League of American Wheelmen collection comes to the Healey Library at UMass Boston


John Allen, part of the Board of Directors for the Charles River Wheelmen, unloads one of 200 boxes donated to University Archives and Special Collections on Tuesday. Photo credit: Colleen Locke/UMass Boston

On Tuesday, September 22, University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston received a large donation of material (approximately 200 boxes) from the League of American Wheelmen.

The League of American Wheelmen (now called the League of American Bicyclists) is a national bicycling organization founded in 1880 that played and continues to play an important role around issues of bicycle safety, design standards, promoting bicycling and the rights of bicyclists, and (early in the organization’s existence) advocating for paved roads before the presence of automobiles.

A number of individuals and organizations were involved in the acquisition of the LAW records, including the Charles River Wheelmen (CRW) and member John Allen; Cycling Through History, the Massachusetts African American Heritage Bike Network; and Lorenz Finison, the author of Boston’s Cycling Craze, 1880-1900: A Story of Race, Sport, and Society, which was published in 2014 by the University of Massachusetts Press.

Prior to the donation to the Archives at UMass Boston, Tom Helm, a League member and former board member, stored the collection in his Pennsylvania home for many years, after the League moved to smaller offices and could no longer accommodate the large collection. The transfer of this collection from Helm’s home to UMass Boston has been a real labor of love for those involved, and the financial commitments made by some to secure the safe arrival of these materials at UMass Boston is worth noting. For example, Cycling Through History received a grant from the CRW earlier this year that funded the transportation of these materials to UMass Boston.

The Healey Library at UMass Boston is fast becoming a national resource on bicycling history. We’ve taken in a total of eleven collections over the past few years that tell the stories of bicycling in Boston and around the country. Materials related to the League can be found among the department’s existing collections, as well – notably in the papers of Ralph Galen and Phyllis Harmon. Read more about these collections here.

The extensive records of the League will make a great addition to these existing collections and plans for an exhibition are in progress. We’re currently working with an intern, Sara Davis, a graduate students from Simmons School of Library and Information Science. The exhibit will be on display in 2016.

Keep visiting this site to stay informed about our work with these collections.

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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