Exploring our past to sort out myth from reality
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These are the voyages of the TimeShip Anachron.
Our Mission: To boldly explore the past, dispelling
mythinformation and mythconceptions
of American History along the way.
Meet MythAmerica LITE
Many Americans have long had a yen to get out on the open road with the wind in their face!
Photographer unknown, A lady Scorcher, outfitted in bloomers and ready to ride, Circa 1900. Card stock, American Photo. Collection of Lorne Shields.
"Scorchers were fast, reckless bicycle riders-
Such reckless bikers weren't considered a minor issue at the time.
And, in fact, I'm kind of suspicious this may be the period in which the term "Speed Demon" was invented!
But the police were soon hot on the trail of the scorchers!
Theodore Roosevelt created a "Scorcher Squad" in December 1895, made up of 29 police officers on bicycles. In his autobiography, Roosevelt praised the squad for having " not only extraordinary proficiency on the wheel, but extraordinary daring." The Scorcher Squad, in addition to chasing down and ticketing fast bicycle riders, ran down out of control horses and even automobiles, forcing them to slow and eventually stop; some of these events even sound like action-
These 'wheel mounted' police made 1,366 arrests in their first year (though not all of these were bicycle scorchers). Denver, Colorado and Grand Forks, Minnesota began bicycle squads in the summer of 1896, "to control scorchers and sidewalk cyclists." In Chicago, apparently, bicycle police were using slingshots to hurl lead balls at the spokes of scorchers, the impact would break the rim and bring a cycle to a sudden halt. [Source]
But to be fair, there were many folks at the time who enjoyed their velocipedes responsibly. You even had "easy riders" back then…
And I doubt that these bikers and their babes tore up the roads very fast.
But there definitely was a yen for increasing speed even from the earliest velocipede days-
Yes, this is an engraving of an actual pedal-
But most bikes of the era were people-
But there was also concern that pretty soon most people WOULD be able to ride them, and THEN what might happen to turn society upside down?! Here's one view in an almost Mad Magazine-
It took me a minute of looking closely at the pic before I noticed the buildings in the back ... a livery stable closed because no one needed horses any more...and a meat market selling horse meat since no one needed horses any more. And if you look closely on the left, you will see that a woman is riding in a wagon...pulled by another woman peddling a four-
It never came to that, of course...the internal combustion engine was invented too quickly and lured the bikers away to an even more harried future! But until then...lots of them still had their fun.