World Bicycle Day 2020: A reflection on bicycling history, community archives, and the COVID-19 pandemic through a historical scrapbook

Drawing of a man on a high-wheeler bicycle under a heading that reads Hub Cycle and Radio Co. 45th Anniversary 1897-1942

The title page of the Hub Cycle and Radio Company 4th Anniversary scrapbook, published in Boston in 1942.

Author: Shay Park, Archives Assistant

June 3 was World Bicycle Day! In preparation to write this post, I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on the Friends of the Bicycling History Collections’ quarterly meeting in May 2020. While officially it was to do a little recon for this post, it was a delight to witness some of the “behind the scenes” of their unique archiving project. University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) at UMass Boston holds a substantial amount of information for bicycling research and aspires to expand upon these collections and to become a national resource on bicycling history. This work is done with the invaluable guidance of the Friends of the Bicycling History Collections, who advise UMass Boston archivists on collecting activities and generate ideas and plans for outreach, fundraising, and other community-engaged activities related to the Bicycling History Collections.

Black and white photograph of woman on bicycle under a heading that reads 1942 Wartime Model

A photo of the 1942 Victory bicycle, a special model of bicycle made during World War II, designed to use as few materials as possible.

Though I have worked at UASC for a year, our Bicycling History Collections consistently surprise me with their breadth and depth—across time and space, representing a wide variety of materials and covering a expansive range of topics and individuals. The collections hold artifacts such as pins and patches, as well as paper documents such as the records of the Bicycle Exchange, a beloved bicycle shop that operated in Harvard Square for over sixty years, the records of the Committee for Safe Bicycling, a citizen-run organization that existed from 1957 to 1974, and the papers of Cathy Buckley, a Central Transportation Planning Staff employee who assisted with the planning, design, and construction of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway.

Newspaper article that includes a number of black and white photographs of people on different kinds of bicycles.

This clipping of an article from 1939 commemorates one hundred years since the first pedal bicycle was built by Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillian.

It was wonderful to attend the Friends’ meeting and hear about their continued efforts to archive bicycling history locally, regionally, and nationally, even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. They discussed their most recent attempts to solicit new materials and brainstormed new avenues to explore. The meeting was the first one they held over Zoom, and the consensus, to my surprise, was that everyone enjoyed (and some even preferred) the remote format. They were particularly excited by the prospect of inviting bicycling history experts from outside of Boston to attend the next meeting—something actually feasible with an online meeting platform. It was both comforting and inspiring to know they are committed to their project even under the most uncertain circumstances.

Features different black and white drawings of people on tandem bicycles under the heading When Men Wore Handlebar Mustaches and Bicycles were Built for Two.

This page features images of tandem bicycles, with a reference to the chorus of the 1892 popular song “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)”: “It won’t be a stylish marriage / I can’t afford the carriage / But you look sweet upon the seat / On a bicycle built for two.”

I’d like this blog post to function in a few different ways: as a celebration of World Bicycle Day; as a spotlight for our digital holdings, which feels particularly important during a time when archives are remote-only; and as a way not just to spread the word about our Bicycling History Collections, but to acknowledge the Friends who make them possible.

This post features selected digitized pages from the Hub Cycle and Radio Co. 45th Anniversary scrapbook, donated to UASC by Lorenz “Larry” Finison on behalf of William Herve Vandal. The scrapbook was published in 1942 by the now defunct Hub Cycle and Radio Company to mark the occasion of the company’s forty-fifth year. More than a commemoration of the Hub Cycle Company however, it is an ode to bicycling itself. In the foreword to the scrapbook, the author hails the bicycle as “fundamental”: 

Six different black and white photographs of people on bicycles under the heading Bicycle Vacation Touring on Our Main Highways!

Photos of bicycle tours on America’s early highways, circa 1940.

In this year, 1942, when Wartime models in bicycles are the pronouncement of the government, when gasoline and tire rationing are the orders of the day, the bicycle has come into prominence. … The Hub Cycle Company’s almost five decades of association with the bicycle is illustrated by the pictures and notes we have saved. They are the reflection of experience and evidence of a business that means much to you… that means much to us at Hub Cycle, who have lived a lifetime with the bicycle.

