Cycling in the U.S.A.

Pelotome –
around the United States of America on a bicycle.

~ Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle – Karl Kron (1887).

My Life and Times

by Jerome K. Jerome

From £4,75


Le Tour du Monde en Vélocipède.

“Around the World by Vélocipède” is the earliest known cycle touring book ever published. Released a year after his charming “Manuel du vélocipède”, this fictional account, written in French – under the nom de plume, Le Grand Jacques – and also serialised in the author’s bi-weekly magazine, Le Vélocipède illustré, it follows an eccentric American millionaire and a “freak show” giantess on their bespoke Vélocipède from Paris to Siberia, crossing Russia into Alaska and Canada, before making their way down through Panama to Cape Horn, sailing on to the Cape of Good Hope and then heading back to Paris through Africa.

  • by Le Grand Jacques (Richard Lesclide).
  • with illustrations by Felix Regamey.
  • published in French by Librairie de la Publication, Paris.

December 1877 – Published May 1886.

My Cycling Log Book.

Advertised as “Papa Weston’s Log Book”, “a memorandum of the number of miles travelled by cycle, with such notes of roads, routes, occasions and incidents on the way, as may be convenient or interesting for reference by the owner” was a log book for cyclists to record their efforts and, as examples, came published with the routes covered around Boston by Frank W. Weston, editor of the American Bicycling Journal, in December 1877.

The London-born founder of The Boston Bicycle Club has been labelled the “father of American bicycling.” and remains the first and only American member of the Bicycle Touring Club of England.

  • By Frank W. Weston.
  • Published by Charles. H. Whiting, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Image from advertisements in Bicycling World, May 1886.

1879 – revised in 1880.

The American Bicycler.

Perhaps taking its inspiration from Alfred Howard’s British “The Bicycle for…” series, “a manual for the observer, the learner, and the expert” gives instructions on how to ride a bicycle, including the rules of the road, and also features chapters on road racing, American clubs, and suggested routes around Boston with mileage. A review of 1878 also states that “the bicycle has begun to supersede those ill-starred velocipedes ; and Detroit leads the country in having an aristocratic lady- bicycler”.

A revised edition in 1880 was enlarged to include 85 routes, more than half being outside Massachusetts,

  • by Charles E. Pratt.
  • Published by Houghton, Osgood & Company, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

May 1879 – Published in May 1887.

Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle.

The father of all bicycle literature, this massive 800 page tome from New York journalist Lyman H. Bagg (under the pseudonym of Karl Kron), was four years in the making, with many chapters teased during that time in the cycling press and over 3,000 subscribers eagerly awaiting its eventual release. “Its ideal is that of a gazetteer, a dictionary, a cyclopædia, a statistical guide, a thesaurus of facts. The elaborateness of its indexing shows that it is designed less for reading than for reference, – less for amusement than for instruction, – and debars any one from objecting to the multiplicity of its details.”

Despite the only illustration being that of the author’s pet Bulldog, as well as a comprehensive guide to every known English-language cycling book or journal published prior to 1886, “the volume is a sort of autobiography” complete with accounts of the author’s own long distance travels on a 46-inch Pope “Columbia” high wheeler, covering 10,082 miles between 1879 and 1884 in 23 States (including those “protected by the British flag” and others in the Union), leading the author “to assume that it has ‘seen a good deal more of America’ than any other bicycle a going.” Even the distances the rider pushed the bike or accompanied it by train, steamboat, canal-boat, row-boat, omnibus, horse-car, and horse-cart are listed, as are those where the machine was sent alone by freight.

  • by Karl Kron (Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg).
  • published by Karl Kron, New York.

May 1881.

First Annual Meet of the League of American Wheelmen.

An important record of one of the most historic cycles in world history, the “official programme” of the first annual meet of the League of American Wheelmen in Boston, on May 30th, 1881, included “a map of the route, showing hotels, headquarters, etc.” a list of league officers, marshals, and entertainment committee, the formation and route of parade, location of hotels with special rates, and entries for the races.

