Redding, like many other cities, had a thriving bike culture in the late 19th and early 20th century. Prominent citizens such as Howard & Ernest Dobrowsky, Mabel Frisbie, Henry Clineschmidt, and others were avid cyclists. In 1896, one hundred or so Redding bicyclists organized a chapter club of the League of American Wheelman, an organization that survives today as the League of American Bicyclists. Redding even had its own bicycle race track near where city hall is today. Take a look at various clippings and transcriptions we’ve discovered about the history of bicycling in the North State and contemporary thought on its benefits below.
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BICYCLISTS MOCK LAW FOR BELLS AND LIGHTS Tin Pans and Candles Used to Herald Riders [Special Dispatch to The Call] REDDING, Sept. 2.— Boy and men cyclists are making a mockery of the new bicycle ordinance, which provides for. bells and use of lights at night. The boys and men are using tin pans and the’like for bells and carry candles and tiny lanterns at night. (from the September 3, 1909 edition of the San Francisco Call)
Mabel Frisbie with her bicycle, circa 1910. Photo courtesy of the Shasta Historical Society.
Redding Wheelmen Organize. REDDING, CAL., May 6.—The bicyclists of this city organized a local climb of wheelmen to-night, with a large membership. A track will be secured and periodical races held. In a few weeks the club will affiliate with the League of American Wheelmen. The new club will consist of about 100 members. (from The San Francisco Call, Thursday, May 7, 1896)
League of American Wheelmen membership card
GOOD TIME. Wheelman Upson Rides to Redding, 175 Miles, In One Day. L. S. Upson of this city left Davisville last Thursday morning at 3:30 a.m. and rode his bicycle to Redding, a distance of 175 miles, arriving there at 9:10 p.m. the same day. He was on the road seventeen hours and forty minutes, resting at various towns on the way four hours and fifteen minutes, leaving an actual riding time of thirteen hours and twenty-live minutes. His average mileage per hour was 13 1/4. In this connection it may be mentioned that the passenger train covers this distance In eleven hours. (from Sacramento Daily-Record, May 28, 1894)
Redding’s Wright Brothers regularly led rides from Redding to Palo Cedro. (Photo courtesy of the Shasta Historical Society.)
VOICE OF THE PRESS. Expressions of Interior California Newspapers. COUNTRY SIDEWALKS. Marysville Appeal: The Board of Supervisors of Butte County have passed an ordinance giving citizens power to establish walks for pedestrians and bicycle paths along any public road in the county that is one hundred feet in width, says the Chico “Enterprise.” The paths, when established, must not be over twenty feet wide, and it is left to the Road Commissioner of the district in which the path is to be established to designate where the path shall be built. When a path is established none but pedestrians and bicycles will be allowed to use it, and should anyone drive a team of any kind either along or across said path, the party is liable to a fine of from one to $25, or imprisonment from one to twenty-five days, or both fine and imprisonment. The ordinance is a good one, and was passed in response to a petition of a large number of the business men of Chico, who are anxious that a bicycle path be established on the west side of the Shasta road, along the esplanade. (from Sacramento Daily Record-Union, Thursday, June 11, 1896)
TEMPERANCE AND THE WHEEL. Alameda Telegram: The bicycle is now proudly posing as a promoter of temperance. It long since won recognition in business circles as the foe of horses, seriously damaged the carriage builders, cut into the earnings off street railways, diminished the box receipts of theaters, subtracted from the attendance of churches, and more recently forced itself as free baggage on all the railroads in New York and Ohio. Now it is winning distinction as the enemy of another branch of business, that of the saloon-keeper. And as the distiller and brewer stand behind the retail dealer in stimulants, their interests are also threatened. An exchange enthusiasticaily shouts the praises of the bicycle as an agency in the practical work of temperance. It places it far ahead the gold cure, but we do not see how they operate on the same line or on competing lines. The gold cure is for habitual drunkards, and they do not for obvious reasons greatly affect the wheel. Newspaper and magazine writers have already begun to comment on the habits of young men who are given to bicycling. Instead of wasting their idle hours in saloons or lounging about the boarding-houses, we are assured that the wheeimen have taken to the country roads, and that they “eschew intoxicants of all kinds.” (from Sacramento Daily Record-Union, Saturday, May 23, 1896)
GOOD THOUGHT. Ventura Independent: A prominent publisher recently said that if the bicycle maintained its popularity the next generation would not read so many books by fully 25 per cent, as the present. If the 25 per cent, could be made to include the trashy books in fancy covers, found on every newsstand, the next generation would be largely the gainer.(from the Sacramento Daily Record-Union, Wednesday, November 18, 1896)
A well-used bike corral directly in front of the Cascade Theater in 1941.
