Kentucky 2016 Events:
April 9, 11 am – 2 pm - Celebration of Cycling, Bloomington Indiana. The Indiana Wheelmen invite all to attend the “Celebration of Cycling” hosted by the Lilly Library at 1200 E. 7th Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47405.
June 3-5 - Great American Brass Band Festival, Danville Kentucky. The Kentucky Wheelmen invite Wheelmen from across America to celebrate the Great American Brass Band Festival with a hot air balloon race, parade and riding demonstrations while listening to the great brass band music. http://www.gabbf.com/
June 18, 1-3 pm - Indiana Bicentennial Celebration Ice Cream Social at the Division Street School. The Kentucky Wheelmen will be displaying antique bicycles at the Division Street School to help celebrate Indiana’s 200th birthday!
June 19, noon - New Albany High Wheel Bicycle Race. The Kentucky Wheelmen will be sponsoring this inaugural event in downtown New Albany, Indiana during “The New Albany Crit” race. http://facebook.com/NewAlbanyCrit/
July 6-10 - Wheelmen National Meet, Elmhurst Illinois. Wheelmen from all over America and Canada will convene for the annual meet in Elmhurst Illinois to ride antique cycles 100 miles and celebrate cycling in the grand tradition of the 1880s and 1890s. http://www.thewheelmen.org/sections/events/2016-07-06.asp
August 13 - Clustered Spires Race, Frederick Maryland. This is the premier high wheel bicycle race in America. See high wheel riders take the corners in a criterium-style race in historic Frederick, Maryland. http://www.highwheelrace.com/
September 10-11 – “My Old Kentucky Home” Bicycle Tour, Bardstown Kentucky. The Louisville Bicycle Club invites the Kentucky Wheelmen to host a static display and antique riding demonstrations to welcome the 1000+ riders to Bardstown, Kentucky for “My Old Kentucky Home” bicycle tour. http://www.louisvillebicycleclub.org/OKHT
September 11 – Transportation Day at the Evansville Museum. The Indiana and Kentucky Wheelmen will host a static display and antique riding demonstrations to celebrate Transportation Day at the Evansville Museum. http://evansvillemuseum.org/
Once called the 8th Wonder of the World, the West Baden Springs Hotel, built in 1902 in French Lick, Indiana, features an atrium 200 feet wide and 100 feet tall, was the world’s largest indoor facility for over 30 years. A National Historic Landmark, recognized by the National Trust of Historic Preservation. At its opening in 1902, West Baden Springs Hotel offered golf on two courses, horseback riding, billiards, bowling, baseball, swimming, hiking, a moving picture theater, an opera house, and the highlight, a 2-story wooden bicycle track.
The 2015 Fall Meet was sponsored by the Kentucky and Indiana Wheelmen.
This extraordinary event included a fleet of renowned riverboats from around the country that traveled to Louisville to celebrate a first and monumental 100 years of Belle of Louisville, the Legendary Lady of the river.
The Kentucky Wheelmen were part of this historic celebration too and beautiful Kentucky Wheelmen lapel pins were given to cyclists who attended the event on Saturday, October 18th.
A Look Back In Time:
“Get Off The Road Or The Wheelmen Will Run Over You” - “Hundreds Arrived Yesterday and Thousands More Will Come To-day and To-morrow”
Such was the excitement in the local newspaper headlines when the League of American Wheelmen held their 17th annual meet in Louisville, Kentucky, August 10-15, 1896. The previous year, Louisville civic leaders sent a 15-man recruiting team to Baltimore, with a $1,000 budget and “supplies enough to entertain an army”, to persuade the National Wheelmen Assembly delegates to choose Louisville, by cajoling, arm-twisting, and offering copious amounts of punch. The recruiters promised that if the LAW meet came to Louisville in 1896, visitors “would be able to take a bath in it!” So, in 1896, Louisville hosted over 40,000 attendees, who raced, drank, smoked, and thoroughly enjoyed their themselves.
The local newspapers reported of nightly entertainment where “funny stories were told, punch and beer were dispensed, corncob pipes were smoked, and much hilarity was indulged in.”
The Wheelmen took a look back at this exciting time in cycling history when Louisville hosted the 46th Wheelmen National Meet, June 21-25, 2013.
A Souvenir Meet Medal was crafted by Wheelmen James McKenzie, a close replica of the 1896 medal.
A group photo was taken in Central Park on Saturday afternoon, followed by a an escorted parade of over 75 antique bicycles leaving from near U of L, up 2nd St. to Waterfront Park, on Saturday afternoon. The “ordinary” bicycles were followed by antique “safety” bikes. Everyone in the community had a chance to be a part of the fun as bicyclists of all types were invited to participate in the parade’s “Retro Ride” as costumed cyclists followed on their oldest bikes decorated for a cycling circus.
Sunday evening a new documentary video by Gillian Willman about Annie “Londonerry” Kopchovsky was shown. Annie was the first woman to ride her bicycle alone around the world in 1894. Later that night The Wheelmen visied St. James Court in Old Louisville. Built on the site of the Great Southern Exposition of 1883-87 and the site of the first bicycle track in the USA. This historic neighborhood is a treasure trove of Victorian opulence.
