Here's an 1879 letter published in Washington's Evening Star entitled "In Praise of Bicycling." Much of it sounds like it could be written today.
I do not know anything that compares with bicycle riding as a healthful, invigorating, and fascinating exercise; healthful because it brings into energetic, but not excessive, action so very many muscles; invigorating on account of the fresh air, the rapid motion and the constant change of scene which are it's accompaniments; fascinating, because - how shall I express it or how can I convey to anyone not a bicyclists any accurate idea of the ever increasing delight to the rider of "the silent steed." ...The bicycle is a steed that always can be depended on; one does not need to learn it's gaits, it's tricks, every time a new steed is tried nor incur annual expenses of $200 to $500 for board and shoeing.
This one doesn't come from old newspapers, but rather the archives of the Architect of the Capitol, but it's still pretty fascinating. For starters, in the late 1800's and early 1900's the Capitol Crypt, located directly below the large circular room located directly below the rotunda used to be a bike parking area.
Here's what it looks like today.
Needs more bikes
The AOC has a whole page on this and the time they bought the Lawn Cycle Stand, a wooden bike rack that was only manufactured for a few years and is now sold by antique dealers, to provide bike parking.
It is nice to have a place on the veranda, the room set aside for cycles or wherever cyclists congregate, to store your bicycle. Finally, a way to protect my bric-a-brac!
This advertisement from an 1883 DC Directory leaves a lot of questions. US Manufacturing is not listed in any directory before or after, so it seems to have been a brief enterprise and I could find nothing else about it. What happened to them? And what is the "Quick Steed"? I assume it's the two-person adult tricycle pictured, but it's not clear.
Interesting that physicians are uniquely called out, but it makes sense. No ambulances, and time-critical work to be done.
The address puts it on the NE corner of 24th and Pennsylvania where the Embassy of Spain now sits.
In a post many years ago, I copy/pasted a large article on the history of the Capital Bicycle Club which was founded in DC in 1879 and continued to operate until sometime during the 1920's. But this Feb 4, 1879 article about that founding day adds one other tidbit.
which is that the English bicycle, which I'm taking to be the "Safety Bicycle" invented in England in 1876, had been introduced to the city in 1878. If true, this bicycle wouldn't have had a chain, but treadles (the chain not being added until 1879).
It doesn't look like it became the dominant choice among club members, as photos mostly show them riding penny-farthings.
And then here is Will Robertson riding an American Star Bicycle down the Capitol steps in a promotional photo for the bike. [He was not the first person to do this, apparently that honor belongs to Burt Owens].
Today is the 201st anniversary of the climax of the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. This was the most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history, and you have to go back 26,000 years to find a larger one. It was at least 1000 times more powerful that the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. It wiped out an entire culture, caused tsunamis throughout Indonesia, killed an estimated 100,000 people in Indonesia and almost as many outside of that area. It ejected such a massive amount of volcanic ash into the upper atmosphere (and did so after 4 other very large volcanic eruptions) that it caused global temperatures to drop for about a decade. In 1816, it caused a "volcanic winter" not unlike a "nuclear winter" and that year became known as the "Year Without A Summer" (which was also the title of the worst of those stop motion animation specials that followed "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.")
How cold was the year without a summer? There was frost reported in Virginia in late August and people there had to keep fires going all year long to keep their homes warm enough. The cold resulted in massive crop failures worldwide and, coming at a time when it was still recovering from the Napoleonic Wars, the worst European famine of the 19th Century.
What does this have to do with biking?
Well, food shortages in Germany were so severe that Karl Drais, a young inventor (at the time he'd already invented the meat grinder), was unable to acquire enough oats to feed his horses and they had to be killed. He'd already invented a four-wheeled human powered vehicle (it doesn't seem that this was pedal driven, making it less like a quad-bike and more like a Flintstones car) but he began to think of a two-wheeled one that could replace the horse.
He eventually created the Laufmaschine ("running machine), better known as the Velocipede, hobby horse or dandy horse. This was basically a pedal-less bicycle - or a balance bike - and it could be considered the first ever bicycle.
He went on his first ride, the first-ever bicycle ride (depending on how one defines bicycle), on June 12, 1817. Which means that next year is the 200th anniversary of the bicycle - or the Bikecentennial (sorry entrepreneurs, that name is already trademarked).
[Before anyone jumps in with talk of the Celerifere, I'll note that it's existence is totally unverified]
I don't know what is being planned for next year; but if nothing, maybe I'll arrange for some balance bike races in the RFK parking lot (lederhosen optional) on Sunday June 11th. Winners will be presented the Karl Drais Cup by some low level German embassy staff person. Would it be insensitive to drink Bintang beer? Too soon?
In other words, if I'm asked to organize it, it will be cheap and weird.
BTW, Drais never made any money from his invention of the bicycle (though he did for the Drasine, the human-powered rail car so often seen in movies as hand pumped ones), and for political reasons, he died penniless.
Coincidentally, at the time of Drais' death, a young Carl Benz was living just two blocks away. [Was it coincidence, or was it murder? Conspiracy theory generated.]
Back in August of 1869, someone described as only "Mr. Klamroth"* made the first trip by bicycle from London to Edinburgh, which was so noteworthy at the time that it made it into the Washington papers.Nothing like it had ever been attempted before, the papers reported, with the nearest thing being a 3-day ride from London to Liverpool.
The 400 mile trip took him six days, with 65 hours in the saddle which made for an average speed of 7.5 mph. To power himself though the journey he ate half a dozen eggs and a pound of steak every morning for breakfast along with a pint of sherry. He continued to sip sherry along the journey.
*R.J. Klamroth according to David V. Herity's "Bicycle: The History" from which some of the details above come.