Founded in Newport, Rhode Island, exactly a year earlier, on May 30, 1880, by Kirk Munroe – the editor of Harper’s Young People magazine – and Charles E. Pratt – author of the influential 1879 book “The American Bicycler” – the L.A.W. would go on to become the leading cyclists organisation in the United States, boasting 103,000 members at its height in 1898.

  • by L.A.W. (Massachusetts Division)
  • Published by Press of the Bicycling World.
  • Sketch, on left, of the event by J. Pennell.

April 1884 – revised and enlarged in May 1885 & August 1886.

The Wheelman’s Hand-Book of Essex County.

“Containing brief sketches of the various cities and towns of the county, with a list of their objects of interest; a directory of hotels, clubs, consuls and executives, road routes, etc. Also, the history of the league of Essex County wheelmen,” One of the first known cycling guides in North America, it was published “to fill a long felt want” with the authors claiming that Essex County, in the northeastern part of Massachusetts, “is probably more frequently traversed by wheelmen than any other locality in this state. or in fact any other. The reputation of its roads is high and the hospitality of its landlords is known full well by the traveling community.” The second edition remained the same, only with more adverts, while a third edition in 1886 was rewritten.

  • by George Chinn and Fred E. Smith.
  • Published by George Chinn, Marblehead, Massachusetts and Fred E. Smith. Ipswich, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

April 1884 – Published 1887.

Around the World on a Bicycle.

“From San Francisco to Teheran” was the first illustrated volume of 29 year old English immigrant Tom Steven’s pioneering ride around the globe. The book covers the first half of the novice rider’s journey on his fifty-inch Pope “Columbia” high-wheeler, with a handlebar bag containing socks, a spare shirt, a raincoat that doubled as a tent and bedroll, and a pocket revolver.

Leaving California, on 22nd April, 1884, he reached Boston on 4th August, 1884, some 3,700 miles later (a third of which had to be walked) – becoming the first cyclist to cross the United States in the process, With Outing magazine stepping in as a sponsor – reporting on his progress throughout – he sailed from New York to Liverpool, continuing his journey on 4th May, 1885, to London and then Paris, making his way through Germany, Austria and Hungary, onward through Slavonia (Croatia), Serbia, Bulgaria, and Rumelia (European Turkey), resting in Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey. Continuing on through Anatolia, Armenia, Kurdistan, and Iraq, he eventually arrived in Tehran, Iran, on September 30th, 1885, where he stopped for winter as guest of the Shah,

  • By Thomas Stevens.
  • Published by Sampson, Lowe, Marston, Searle and Rivington, London.

May 1884

Wheels and Whims.

The first known published book dedicated to female cycling, “An Etching” is the charming and insightful fictional novel about four ladies out on a tricycle adventure together in New England along the banks of the Connecticut River, from Hartford to Essex.

The writing offers a real insight into not just female cycling at the time – the four cyclists are insulted by men and young boys along the route – but also into the arguments for women’s right to vote and equal rights to work, as well as the treatment of mentally ill patients at the Connecticut Hospital for Insane at Middletown,

  • by Florine Thayer McCray & Esther Louise Smith
  • published by Cupples, Upham & Company, Boston.

July 1884 – revised in 1888, ’90, ’92, ’93, ’94, ’95, ’96, ’97 & ’98.

Hand-Book – Massachusetts Division, L.A.W.

Leading the way for what would become the most influential series of cycling guides ever printed in America, if not the world, the premier road book from the League of American Wheelmen was the “First annual hand-book, 1884-85” of their Massachusetts division. Compiled by the chief consul of the branch, it contained 21 routes, descriptions, and lists of towns “with the qualities of the riding in each”, and would set the standard for the L.A.W. annuals to come. Renamed in 1888 as the “Road and Hand Book of Massachusetts and Long Island”, it ran until its 13th edition in 1898.

