A bicycle race circa 1905 in Santa Clara, CA, gives an idea of what the races in Redding looked like.

Cycling History Scrapbook

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.

(click to enlarge)

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


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


Howard Dubrowsky is putting the horse track at Redding in shape for cycle racing, and will hold meets there shortly.


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