, leaving a shortage of $85.00. Perhaps  the extra was for shirt-fronts and ties.

Bloomers and bicycles were the target of much episcopal censure.

 BISHOPS AND BLOOMERS

Rational costume seems to have gotten a set-back in Paris; it is rumored that the Cardinal Archbishop has declared that he will not administer the sacrament to any woman who dons bloomers while riding a bicycle. When a woman once becomes emancipated, neither the fulminations of the church nor the ridicule of the public has any effect upon her.

While bloomers cannot be considered as immoral or indecent, they are so monstrously ugly that any woman who has a regard for her good looks will refuse to wear them. Rational dress does not necessarily mean a costume which is ungraceful and unbecoming; and while the tight corset and the long skirt is hampering to those who engage in bicycling, or any exercise where freedom of movement is desirable, it would seem that some style of costume might be invented which was comfortable and at the same time womanly and becoming.

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] January 1896

Latest Ecclesiastical Commotion.

Speaking of Bishop Coxe’s objection to women on bicycles, the Boston Herald says: “The Bishop does not appear to understand that the bicycle is not equipped with a side saddle, and that riding astride is the only way to promulgate this interesting vehicle.” We ought not to be surprised, perhaps, if the Boston woman rides astride a bicycle, but if so she is lonely among her sex in that accomplishment. The women’s bicycles we have seen are provided simply with a seat, and they are no more required to ride astride than sit astride on an ordinary chair. If the good Bishop thinks that women straddle a bicycle as men do theirs he should request some fair Buffalonian to explain to him the difference. Rochester Herald.

The Gogebic Advocate [Ironwood, MI] 11 July 1891: p. 2

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Easter Girl of 1897: Prefers her tandem bicycle and driving coaches to a bonnet.

1897 Easter Amusements

The Easter Girl of 1897

The Easter girl of ’97 will not be a mere clothes horse for the display of the art of the modiste, nor will she be a dummy for carrying a milliner’s creation. Good clothes she will doubtless have, but by far her greatest attention will be paid to the outdoor possibilities of Easter Day and to the costumes which she, as a modern Diana, may wear.

          The Easter girl of ten years ago possessed a new silk gown and a flower hat, and in that she was content to pass Easter between church and “the avenue.” But the Easter girl of this year will take off the silk and the flowers after church and get ready to enjoy God’s air and God’s sunshine with the health which the good God has given her. She will enjoy these in as many new ways as the thought and art of man have been able to invent for her.

          Her newest “trick” is with the automobile carriage. This nice little arrangement is for the mannish young woman who likes to drive herself, but whose parents and friends are afraid of the high steppers for her. The automobile satisfies the needs of both. It is “sporty” enough to satisfy the girl who wants to look very chic, and it is safe enough for anybody.

In Paris, where things travel proverbially slow for woman’s advancement, they have the automobile on the Bois constantly and daily. The prettiest of American women propel the carriages and the fattest faced of little French grooms sit alongside. In America there are a few of these, and many are promised for Easter.

          But the girl who enjoys herself most in the outdoor sports of this spring is certainly the bicycle girl. Now that the ban is removed from the wearing of bloomers, she can put on the little checked trousers, jump on the wheel and ride until every nerve tingles and her cheeks are red with fun. The Eastern girl of ’97 will ride a tandem.

          The thing is to form yourself into a tandem club, the membership being limited to two. The different “clubs” band together into a “league,” and there you have the newest fashioned of women’s clubs. Each “club” has its own uniforms, and the entire “league,” composed of forty or more tandem “clubs,” wears the same hat. By this mark they are recognizable. Most of them wear bloomers. But it is a strange fact, and one illustrating the perversity of the feminine mind that, now that the bloomer ban is removed and there is no objection to the wearing of bloomers, few women cry for them. The forbidden fruit was much more tempting than the freely proffered article. There isn’t the same novelty and naughtiness about the bloomer now and women are discovering how unbecoming it is.

          The horseback young women are becoming so very progressive that they ride a double-sided saddle. This is a strange little affair made for fitting any saddle. You ride out ten miles to a “riders’ retreat,” stop for luncheon, adjust your saddle, and ride back on a different side of the horse. You can ride either right or left.

          For this improvement thanks must be given the bicycle. Physicians discovered, or thought they discovered, that it was unhealthful to ride always on one side, though heaven knows no woman rides enough to hurt herself on the sidesaddle, and hence the either-sided affair. This is, after all, very nice, as it gives one a change; and a change is something the Easter girl of ’97 must and will have.

AN EASTER PICNIC.

There is the strangest Easter fad in the air among the girls of this Easter. You know the old stages that used to perambulate through the streets—do now on certain old thoroughfares—well, they are chartering these carry-alls for Easter expeditions. The game is to invite your friends, fill the “box seat” with eatables, gather up one and all by calling at the door about 2 o’clock, then drive away to the spot where the earliest and biggest Easter violets grow. Of course the girl who charters the caboose and gives the Easter party does the driving. That is part of the Easter program.

          There will be some very nice Easter coaching tours among those who own the coaches. The start is made after luncheon, after the Easter music has been heard, and the stay, if the men can get an Easter vacation, is over Easter Monday. The woman here does the driving also.         

So determined is the Easter woman to spend the first recognized day of spring out of doors that modistes and shopkeepers are bowing to her will. They are furnishing the finest of athletic out-door costumes, fine enough to tempt the caramel and novel-reading woman from her couch and to lure her out into the parks to show the gowns if not to enjoy herself.

Wheeling [WV] Register 4 April 1897: p. 13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:

In 1891, the Rt. Rev. Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, condemned women bicycle-riders, tactlessly stating that they resembled witches on broomsticks. He also objected to what he believed to be the indecorous posture of ladies on the wheel.

Speaking of Bishop Coxe’s objection to women on bicycles, the Boston Herald says: “The Bishop does not appear to understand that the bicycle is not equipped with a side saddle, and that riding astride is the only way to promulgate this interesting vehicle.” We ought not to be surprised, perhaps, if the Boston woman rides astride [or man-fashion as it was called]  a bicycle, but if so she is lonely among her sex in that accomplishment. The women’s bicycles we have seen are provided simply with a seat, and they are no more required to ride astride than sit astride on an ordinary chair. If the good Bishop thinks that women straddle a bicycle as men do theirs he should request some fair Buffalonian to explain to him the difference. Rochester Herald. The Gogebic Advocate [Ironwood, MI] 11 July 1891: p. 2

 Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers a very happy Easter, whether upon the wheel or at the reins of a coach–or with a box of chocolate cremes and a novel.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.