Posts Tagged With: cyclist

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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Five Black Women Cycle 250 miles in 1928.

 

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Photo: Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, 1928. Addison Scurlock, photographer. Photographcourtesy of the Smithsonian Institution. (

Have you heard about the five black women who biked from NYC to D.C. in 1928?  Don’t worry if you haven’t, I didn’t know about them either until I started doing some research.  

Last year I posted an article about scorchers click here to view that post. Within that post, I posted a picture of myself in my black Girls Do Bike cycling gear. I have been cycling as an adult for the past three years and I love every bit of it. From the freedom I get from riding long and short distances to the comradery among the other cyclist.  I truly enjoy it.  “You are one ride away from a good mood.” -Sarah Bentley. 

Anyway, I wanted to find more article and stories about black cyclist in the 19th and 20th centuries. So I went straight to google and came across a podcast episode of The Bicycle Story,  which featured Historian Marya McQuirter, she spoke about uncovering this story of the five women. After listening to the episode I went to newspapers.com to see what I could find about the ride. 

Easter Weekend, 1928 in New York City five ladies; Marylou Jackson, a student at Hunter College, Velva Jackson, a nurse at Gramercy Hospital,  Ethyl Miller, a public school teacher, Leolya Nelson director of Physical Education for the Y.W.C.A (Young Women’s Christian Association ) and Constance White a student at Sargent School of Physical Training (The New York Age 14 Apr 1928, Sat) embarked on a 250 mile bicycle journey to Washington D.C.  in three days.  According to The New York Age newspaper article from April, 14 1928 I found, the group left Manhattan at 6AM on Good Friday, April 6. The first day of their trip they rode 110 miles to Philadelphia and were able to stay at the Philadelphia branch of the Y.W.C.A. This first destination could have taken them anywhere from 10 to 16 hours depending on how many times they stopped and how long those stops were. Saturday, April 7, the ladies rode a much shorter distance to Wilmington, Delaware, that ride could have taken them anywhere from 2 to 5 hours again depending on frequency and duration of stops and location.(google mapped hours and distance) The shorter ride from Philly to Wilmington gave the women an opportunity to rest and recharge. Easter Sunday, April 8, the ladies rode about 10 or so hours give or take to Washington, D.C. (google mapped hours and distance).  According to the article the ladies reached D.C. about 9PM  and once the ladies arrived they visited sites like the White House, Potomac Park  and the campus of Howard University.  According to Historian Marya McQuirter, the women stayed the night at a Y.W.C.A in D.C. and took the train back from D.C. to New York with their bicycles. 

Marylou, Velva, Ethyl, Constance and Leolya were brave, they didn’t let their fears hold them back from going on a great adventure and doing something they enjoyed. According to the article the ladies challenged any women 21 years or older to take the same trip and do it in less time. 

I definitely feel inspired to go on a similar adventure 🤔

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The New York Age
New York, New York
14 Apr 1928, Sat  •  Page 6

 

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A Scorcher Bits the Dust

I know what scorcher means today but in the 1890s and early 1900s scorcher meant another thing when it came to bike riding.  At first I didn’t understand why this 1897 article of an African American female falling off her bike was considered newsworthy.  Then I decided to google scorcher and bicycles and I found out the term scorcher was used to describe a cyclist who rode fast and reckless through the streets and someone who put other riders, pedestrians and motorists at risk of crashing. I did some more digging and found an article of a cyclist who was involved in a bicycle chase with a police officer.  Scorchers were considered a big problem across the county, there are countless articles on newspapers.com about scorchers and how they were a menace to society (lol), some cyclists were even arrested.

 

Don’t worry I won’t be a scorcher.

 

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Me in my cycling gear

 

 

 

 

 

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Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor

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Did you know? Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor (1878 – 1932) “was an American cyclist who won the world one-mile track cycling championship in 1899 after setting numerous world records and overcoming racial discrimination. Taylor was the first African-American athlete to achieve the level of world champion and only the second black man to win a world championship-after Canadian boxer George Dixon”. For more information on Marshall Walter Taylor click here 

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