The Well-Dressed Wheelman

Jeptha Homer Wade II (1857-1926) - Clearly not dressed for bicycling

Jeptha Homer Wade II (1857-1926) – Clearly not dressed for bicycling

Short coat with cadet collar, and knickerbockers of dark green cheviot, maroon stockings, matched by the silk knee lacings of the trousers, and a dark green silk navy cap and gilt cord.–Uniform adopted by the Cleveland Bicycle Club, 1882.

"Handbook of the Cleveland Bicycle Club, 1882."  Photo courtesy of Western Reserve Historical Society

“Handbook of the Cleveland Bicycle Club, 1882.” Photo courtesy of Western Reserve Historical Society

The twenty-second League of American Wheelmen’s organization in America, the Cleveland Bicycle Club (CBC), was voted into existence on September 30, 1879 at a meeting of six Clevelanders in St. Malachi’s Hall.  Present at the founding were: T.B. Stevens, H.S. Stevens, C. Hoper, W. Leland, H. H. Higbee, and Alfred Ely, Jr.   The natty Jeptha Homer Wade II, known as “Homer,” was not present at that meeting but must have soon joined the group because the following year he was named President of the Club, a position he held for five years.

As Billy Crystal’s SNL character was wont to say “it is important to look marvelous.”  Clearly the chaps in the CBC were as keen on looking good as they were fond of riding the roads of Northeast Ohio and parts unknown.  The uniform described above was the third uniform change for a club that had only been in existence for four years.   The first uniform (October 1879) consisted of “…a short, seal-brown, corduroy coat and knickerbockers, with stockings and vizor polo cap to match.”   By  May 1881 fashions had changed again and the club voted to adopt “…a short, white flannel coat, with cadet collar, trousers buckling at the knee, blue stockings and helmet hat.”

With 23 active members in 1892, the CBC must have been quite a sight when off on one of their many jaunts.  Two favorite routes seem to have been the trip from  Painesville to Cleveland (30 miles), and from Elyria to Cleveland (28 miles).   Not content with costumes and cycles, the CBC had it’s own journal:  The Mercury.  Volume 1, No. 1 was published in April 1884. It includes descriptions of conditions along the two favorite routes, advertisements for bicycles, tricycles, cyclometers, shoes, bicycle hose, and casualty insurance!

Included in the “LITERARY” column is Frederick T. Sholes “A September Vacation,”  an account of his bicycling adventures in and around Boston.  And here, for your reading pleasure, in its entirety, is:

“The Bicycleby H.W. Bill

(written for The Mercury)

Never mode of locomotion

Raised such terrible commotion

As the nickel-plated steed

People call velocipede.

Fiery horses gaily prancing,

Nimbly, lightly-stepping, dancing,

Never can inspire a’ like

Equal to the festive “bike.”

He is light and swiftly running,

And his stop is very stunning;

He is gentle, and he’s kind,

But he will kick up behind.

Then his rider takes a spreader—

Called in vulgar terms “the header” –

And it fills him full of mirth

When he strikes Old Mother Earth.

Very quietly ‘tis spoken

Of some noses that were broken

As they flourished in the air

Bumping down in grim despair.

But the bright and shining “cycle”

Is, by no means, false and fickle,

And he, with the greatest dread,

Lands a rider on his head.

That he gives his friends a shaking,

Is the reason he’s so taking—

Gives them healthy exercise—

Treats them to a glad surprise.

Would you have a thing of beauty

Laden with a sense of duty—

You will make a splendid strike

When you mount the noble “bike.”

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