Two black and white photographs of women and children on bicycles.

Photos of women and children on bicycles from American Bicyclist, a magazine published by the League of American Bicyclists since 1880. The League’s records (SC-0200) are held in University Archives and Special Collections.

The bulk of the scrapbook contains clippings of articles and photographs that document the cultural impact of bicycles in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Some are quite strange or amusing in 2020—such as the page that reminiscences about a time “when men wore handlebar mustaches and bicycles were built for two” (a reference to the song “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)”) or the photos of the “Beauty and Bikes on Atlantic City Boardwalk.” Some, while temporally distant, take on a new relevance during a time of quarantine and closure; most allude to, explicitly or implicitly, to the shortages and rations during World War II that led to the bicycle’s prominence—a reminder of other times Americans have been called to sacrifice any comfort or convenience for the greater good. I also look at photos like those of the cycling tours, when highways were dominated by bicycles rather than cars, and marvel at how often, how greatly, and how inevitably our world changes, again and again, even the parts that seem immutable.

Four black and white photographs of people right bicycles under the heading Cycling in Hollywood.

Photos circa 1935 featuring famous actors of the day on bicycles, such as Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Clark Gable, and Mickey Rooney.

Special thanks to Andrew Elder, Interim University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections, and Larry Finison, author, historian, and member of the Friends of the Bicycling History Collections. If you’d like to view more of the Bicycling History Collections or learn how to submit materials, check out the links below. 

Black and White photograph of women on bicycles under the heading Patriotic Gas Savers.

This photograph promotes the bicycle as a patriotic, prudent, and “healthful” alternative to the automobile, during a time when gasoline and tire shortages restricted Americans’ transportation options. According to the caption, cycling also had the added “essential” benefit of keeping women’s figures “trim.”

One black and white photograph of two women next to a "Bone Shaker" bicycle and one black and white photograph of a man on a "Lamp Lighter" bicycle.

These photos show two early models of bicycles. The bone shaker, popular in the 1860s in France, was named for the uncomfortable, bumpy ride. The lamp lighter, or tall bike, was used in the 1890s to make lighting gas lamps faster and easier. Its seat was so tall that it usually required a ladder to mount it.

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Activism, artwork, nineteenth-century Roxbury schools, and Tour de Trump—Oh my!

Picture of the Town of Roxbury, MA school register dated 1846-1848

Town of Roxbury, Mass., school register, 1846-1848

University Archives & Special Collections (UASC) in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that six collections of previously unavailable archival material are now open for research. This is the third in a series of posts to announce newly available collections, toward the goal of making all of UASC’s collections, both processed and unprocessed, open for research.

Collections that have not been processed, or that are minimally processed, will be made available upon request to researchers in approximately two to three weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the collection. Contact library.archives@umb.edu for more information.

To learn more about the collections that were made available this week, click the collection title in the list below.

  • Town of Roxbury school register, 1846-1848: This register documents the activities of the primary school in the Town of Roxbury. The register was a result of the Statute of 1845 Chap. 157, enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives. The registers, intended to last five years, were provided to the school committees by the Secretary of State. The object of the register was to furnish the school committee with facts from which they could make their annual returns. The register also served to exhibit the condition of the school for a series of years, allowing for self-comparison and improvement. The register contains names of the members of the school committee, names of teachers and the value of their board per month, names of parents and guardians, names of students, students’ ages, the dates the students entered and left the school, a record of daily attendance, and a list of books prescribed by the school committee.
  • Paul Atwood activist flyers and publications collection, circa 1968-1971: This collection includes flyers, pamphlets, and activist newspapers. Some of the significant topics represented in this collection include counter culture in Boston, the antiwar movement, the Vietnam War, United States politics of 1968, activism, the expansion of Harvard’s campus, Cambridge rent control, the Black Panthers, racism, and feminism.
  • Activist Pamphlets collection, 1960-1979: This collection contains activist pamphlets, newspapers, and reports published locally, across the United States, and internationally. Some of the topics addressed in the collection include politics, labor, feminism, racism, war, and issues in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East during 1960-1979.
  • Resource file survey cards, circa 1981: These survey cards may have been created as a project after the University Archives and Special Collections department was established at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 1981. The cards contain descriptive data of various local activists and community and benevolent organizations and their records.
  • Cover of Tour de Trump magazine. Large photo of cyclist wearing helmet and goggles, small inset photo of Donald Trump with a different cyclist