  • compiled by Edward K. Hill.
  • published by J.P. Burbank, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
  • (image, left, of the final 1898 edition).

April 1885 – revised in May 1886 & March 1888.

Cyclist’s Road Book of Boston and Vicinity.

This book from the chief consul of the League of American Wheelmen (Boston Division) contains 41 routes all starting from Trinity Square, with directions given by street names and a brief description of the road surface. This was increased to 55 routes by the time of the second edition, a year later. Many of the routes had earlier appeared in Charles E. Pratt’s 1879 “American Bicycler”.

  • complied by A.L. Atkins.
  • printed by A.L. Atkins, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
  • (image, left, of the 1886 edition).

May 1885 – revised 1886, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’92, ’93, ’95, ’96, ’97, ’98, & 1900.

Road Book of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“With the reported roads of Long Island and Staten Island, and the principal through routes of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, including road maps of New Jersey, Orange Riding District, Staten Island, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Riding District, and Long Island” was the first edition of the League of American Wheelmen (Pennsylvania division) member’s annual to appear in 1885, published in a handy 6½” x 3¼” oblong format and covering 8,000 miles through 1,150 towns in 110 routes.

Highly praised and influential, a second edition appeared a year later, collectively representing the members of three separate divisions of the L.A.W., containing maps, descriptions and stats for over 12,000 miles around Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. The final editions were split into separate booklets (four books in 1897: South Eastern, North Eastern, Central, and Western sections; and two books in both 1898 and 1900: Eastern and Western).

  • compiled, designed and arranged by Henry S. Wood.
  • printed by H.S. Wood, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
  • (image, left, of the 1889 edition).

June 1885.

Bull & Bowen’s Road Book of Western New York and Hand Book of ‘cycling Accessories.

Another influential guide which was credited with setting the style and format for cycling road books to come, Buffalo New York bicycle dealer and ‘cycling accessories importer and manufacturer Bull & Bowen produced this wonderful pamphlet covering 1,200 miles over 44 routes, with distances, towns, road surfaces, gradients and directions.

  • compiled by W.S. Bull.
  • published by Bull & Bowen, Buffalo, New York, U.S.A.

August 1885.

In and Around Cape Ann.

“A Hand-Book of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and its immediate vicinity for the wheelman tourist and the summer visitor” was one of the earliest cycling guides in North America. Beautifully illustrated, including photographs, the little manual served up bicycle rambles in New England, on “this prominent headland jutting out into the sea, the waters of Massachusetts Bay washing its southern shore, those of Ipswich Bay its northern, and the waves of the broad Atlantic its eastern, while the towns of Essex and Manchester form its western boundary.”

  • by John S. Webber Jr.
  • printed at the Cape Ann Advertiser office, Gloucester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Dec 1885 – revised in 1888, 1892, 1895 & 1896.

Hand-Book of the League of American Wheelmen, Missouri Division.

The first edition of the handbook for the League of American Wheelmen (Missouri division) contained no mention of roads.

  • compiled by E.M. Senseny.
  • printed in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
  • (image, left, of the 1895, fourth edition).

April 1886 – Published 1887.

Pedal and Path.

Told in the form of an edited and enhanced collection of letters originally published to the Hartford Evening Post, Across the Continent awheel and afoot” was a seven month, 11,000 mile tour of America on a 46″ Pope “Expert Columbia” high-wheeler, ridden from Hartford, Connecticut, to San Francisco, California, by George B. Thayer, a member of the Connecticut Bicycle Club,

  • By George B. Thayer.
  • Published by Evening Post Association, Hartford, USA.

April 1886 – Published May 1924.

Trips to Hell.

And other countries” was George Thayer’s 564 page insightful follow-up to his 1886 “Pedal and Path” ride across America. Aged 71 at the time of publication in 1924 – some four years before his death – it followed his many trips around every corner of the globe, mainly taken between 1912 and 1922 on foot, train and boat, however it also includes brief accounts of his bicycle ride across America in 1886 and those taken in 1888 and 1897 through Britain, Europe and Canada.