BRADY’S CASE A Witness Who Says the Bandit Boasted of His Crime MARYSVILLE, Nov. 11.—The trial o[f] Bandit Brady for the murder of Sheriff Bogard is proceeding rapidly. Today several witnesses positively identified Brady as the man seen previous to the robbery in company with the dead train robber. Both had bicycles. Samillus Silver, a saloon keeper of Redding, was the most important witnesses of the day. He said he met Brady last June on the road between Red Bluff and Sacramento. Brady was in a cart and they stopped and talked. The train robbery was discussed and Brady told how it was accomplished. He said the men who robbed the four trains near Sacramento were the same who robbed the train at Wheatland. Brady told of the advantage of the bicycle in the train robbery business, and said that the Lodi robbery netted the robbers $50,000. (from The Herald (Los Angeles), Tuesday, November 12, 1895)
Mr. and Mrs. J.L. Dutton of Santa Cruz arrived to-day in the course of a notable cycle tour from Monterey Bay to the Blue Jay mine and back. They are a young couple well known in the bicycle world. They left Santa Cruz a week ago and have come the whole way on their wheels. From Redding to here the trip is about as rough and tough a one as a wheelman could make, but Mr. and Mrs. Dutton are jolly, healthy and triumphant. Mr. Dutton packs the baggage on his wheel, but there is not much of it. After crossing the summit cf the Trinity Mountains on the county line there are five miles of very steep and winding road. They let heavy brushes drag behind, put on brakes and coasted the whole distance without accident. They started out just to make the trip and the Blue Jay their goal. Mr. Dutton has advice for any who may follow him on wheels. He used a 70-gear and his wife a 68. He advises bringing extra chains and using a 46 or 50 gear in the mountains. (from The San Francisco Call, Wednesday, August 25, 1897)
Long and Tedious Trip. There arrived in this city last evening Dr. Massie and L Owens, members of the San Francisco Bicycle Club, after a ride from the far-away mountain village of Sisson, Shasta county. They left that place on Tuesday last, and after traveling a short distance by rail took their wheels and made; a trip of 295 miles. They will depart this morning for San Francisco, by way of Stockton. They left San Francisco on the 14th, and have had a rough trip over the mountain roads. (from Sacramento Daily Record-Union, Saturday, May 25, 1889)
GIRL ON A BICYCLE ESCAPES ASSAILANT Scorches Along a Modoc County Road and Succeeds in Eluding Her Pursuer. REDDING, Oct. 4.— A story of a young schoolgirl’s wild ride on a bicycle to escape the clutches of an assailant reached Redding to-day from Modoc County. Elsie Greenlief, 13 years of age, pretty and of respected family, had been annoyed, for several days by the persistent attentions of a woodcutter named Jordan. On Tuesday the girl was going home from the district school In the neighborhood of Canby. Jordan had hidden behind a clump of bushes beside the road, and as the girl drew near he threw the limb of a tree In front of her wheel, hoping to throw her off. The attempt failed, but Miss Greenllef lost her balance and after going a short distance fell. Jordan gave chase, but just as he reached her the girl regained the saddle of her bicycle and sped home in safety, though nearly frantic from her scare. The neighbors are now looking for Jordan, and he will be severely dealt with if caught. (from The San Francisco Call, Sunday, October 5, 1902)
Admission Day Sport
Display ad soliciting membership in a bicycle club. (Daily Free Press, March 22, 1900)
Walter Nunamaker made the distance from Redding to Cottonwood on his bicycle last Sunday in two hours and a quarter. The back track was covered not so speedily. (from Republican Free Press, May 25, 1889.)
A Wheel Record
Display ad for Cleveland bicycles, Daily Free Press, April 11, 1900
A turn-of-the-century Cleveland bicycle.
Display ad for Barnes & Sterns bicycles, Daily Free Press, April 11, 1900
An 1896 Barnes White Flyer.
New Bicycle Speedway
The Morning Call (San Francisco), Sunday, September 10, 1893
New Jersey wheelmen are greatly chagrined at the ordinance passed by the Cranford Township authorities a night or two ago. The provisions of which have effectually destroyed the Elizabeth-Cranford ten-mile racing course, and likewise prevent the annual century run from passing over the township county road.