    Tour de Trump magazine, 1990

    Tour de Trump ephemera, 1990: The Tour de Trump was a sporting event designed to showcase cycling’s elite and was intended to be America’s version of the Tour de France. The event was originally sponsored by Donald Trump’s Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and was known as the Tour de Trump in 1989 and 1990. Materials consist of a map guide of the race and the Tour de Trump official 1990 race magazine.

  • Roy Medeiros artwork, circa 1982-1984: The materials in this collection consist of five art pieces created out of spiral-bound notebooks by Roy Medeiros. The titles of the pieces are “Poker,” “Variations in Advertising,” “Self Portrait,” “American Flag Book,” and “Proud to be an American”.

For questions about these collections or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.


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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Cathy Buckley papers and the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway publications: Explore the history of bicycling in these newly-processed collections

"On The Path," Minuteman Bikeway 4th grade class project

“On The Path” by Mr. Levy’s 4th grade class, 1993-1994

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that a number of our collections related to the history of bicycling have been processed and are now available for research. This is the fifth of several planned posts on Open Archives News that will highlight some of the recently-processed collections in University Archives & Special Collections related to the history of bicycling.

Minuteman Commuter Bikeway publications, 1993-1994

This collection contains the signed first edition copy of the booklet On the Path, published by Mr. Levy’s fourth-grade class at the Bowman Elementary School in Lexington, Massachusetts, as well as the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway brochure guide from 1993. View the finding aid for this collection here.

Arlington, Massachusetts celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway in September 2017 by placing art along the bike path and conducting lectures and presentations. Learn more about these events here.

Cathy Buckley papers, 1973-2007

Cathy Buckley worked for the Central Transportation Planning Staff in Boston, Massachusetts and was one of the founders of the Boston Area Bicycle Coalition (now the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition) in 1977. This collection mostly contains correspondence, but also includes notes, proposals, clippings, studies, reports, brochures, and maps. This collection contains documents primarily related to Cathy Buckley’s bicycling work as part of the Central Transportation Planning Staff including planning, design, and construction of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway. View the finding aid for this collection here.


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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Bicycling publications in University Archives & Special Collections

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that a number of our collections related to the history of bicycling have been processed and are now available for research. This is the fourth of several planned posts on Open Archives News that will highlight some of the recently-processed collections in University Archives & Special Collections related to the history of bicycling.

The Bicycle Network: Network News

The Bicycle Network: Network News

Bicycle Network: Network News publication, 1981-1999

Network News was the clipping service of the Bicycle Network that was started in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by John Dowlin. The clippings were presented as a bound publication that included articles from around the world pertaining to bicycling. Network News was published on a quarterly basis from 1980 to 1999. The collection spans 1.5 linear feet. View the finding aid for this collection here.

Hub Cycle and Radio Company 45th Anniversary publication, 1942

Hub Cycle and Radio Company 45th Anniversary Scrapbook, 1897-1942, published in Boston, Massachusetts, is a rare booklet describing the history of bicycling. View the finding aid for this collection here.

Hub Cycle and Radio Co. 45th Anniversary, 1897-1942 scrapbook

Hub Cycle and Radio Co. 45th Anniversary scrapbook, 1897-1942

The publications mentioned in this article are just two of the many publications in University Archives and Special Collections related to the history of bicycling, from the League of American Wheelmen Bulletin to Bicycle USA  to Pedal for Power. Keep reading Open Archives News for updates about when additional collections and publications are processed and available to researchers. Read more about the various bicycling-related collections in University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston here, and learn more about researching the history of bicycling here.

For questions about these collections or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.


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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American Youth Hostel records: Explore the history of bicycling in this newly-processed collection

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that a number of our collections related to the history of bicycling have been processed and are now available for research. This is the third of several planned posts on Open Archives News that will highlight recently-processed collections in University Archives & Special Collections related to the history of bicycling.