Recounting his ride along “the old emigrant trail, to the Pacific, covering three-quarters of the distance to San Francisco and back on a bicycle, one of the old high ones,” “with a few instances, taken somewhat at random” “to indicate the educational value, at least, of travel pursued throughout the trip so far as possible from home to home instead of from hotel to hotel,” he briefly describes his experiences “in riding through the middle west” at Ohio, from Laramie to Rawlins in Wyoming, and “near the Yellowstone Park,” “the stage route from Fire Hole in the park to Beaver Canon, the nearest railroad station to the west, 105 miles distant;” and “sometime, somewhere, out in the neighborhood of Idaho,”

He also details a 1921 “walking trip over many of the battle fields of the civil war” from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Antietam, Manassas and Orange, Virginia, onward to “the bloody Spottsylvania and the disastrous field of Fredericksburg down to Cold Harbor where Grant was so quickly and terribly stopped,” before walking “around the crater at Petersburg” “trying to reach Reams Station by a short cut along a cart path through the woods.” before another “walking trip through Georgia” and the Civil War battlefields is detailed from Atlanta to Andersonville,

  • By George B. Thayer.
  • Published by Case, Lockwood & Brainard, Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A.

May 1886 – revised and extended in 1892, 1895, 1896, 1897 (among others).

Hand-Book of the League of American Wheelmen, Ohio Division.

The vest pocket-sized upright 6¾” x 3½” second edition of the League of American Wheelmen (Ohio division) member’s annual was one of the first to offer road reports for local towns, with brief routes and hotel details. The first edition appeared a year earlier, in March 1885, with racing rules and records, but did not include any road descriptions. Members were encouraged not to lend the book to “outsiders”.

  • compiled by T.J Kirkpatrick.
  • printed by Cromwell & Kirkpatrick, Springfield, Ohio, U.S.A.
  • (image, left, of the July 1892 edition).

June(?) 1886.

Road-Book of Long Island.

“containing, also, the best riding of New York and New Jersey, within fifty miles of New York City and the through routes to New Haven, Hartford, Springfield, Boston, Albany, Philadelphia etc. including cycling maps of Brooklyn and Orange riding districts and part of Long Island.” was the first road book from the League of American Wheelmen (New York State division). “Published under the auspices of the Brooklyn Bicycle Club” in a handy pocket sized landscape format, it is absolutely packed with routes, road conditions and descriptions, and was the first L.A.W. release to include fold out maps.

Consul to both the Brooklyn Bicycle Club and L.A.W. New York division, as part of his research, Albert B. Barkman covered a bona fide 8,000 miles on his bicycle in 1886 – a record to be credited to any American cyclist at the time. He also found time to contribute valuable articles about his travels to the cycling press under his nom de plume, “Bonerges” or “Bon”.

  • compiled by Albert B. Barkman.
  • printed by Franklin Print House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
  • (image, left, supplied by NY Historical Society).

January(?) 1887.

Hand-Book and Road-Book of New York.

Albert B. Barkman’s second road book for the League of American Wheelmen – of which he was now Bookmaster and Chairman of their Bureau of Information – was largely an updated and extended amalgamation of W.S. Bull’s Western New York road book with his own 1886 Long Island guide, “containing also the principal through routes of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Ohio; with road maps of New York State and the New York City, Brooklyn, Long Island, Buffalo, Staten Island, Orange and Philadelphia riding districts.”

  • compiled, designed & arranged by Albert B. Barkman.
  • printed by E. Stanley Hart & Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A..

October 1889 – Published 1890.

Round About The World on Bicycles.

“The pleasure tour of G.W. Burston and H.R. Stokes, Melbourne Bicycle Club, Australia,” follows George Burston and Harry Stokes on their 56-inch high-wheel bicycle journey around the world, setting off from Melbourne, on 1st November 1888, arriving back in Australia on the 14th December 1889.

