Monthly Archives: March 2021

Boyd Gray: Cycle From New York City to San Fransisco

One day while on newspapers.com. I decided to search for black cyclist during the late 1800s, early 1900s and I came across a story from 1894 about a cyclist named Boyd Gray. According to numerous newspaper articles, Boyd was in his early 20s and a resident of Yonkers, NY. He also worked as at the Getty House Hotel which was also located in Yonkers, NY. His father, who lived in Georgia, wrote Boyd and asked him if he could assist with payment their family farms mortgage. According to The Yonkers Herald dated August 13, 1894, “Gray did not have very much money, and night after night conjectured about a way to make money to save the farm. He at last hit upon an idea of riding through the country and earning money by blacking boots.” Boyd left New York City, The New York World Building (aka the Pulitzer Building) to be exact to cycle across the country to San Francisco on May 10, 1894. An article in the Democratic Chronicles Newspaper from June 23, 1894, described Boyd as “…a muscular young man, black as coal, and about five feet seven inches in height.”

Boyd arrived in San Francisco on October 17, 1894, and was able to raise the money to save his family farm. In addition to boot blacking he was also promoting for the bike company Derby according to The Rock Island Argus newspaper. “He not only carries a boot black’s box, but on the red sweater which he wears are the words “I ride a Derby.” So that between what money he makes at shinning shoes, he receives remuneration of the manufacturers of the “Derby” bike which he rides.” Most days Boyd rode anywhere between 60 miles to over 100 miles per day on his journey. In each place along his route he stopped he blacked the boots of the local towns people as well mayors, police chiefs and other notable people in those areas. He was well received in most places except in Chicago , where he was denied the opportunity to blacked the boots of Mayor John P. Hopkins according to an article in the El Paso Times dated April 13, 1895.

Below are some articles I found about Boyd’s trip but I haven’t found much else besides they articles about his epic adventure. I also haven’t found anything about Boyd Gray’s upbringing or life after his trip but, I did find a 1905 New York State Census for a man named Boyd Gray was living in Yonkers and working for a family as a butler. I’ll keep searching to see what else I can find out more about him and his journey.

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