feel good . do good . look good — cycling

A Historical Chic Cycling Treat

December 16th, 2009

I am lucky enough to have a brother-in-law who is a historian. He sent this wonderful gift for all of us. What amazes me while reading this is how very similar Ethel’s journal entries are to the entries and comments in modern chic cycling blogs. The more things change…!

Today I came across a journal of a chic cyclist from 1897, and wanted to share some of it with your blog. In her day a bike was referred to simply as “a wheel”. Attached are two scans from the journal as well.

Selected entries from the journal of Ethel Starr Mack of Benton County, Oregon, 1897:

portrait of Ethel Starr Mack, lady cyclist in Benton County Oregon 1897

April 8: I worked today on a wheeling suit which I am making of my old blue dress. I am making a sleeveless Eton jacket with a sailor collar trimmed in white braid. I think I shall like it quite well…. We have heard that our wheels came to Lebanon [Oregon] today, by stage.

April 12: Our wheels came today. Mine is a beauty! The prettiest wheel in town, so everyone says. It is dark green with dark red and black lacings. I can ride already. I learned in the College hall – after practicing half an hour I could ride across the Hall. After three-quarters of an hour I could go around the hall. After school tonight Effie Holt and I went up to the Hall with our wheels but so many were riding I could not try mine, so Herschel, Effie and I went down to the college track. Soon the whole crowd followed. There were nine wheels on the track! I rode around it several times but I did not have strength to ride more than once and a half around the baseball diamond without resting. Herschel looks the best of the boys on his wheel. They all said I learned remarkably fast. Herschel took supper with me and Ali, Wayne and George and Amy were there besides spectators. We had a nice time and I rode five miles and was not much tired. Herschel and I came back together and went to the spring for a drink.

April 20: I sewed some on my machine today and it works nicely. I am making a shirtwaist of my old blue chambray skirt to wear with my wheel suit….

April 21: Herschel took me down to the track and we rode together. I rode seven miles and at once I rode a mile and a half without stopping. Herschel and Gilbert went to Albany today and got them new wheel suits. Herschel looks so handsome in his. He has gray pants and a red sweater and stockings….His wheel cost him .50.

May 1: This being May Day I made a May basket of green and white crepe paper lined with pink, and filled it with flowers.

May 2: Mama told me to take my wheel and go to the track. I did so and Allie and I rode four miles without stopping.

May 7: Herschel came down and we started out for a ride. It was my first attempt to ride on the road. I wore my new wheel suit for the first time. We found the first mile too rough for riding but after that it was nice. Coming back we sat down under a tree to rest, and Herschel graded an examination paper. I was not much tired when I reached home and Herschel praised my riding. It was altogether the happiest ride I have taken.

a drawing from the journal of Ethel Starr Mack lady cyclist in Oregon 1897

As an aside, when I googled “Ethel Starr Mack” I was happy to see that she’s buried alongside her husband Herschel. Long live bike romances!

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