American Youth Hostels, photograph of bicycling tour, circa 1950-1959. Pictured are a group of cyclists on a tour coordinated by the American Youth Hostels.

American Youth Hostel records, 1874-2012, bulk 1936-2007

The idea of the youth hostel was conceived in 1909 by Richard Shirrmann, an elementary school teacher living in the industrial center of Germany, who wanted to introduce youth to the countryside (1). Shirrmann’s idea caught on and by 1932, Germany had more than 2,000 youth hostels recording more than 4.5 million overnights annually. In the meantime, the movement spread throughout Europe as another 600 hostels opened (2).

That same year, the first international meeting for hosteling associations was held in Amsterdam to develop common standards, and the International Youth Hostel Federation was formed. Isabel and Monroe Smith, American school teachers and scout leaders, attended the second international meeting in 1933 (1).

In 1934, the Smiths established the first American Youth Hostel (AYH) in Northfield, Massachusetts. A chain of hostels was subsequently set up in Vermont and New Hampshire in the summer of 1935. These early hostels were located on farms, with support from a local committee (2).

American Youth Hostels photograph of Dr. Dudley White with a group of cyclists, circa 1950-1959

It didn’t take long for the youth hostel movement and its mission to spread. By May 8, 1947, the proposed by-laws from Article II of the Greater Boston Council of the American Youth Hostel stated: “the purpose of the Council shall be to help all, but especially young people, to a greater knowledge, use and love of the countryside, and to make available to them the cultural and educational benefits of travel, both here and abroad, particularly by establishing, maintaining and inspecting youth hostels within the Greater Boston area and assisting in their establishment in the surrounding areas; by arranging hiking, cycling, skiing and other trips or activities, and training trip leaders; and by providing an information service; to maintain a Council office and staff; to endeavor to promote within the Greater Boston area the development and greater service of youth hostels generally” (3).

The AYH incorporated bicycling as part of their programming during the Great Depression, appealing to the AYH mission to promote travel, health, and the enjoyment of the outdoors (4). AYH cycling tours in length and included day trips and overnight trips exploring the countryside, neighboring communities, various states, and Canada.

By the post-war period, the bicycling world often merged with the AYH. During the 1950s, future founder of the Charles River Wheelmen, Fred Chaffee, led popular cycle and nature tours at AYH (4). In 1964, AYH joined the bicycle industry to kick off “American Bike Month” in response to the increase in pollution (4). John Leek, who worked from 1975-1978 at the Bicycle Repair Collection in Cambridge, and hosted the first office of Bikes Not Bombs, led many AYH bicycle tours (4). During the mid- to late-1980s, the AYH joined the Boston Area Bicycling Coalition and the Charles River Wheelmen to host numerous Grape Nuts Bike Festivals in Boston (4).

American Youth Hostels newsletter, 1941 May 8

The American Youth Hostel records consist of board agenda, minutes, reports, charters, contracts, notes, newsletters, correspondence, by-laws, flyers, clippings, maps, photographs, scrapbooks, CDs, and one VHS tape. A listing of American Youth Hostel clubs established between 1965 and 1967 resides in folder 19 of Series I. A short history on hostels entitled “Highroad to Adventure – The Hostel Way: A slide show by the Greater Boston Council American Youth Hostels, by Stephen Sloss, 1977” can be found in Series VI. Scrapbooks.

View the finding aid for this collection here.

Read more about the various bicycling-related collections in University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston here, and learn more about researching the history of bicycling here. To learn more about the AYH’s involvement in and the cultural history of bicycling keep an eye out for the anticipated 2018 publication of Boston’s 20th Century Bicycling Renaissance: Cultural Change on Two Wheels by Lorenz J. Finison.

For questions about these collections or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.

SOURCES OF INFORMATION

  1. “Hostelling International USA: History of Hostelling.” HI USA. 2014. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.
  2. Series I. Organizational Records, 1945-2011, folder 17. Leader’s Manuel Part 1 revised, January 1991.
  3. Series I. Organizational Records, 1945-2011, folder 1. Secretary’s reports [minutes], 1945- 1950.
  4. Finison, Lorenz J. Boston’s 20th Century Bicycling Renaissance: Cultural Change on Two WheelsAnticipated publication 2018.

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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