Newspaper Page Text
i-iigh IVheels Launched Bicycle Riding in District
BY JOHN CLAGETT PROCTOR. OME time ago, when the writer gave * the readers of The Star a story on bicycle riding and racing around 1897, 1 j an old-timer, or at least one who is • fast approaching that class, wanted to know why the article did not include the period of his active bicycle days, when just . the high wheel was used and when a spill might have meant even more than a broken collarbone or a bruised knee-cap. The writer had really intended to do this, but since he has been reminded by a representa tive member of the high-wheel contingent of the apparent omission, he feels that he should supplement his earlier article by telling, at least something of the days preceding the “safety,” when it required considerable skill to negotiate the rough and rugged-roads around Washing ton, D. C., and everywhere else for that matter. The writer never rode a high wheel. Not that he was not old enough, but somehow or other his riding days did not begin until around 1890, when the safety was well established on the market and the higher types of wheels were considerably on the decline. He does, however, confess remembering when P. T. Barnum brought the mammoth e'-ephint “Jumbo” to this city in 1882, and exhibited him with his circus, which performed at Ninth and S streets at this time, and for several years before and after this date; also when John S. Prince defeated H. W. Higham in a 10-mile bicycle race in 1883. in this same block, then known as Athletic Park. Higham raced ■s the English champion, while Prince—who was credited to Washington, D. C. —rode under the colors of the Stars and Stripes. Just where Prince hailed from, the writer is not certain, though a friend of his says that both Higham and Prince were Englishmen, and that Prince was only credited to this city in order ot make the race appear more interest ing and to draw a larger crowd. 'T'HE track here was made of cinders in 1883, and cost around $3,000, and it was shortly after this that Prince competed against a trotting horse, but with just what result the writer is unable to say, though he witnessed this unusual spectacle. Athletic Park, which occupied Square 3261, indeed had some interesting history. Around 1870, a truck farmer named Michael Braun used both this block and the one to the south, in which stood his home, for the pur pose of raising vegetables for the market in which he had a stand. Because of the famili arity of the neighbors with the fruits of his toil, however —in the block to the north between Ninth and Tenth, S and T streets—he found it more profitable to confine his activities to the block in which his house stood, where he could, to a greater extent, see what was going on. - Braun had one daughter, Lena, a tall bru nette. who married Charles O. Meyer, now of the Oldest Inhabitants’ Association. The elder Meyer—the head of the house—lived in the block to the east of the one occupied by Farmer Braun. Os his family, the writer recalls, be sides Charles G„ a son Louis, now deceased, and a daughter. Mrs. Jay J. Farrell. Charles G. Meyer, remembered so well as the basso pro fundo of the Saengerbund Society, has several married daughters living in this city. > After Braun gave up this block, it became the city's circus grounds and open base ball grounds. Afterward it became Athletic Park, with a grandstand, a high board fence, and ail that went to make first-class amusement grounds. Here the circus came, professional base ball was played, and all sorts of other things took place, including bicycle racing. Buffalo Bill performed here several times with his Wild West Show, and here came “Buck” Taylor, king of the cowboys, who went to Cuba with Roosevelt's Rough Riders, con tracted tuberculosis, and died in Providence Hospital. Later the block was further sub divided, Westminster street being run through, and the whole square entirely built up as we see it today. What memories the old Athletic Park block has for the writer. Here he saw his first circus—O'Brien’s. And here he saw. in addi- lllljjt^^^jjKflH^ the sextet bieycle of 1897. Left to right: E. L. W ilson, Ray Levy, Fred Moore, Coleman, “. Dutch' ’ Mueller and George . •.. _. Smith* _ ; THE SUNDAY STAR, WASHINGTON, D. C, OCTOBER 27, 1029. I Stories of Early Experts Are Recalled by Washingtonians Who Admired Their Skill. Century Runs, Hill Climbing and Rough-Riding Contests Became Popular Events for Young People. Francis Cragin, a member as the Capital Bicycle Club, photographed in 1881 . tk»i to Jumbo, Barnum's "sacred white” ele phant. He recalls seeing P. T. Barnum In person at one of his performances here, as well as Adam Forepaugh, an exact image of Chauncey Depew, and Moxley's and Mike Scan lon's base ball teams. Indeed, much interesting history could be written around Athletic Park. /~\NE of the earliest high-wheel bicycle riders the wrijer recalls was William E. Crist, generally known as Eugene Crist, who back in the early eighties was amateur champion of the world. He well remembers William Din widdle and L. Warren Seely, two expert trick riders. Dinwiddle was especially clever, ex hibiting bis skill by riding what was known as a monocyele—in other words, Jwst the large front wheel, the rear, small wheel, seat and "backbone'’ being detached. William T. Robertson was another local rider who could do wonders with a bicycle. One of the places where he amused the public was at the roller skating rink, which stood where now stands the Business High School at Ninth street and Rhode Island avenue northwest. His performances usually took place during the intermission, when the band would play the “Dude's March" or some other appropriate tune with the right swing. The writer's cousin, Clarence Proctor, now of Detroit—locally