Their “tremendous bicycle tour”, as chronicled in The Australasian, actually ended in England on 8th September 1889. having ridden 10,000 miles, “as well as many thousands of miles of ocean voyaging, in the ten months and a half ” since they left Melbourne.

Catching a steamer from Liverpool to New York, presumably on 28th September, 1889, having already shipped their bicycles back home, they instead explored America’s “sights and wonders just in the manner all globe-trotters do.”

“This, of course, is not so satisfactory to as, still it cannot be otherwise, for the snows of America would prevent wheeling. Nevertheless, we should be satisfied with what we have already seen and done, and it would, indeed, be hard for anyone to shake our belief in the fact that the best way to see life is go round about the world on a bicycle.”

Taking six weeks to cross the States, sharing their observations of the American cyclists encountered along the route, they caught the train to Washington D.C and Philadelphia, before returning to New York to meet Karl Kron, “whose book, ‘Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle,‘ is familiar to wheelmen all the world over”.

After steaming up the Hudson River to Albany, they caught the train to Boston and Plymouth, Massachusetts. “where the Pilgrim Fathers first set foot on American soil,” before making for the Niagara Falls, and on to Detroit (through Canada) to Chicago, crossing the Mississippi at Fort Madison on route to Kansas City. Pueblo, the Grand Canon, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco.

They visited Yosemite National Park, The Geysers and China Town before catching a steamer home to Sydney, via a few days exploring Hawaii.

  • “by G.W. Burston and H.R. Stokes.
  • Published by George Robertson and Company, Melbourne, Australia “for private circulation only”

July 1891 – published in November 1893.

To Gipsyland.

The Pennells return with an account of their summer ride in 1891, this time swapping their trusty tricycle for two safety bicycles (Elizabeth on a Marriott and Cooper’s Ladies’ Safety), in search of the Romani “gypsies” whose culture they had originally fallen in love with in their native Philadelphia.

Originally serialised a year earlier in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (Nov 1892 – Jan 1893), the book concentrated mainly on their time out of the saddle, among the local population in Hungary and Romania, while a more in depth account of their actual ride – including the sections through France, Belgium, Germany, Bohemia (Czechia and Slovakia) and Austria, – entitled “From Berlin to Budapest”, appeared as a twelve part series in The London Illustrated News (23rd April to 27th August 1892).

The first three chapters are devoted entirely to Elizabeth Pennell’s time spent with gypsy families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey,

  • by Joseph and Elizabeth Rose Pennell.
  • Published by T. Fisher Unwin, London.


“Policemen have urged me to mount on the crowded sidewalks of Wall Street, and have ordered me to dismount on upper Fifth Avenue when the walks were almost vacant.

The same officer who may grant the request to ride, if politely put to him, for the sake of seeing ‘how the thing is started,’ may soon after wards, on meeting a man already in the saddle, order him to leave it, for the sake of seeing ‘how the thing is stopped,’ or because the whim takes him to gratify his feeling of authority by humbling the pride of the superior creature whom he imagines to look down disdainfully upon himself from the serene upper heights of the wheel.

The street children are a much greater obstacle than the patrolmen, however, to sidewalk touring in the metropolis ; for the appearance of a bicycle in most of the densely-populated quarters will generally draw out so tumultuous a swarm of them as to force the lover-of-quiet to dismount, in order to rid himself of his escort, — even if he can persuade them to give him a pledge of safety by taking to the roadway, instead of running noisily alongside him on the walk.

The children will usually agree to this at the outset, as they are anxious to see the riding ; but the newcomers in their ranks will continually infringe upon the rule ; and the task of shouting with sufficient vigor to drive them out of reaching distance of the rear-wheel, and of simultaneously keeping a sufficiently sharp eye for obstacles ahead of the front wheel, is too great a task to be paid for by the pleasures of the experience.”

~ Karl Kron, Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle, 1887.

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