Louisvillians, Carson Torpey and Tim Meyer, each gave talks about local bicycling history. Carson’s presentation was titled “Louisville and The 1896 Meet”. Tim spoke about the man who created the 1899 “Jolly Good Fellows Bicycling Route Map of Kentucky”, which was titled “The Interesting Life and Times of Webster Gazlay”. Bostonian, and Wheelman, David Herlihy, presented “The Lost Photos: Recently Revealed Scenes from Allen & Sachtleben's Historic Ride Across Europe and Asia 1890-92”, and showed newly discovered photographs from Sachtleben and Allen’s round-the-world bicycle ride.
Monday’s events concluded with a dinner cruise aboard the Belle Of Louisville. The National Meet wrapped up on Tuesday after the Fountain Ferry Ordinary Race in Shawnee Park.
In 1897 ten thousand bicyclists paraded from Broadway down Third Street and out Southern Parkway to Iroquois Park. Many cyclists wore costumes. Women wore bloomers. Bugles and cannon fire marked the parade’s progress as 50,000 spectators watched.
A historic marker located at the Wheelman’s Bench on Southern Parkway, erected in 1987 at the bench’s only dedication ceremony, and after a lengthy restoration project, pays tribute to the cyclists’ carnival.
The limestone bench and fountain were built in a small park in 1897 to honor A. D. “Pap” Ruff, one of the great pioneer cyclists in the nation. He had left a bequest to the Kentucky Division of the League of American Wheelmen for a place “where wheelmen may stop to drink and rest under the shade of the forest trees.”
Be sure to stop, rest, and give a moment of thanks to “Pap” on your way out Southern Parkway.
Webster Gazlay (1862-1914) was a draftsman at the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, a civil engineer with the Louisville Water Works, and an engineer and vice president at the National Concrete Construction Company, in Louisville.
Webster created a bicycle road map of Kentucky and vicinity of Louisville, compiled from various maps and books, in 1899.
Congratulations to The Wheelmen who broke The Guinness World Record for a High Wheel Stack - 155 bikes - at The Wheelmen's 45th National Meet in Findlay, Ohio, on July 21, 2012.
The guys in the middle of the group had been waiting for an hour and a half while the stack was carefully built. Watch the video and see history being made.
The League of American Wheelmen 1896 National Meet was a very big deal for Louisville. Courier-Journal headlines declared, “The Bicycle Has the Right of Way This Week.”
The League had close to 80,000 members in 1896, when cycling was very fashionable Newspapers were full of ads for cycling clothes. Society news featured bicycle outings. The league had a good deal of prestige and power, controlling legislatures in some states, and advancing the cause of “good roads” across the country.
One event of the 1896 convention put bikes on a steamboat for a river excursion to Madison, Ind., and a bike ride back. Another was a century ride to Frankfort and back, over the course taken by the first recorded U.S. century in 1880.
The meet races were a major attraction, drawing top riders from across the country and around the world. They broke world records that week at Fontaine Ferry track. Participants such as Eddie “Cannon” Bald, of Buffalo, and Tom Cooper, of Detroit, enjoyed considerable fame in those days. They made big money, $10,000 a year and more (over a half million dollars in today’s money), and traveled the race circuit in sumptuous railroad cars. Conspicuous by his absence in 1896 was Marshall “Major” Taylor, a black cyclist from Indianapolis who was later a world champion. Blacks had been banned from League membership.
Hampton College, which was on Walnut St. (now Muhammad Ali Blvd), between Third and Fourth Sts, was the headquarters for the week. League members were greeted inside the front door by a porcelain bathtub filled with punch, floating large cakes of ice. They had fulfilled their promise that members would be able to take a bath in punch if Louisville got the meet. Other drinks, including beer, whiskey and champagne, were available in other rooms at headquarters. One table was piled high with tobacco, and 1,000 corncob pipes, for the visitors.
Several rides a day left from the headquarters, mostly to various city parks and to the track at Fontaine Ferry, some crossed the K&I bridge to Indiana, others went to Mt. Washington and other towns.
One of the main events was a parade. It went out to the Iroquois Cycling and Driving Club’s clubhouse. The paper reported about 1,000 cyclists rode, and they were watched by about 25,000 people on the sidelines. Bicycles were decorated with flags and bunting. “Freak” entries, brought up the rear, they included one tricycle with wheels nine feet high pedaled by eight men, a giraffe cycle with its seat nine feet above the street, and a tandem cycle on which the rear rider was upstairs. One troupe of 20 male riders in bloomers got a lot of laughs.
A watermelon feast on the grounds of the Iroquois club, scheduled to follow the arrival of the parade there, turned into a sort of a free-for-all. The papers announced wagon loads of watermelon would be distributed to meet participants. Word spread and people on foot, on bicycles and in carriages, filled The Boulevard behind the last parade bicycles, moving toward the club grounds. When the first wagon arrived, the crowd surged through a ramshackle wooden fence around the picnic site, pushed up against the wagon and began filching melons. The people in charge gave up on defending their cargo and began lobbing the melons out into the crowd.
On Saturday night, the last night of the meet, at 10 pm, League members came out onto the street and everybody sang “My Old Kentucky Home.” Then they headed back to their hotels, and to trains and bikes out of town the next day.