Tag Archives: wheeling

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.

 

Bicycle Jewellery: 1897

bicycle brooch

Bicycle Jewelry

With the ever increasing popularity of the wheel, bicycle jewelry has come into vogue, says an exchange, and it promises to be a busy fall and winter with the silver and goldsmiths in designing and making up small and dainty novelties of adornment for cyclers. In London and Paris there has been for some time a considerable demand for trifles in the precious metals that would indicate from their design that the wearer was a cyclist. Now the fashion is beginning to take root here.

Bicycle jewelry had its beginning in the fad among well to do wheelwomen of having a silver bell and a silver name plate upon their machines. While this plan has never become general, there are plenty of wheels adorned with these ornaments, prettily finished and in the name plates often of elaborate pattern and design. Next came the whistle bangle, a silver trinket from London, like the bell and name plate, useful as well as ornamental, yet a distinct piece of jewelry.

Gradually this bangle has come to be popular, and it is now is to be bought in many shops in gold or in silver, according to taste. In design it is a narrow band that snaps around the wrist, a link chain to which the whistle is attached and three rings. These rings fasten on the hand, and in them the whistle is slipped to prevent its dangling. It is the work of only a second to slip the whistle out of the rings and raise it to the lips with either hand.

From these beginnings cyclists’ jewelry has been evolved until now most of the novelties on the market are for ornaments, pure and simple, and have no used beyond decoration. The newest things out are the stickpins for bicycle riders. Though these are chiefly worn by girls, they make just as good scarfpins and are frequently used in that way by men. The tiny silver or gold bicycle set on a pin about two inches long was one of the first pieces of jewelry devised. This new pin is much more elaborate. On top of the tiny wheel the figure of a rider done in bright enamel is placed. Wheel and rider together are so minute that they hardly cover more than a thumbnail, yet every detail is complete.

The Wichita [KS] Daily Eagle 5 September 1897: p.12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  To judge by the coverage in the newspapers, much of the joy of being a wheel-woman was not the freedom, fresh air, and exercise, but the shopping for bicycling costumes and accessories. Mrs Daffodil has already commented on a young lady millionairess’s costly wheeling wardrobe and discussed the importance of the proper bicycle lingerie.

Bicycle jewellery was also used in courtship and for more intimate accessories:

The variety of scarf pins of different styles of bicycles, made in gold and silver, have a special deep and unalterable significance. A small “bike” for a solitary individual means, “I intend to remain a bachelor;” a two-inch tandem, “We are only flirting;” a duplex machine [to quote a popular American song (written by an Englishman): “A Bicycle Built for Two.], “I’m matrimonially inclined;” a line of four or five tiny “scorchers,” “You are a flirt.,” while the presentation of an old-fashioned tricycle is intended to intimate that the receiver is considered passé—“out of the running,” to speak after the manner of wheelmen.

But the wheelman’s interest in bicycle jewelry undoubtedly centers in the bicycle engagement bracelet. There are several unique designs now in the market, of which the most fetching is unquestionably the wheel-link bracelet. This is made of a series of tiny bicycle wheels, linked together with precious stones, and clasped with a miniature lantern, of which the light is a glistening gem.

But the ultra-enthusiastic bicycle girl does not stop with this assortment of wheels for her personal adornment; she has especially designed for her use, or some one else has designed for her, the most bewitching of bicycle garter-buckles. The most economical of these fin-de-siècle buckles is a simple arrangement of tiny handlebars in gold or silver, and costing a few dollars, but occasionally the price runs up into the thousands, as, for instance, when each clasp is a single wheel in solid gold, with spokes and rim covered with diamonds and the hub a huge solitaire.

Denver [CO] Post 23 November 1896: p. 8

bicycle jewelry

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.

 

 

“Scorching” on the Beach: 1897

beach cycling

RIDE A WHEEL ON THE BEACH

Do This and You Are Up to Date According to Sea Shore Ethics

Sense of Propriety Given to the Fad When a Chaperon is Taken in Charge.

The Clean White Sand Closely Packed Down Forms a Splendid Bicycle Path

Wise Summer Girl’s Plan.

New York, June 12. To be thoroughly fashionable this year you should take a spin on the beach on your wheel. Of course you ride a wheel, because everyone does. If you cannot take a spin on the sea shore, take one along the shore of the lake and if that fails, think up a good substitute. In any event, if you are at the sea shore do not fail to take a breather just as near old ocean as circumstances will permit. Fashion has set the seal of approval on this fad and all her devotees, male and female, are scorching to obey her behests.

One of the most pleasant features of this new idea is that to be strictly en règle, one should ride in a bathing suit. The summer girl is not always at her best in a bathing suit, but if she is at her best then of course the idea suits her to a T. It also suits the summer young man and thus there is nothing left to be desired. To give the sanction of absolute propriety, it has been decreed that the way to take this spin along the sands is to do so in a party which is known as a bathing bicycle party. There must be a chaperon and the chances are that a chaperon who can ride a wheel is not oblivious to the fact that young people do not always dare to be conventional. So there is a delightful combination of a jolly chaperon, a bicycle and a bath.

It might not be thought that the beach would make the best of bicycle paths, but it does. In fact the firm, hard sand seems to have an elasticity that helps a rider to speed along at a great rate. It is very peasant also to go at a scorching pace with the ocean breeze blowing all about you and fanning away the perspiration. Those who have tried it say the exhilaration is simply unspeakable. Add to the joy the scorcher feels in the very movement of his wheel the invigorating effect of the salt air, and the result must be pleasant in the extreme.

Down at Coney Island, along that section of the beach that stretches away westward in horseshoe fashion toward Norton’s Point, lies the speedway of the bathing cyclist, par excellence. Go down there any day and you can see plenty of evidence of the popularity of the new fad. Maidens of from 16 to 40, young men, middle-aged men, and men who would like to be thought middle-aged, are all there. Therefore the fashionable summer girl and her best young man must join the B.B. club—that of the Bicycle and the Bath.

Omaha [NE] World-Herald 21 June 1897: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  “Scorching” was wheel-woman/man slang for speeding along at a blistering pace. It was no doubt capital exercise and, for the sea-side rider, it served a cosmetic purpose:

“Nearly all the bicycle girls at the sea shore—and all women who ride wheels are bicycle girls—go in the water without any head covering and take the surf as they find it, and dive and plunge just as if they were not the least afraid of wet hair. They come out of the water, don their bicycle costumes, and, bare-headed, ride up and down the roads, their hair streaming out in the breeze and being dried as fast as sun and wind can accomplish the desired result.” Evening Star [Washington DC] 15 August 1896: p. 10

Possibly the beaches of the States are more congenial to “scorching,” than Brighton’s stony sea-side.  From Mrs Daffodil’s experience with sand, a wheel is more likely to sink into it and hurl the wheel-woman over the handle-bars. Should that occur, jolly as is the notion of riding in one’s bathing-costume, the skin is apt to be “scorched” as well.