The ordinance prohibits bicycle riding by any person, whose entire body excepting only the arms, is not covered with clothing. It forbids the riding of bicycles at a speed over ten miles an hour, and stipulates that a lantern must be lighted on every moving wheel the Instant the sun passes below the horizon, to remain so until sunrise. The Elizabeth-Cranford ten-mile racing course was one of the finest in the country, the famous Union County roads here being smooth as billiard-tables. As clothes must be worn over the entire body, and as riding at a speed exceeding ten miles an hour is prohibited, the absurdity of trying to hold any further racing meets on this course is apparent.
Says the New York Advertiser: Taking bicyclists as we find them on their wheels, we should deem it passing strange if they do not as a body cheerfully comply with the new law of Cranford, N. J., which requires as a to wear clothing. It with new law of Cranford, N. J., which requires them to wear clothing. It has been painfully apparent for some time that the spindle-shanked wheelman is dominant; i.e. is the large majority of his party. And why he should wish to make a public spectacle of his attenuated limbs by driving his wheel before bare poles, so to speak, is one of the mysteries which the public has not yet been able to solve.
The Cranford ordinance, which compels him to hide his deformities from the sight of offended gods and men, is the best friend the emaciated bicyclist ever had, and be should clasp it as such to his concave bosom, along with whatever other covering its wise and humane provisions call for.
The San Francisco Call, Sunday, April 18, 1897
BICYCLES FOR THE INSANE.
The Wheel Recommended for Patients at Several State Asylums.
One of the most notable instances of the efficacy of the bicycle as a remedy for insanity, says the Chicago Chronicle, is found at the Michigan State Asylum for the Insane at Kalamazoo. The patients at this asylum take daily rides on the wheel and parties of from five to eight lunatics in charge of two attendants are likely to be met with on any of the country roads running out of the city. To the uninitiated it would seem odd, indeed, that the regulation country highway should be chosen for the wheeling parties in preference to the well-kept roads of the town.
There is a reason, however, and a very good one it is, too. The tougher the road the more necessary does it become for the lunatic cyclist to devote a great deal of attention to his machine. The result is that white riding In this way he has no opportunity to think of the peculiar mania which may afflict him, and his mind takes on a healthier tone, his thoughts are those of a man with an unclouded brain, and he become, for the time being, practically sane.
The Kalamazoo doctors say that they have never yet heard of a course of treatment which causes self-forgetfulness in a degree even approaching that produced by the use of the bicycle. Instead of moping in the asylum or taking forced exercise about the grounds the lunatics who are considered fit subjects for instruction on the wheel are taken every week from the Kalamazoo asylum on the wheels to Long Luke, ten miles distant, or to one of the chain of smaller lakes not so far from the asylum. A plentiful lunch is taken along, and the occasion becomes a veritable picnic.
Of course, on trips of this kind some tires are bound to be punctured, the gearing is sure to get out of order and more or less other mechanical difficulties encountered. The result of all this is that the lunatic has no time at all to become melancholy. The exercise, the fresh air, the unwonted cause for thoughtfulness on new subjects, all contribute toward wooing the return of reason.
The State Asylum for the Insane at Middletown, N.Y., is another institution that considers the bicycle a means to render help to the insane. The wheel has been used at this asylum for some months with the most gratifying results. It is found that it promotes docility among the patients, who enjoy the excursions, and invariably induces a far healthier condition of the mind. It also acts as an incentive toward good behavior on the part of others, who have not been permitted to ride, the change in their attitudes being brought about by the sight of the keen enjoyment which the lunatic riders seem to take in riding.
Dr. Selden H. Talcott, medical superintendent of this asylum, is an enthusiast regarding the wheel as a benefit to persons of unsound mind. “It is, in my estimation,” he said, “beyond question that the bicycle’ will eventually become a permanent institution in every insane asylum. There is no doubt whatever that the tendency of cycling by insane persons is toward the restoration of reason.
“Of course I do not mean to say that every crazy person should be permitted to ride a wheel. As a matter of fact, cycling should only be allowed among that class of patients in an asylum known as the convalescent, and others whose mania is not of a violent nature. I venture to predict that within five years there will not be found a medical man with knowledge of insanity and insane people who does not favor wheeling as a curative process.”
The San Francisco Call, Saturday, April 7, 1900
WHEELMEN ON THE ROAD.
Howard Dubrowsky is putting the horse track at Redding in shape for cycle racing, and will hold meets there shortly.