known as “Kenny” Proctor —was also an unusually good trick rider, but confined himself to the safety machine. Bicycle riding in the District runs back quite a number of years. * The modern wheel had its beginning with Pierre Lallement, a French mechanic, who improved the three-wheel velocipede made by Woirin and Leconde, also Frenchmen, in 1865, by dropping one of the two rear wheels, which he found could be easily dispensed with. The Lallement machine was soon afterward introduced in America, and by 1869 had become popular. A BLANK roadway was built on Seventh s'reet where is now the base ball park, and here visitors were permitted to ride around for so much an hour, but as the wheels were cumbersome and clumsy, it might be assumed that few ventured beyond the initial charge. The large room over the Kaufman store on “ the Avenue, between Tenth and Eleventh streets, is also said to have been used at this period for bicycle riding. A wheel then had iron tires and we are told that its noise was so great that the rumbling sound could be dis'inctly heard a long distance off. This type of bicycle was short lived, for after the novelty had worn off the wheels were relegated to junk heap and in a short while few could be found anywhere. • However, abroad it was gradually improved both in Eng land and in France, and with the coming of the rubber tire, the invention of C. K. Brad ford of our own country, the bicycle assumed the merits of a practical vehicle for trans portation, and its renewed popularity grew speedily in England and France. At the centennial in Philadelphia, in 1876, the new type was first exhibited in this coun try. though none were sold here until the fol lowing year, when one was purchased by a young Boston lawyer who had lost his health and thought that the exercise of riding a wheel would assist in its restoration. His name seems to have been lost, though this young man was the pioneer rider of the “bike” in this country, and the bicycle industry in the United States began soon afterward. is given to Charles G. W. Kraus kopf for introducing the modern bicycle in Washington in 1878 This machine was known as the “Ariels," and had double spokes and 46-inch wheels. With a desire to learn something more about this pioneer rider, the City Directory was consulted, and the only per son of this name found was Charles G. Kraus kopf, who kept a hotel and restaurant at the corner of Tenth and E streets northwest, over which he resided. He had obtained the ma chine from the British vice consul stationed at Baltimore. Naturally Krauskopf was kidded and guyed as he rode the “new steed” through the streets. But the bicycle had come to stay, and .it was not lor.g before William C. Scribner ceased managing the Gazette, at 931 D street north west. and opened a bicycle store around the corner at 1108 E street, and if he was not the first one in the city to engage in this business, he at least was one of the earliest. Though Krauskopf was the subject of much chaffing and joking, yet it was not long before he had company, and soon other Washing tonians became infatuated with the vehicle which was to become so immensely popular in such a brief space of time. Soon Frank G. Wood, Max Hansmann, Fred D. Owen. L. P. Einolf, Herbert S. Owen and Louis N. Jesungofsky were proudly riding the silent steed, and it was these gentlemen, with Mr. Krauskopf. who organized the Capital Bi cycle Club on January 31, 1879. At a banquet held at the Cosmos last February, in celebration of the fiftieth an niversary of this club. Max Hansmann was the only charter member present, but at least two members—Fred and H. S. Owen —are known to be in the land of the living. pROM the first, the Capital Bicycle Club was a thriving organization. In 1881 it num bered 32 active and six honorary members, among them being some of the most im portant men in the city. The active list in cluded Clarence G. Allen. Edward Baltzley, James G. Blaine. jr„ Frank S. Blanchard, James McK. Borden, Joseph G. Chandler. Wil liam D. Chandler, William Chester, George Cook. Andrew M. Coyle, Wallace F. Crossman, Francis C. Donn. Abner F. Dunfiington. Edwin H. Fowler, Charles F. Goodell, Andrew B. Gra ham, Max Hansmann, C. E. Hawley, S. P. Hol lingsworth, Leland Howard, James M. Lewis, jr., Francis H. Noyes, Fred D. Owen, Herbert S. Owen, Jermain G. Porter. Frederick Schafhirst, Henry M. Schooley, L. Warren Seely, Rexford M. Smith, John Swinborne, Frank G. Wood and Daniel W. Zantzinger. The honorary members were F. G. Collins, George C. Sargent. Col. F. A. Seely, James P. Stabler, Henry Sturmey and Dr. George B. Welch. Eight years later it had grown considerably, and included the following active members: Clarence G. Allen, Charles F. Bacon, L. Seward Bacon, Lemuel J. Barber, John S. Barker, Charles M. Barrick, Seward Beall, James McK. Borden, Thomas P. Bordon, Frank M. Boteler, J. A. Boteler, John B. Boutelle, C. B. Boyle, Philip S. Brown, Charles A. Burnett, Eugene Byrnes, Frank F. Butler, Henry Calver, George T. Carter, Charles M. Catlin. J. J. Chickering, John Colley, Dr. C. A. Crampton, N. D. Cram, William E. Crist, Wallace F. Crossman, Charles Darwin, Harry Y. Davis, Edward A. Demarary, Walter S. Dodge, Douglas Dyrenforth, Edward D. Easton, Howard O. Edmonds. C. R. Edmons ton, Joseph G. Falck, George E. Fleming. Ed ward B. Forney, J. C. Fremont, jr., Duance E. Fox, R. von Gluemer, Harry P. Godwin, George H. Graham. Benjamin S. Graves, Arthur P. Greeley, William B. Greeley, Harry W. Hamil ton, Benjamin W. Hanna, Dr. Charles M. B. Harris, Henry L. Hayes, W. B. Hibbs, George R. Ide, Prank E. Johnston, Dr. Gabriel F. Johnston, Thomas J. Johnston, Dr. Edward S. Jones, Rudolph Kauffmann, William A. Kearon, George Kennan. O. D. La Dow. R. V. La Dow, Dr. Frank R. Lane, Joseph E. Learning, J.