Oregon's wheelmen : Oregon bicycle culture and advocacy during the golden age of the wheel (1885-1900)
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Bicycle culture and bicycle advocacy, as a social and environmental movement, are considerably dynamic forces in Oregon today; yet, to the astonishment of many Oregonians, the history of bicycling and bicycle culture in the state dates back to well over a 120 years. In the 1890’s, before the proliferation of the automobile and the subsequent development of related environmental, economic and social concerns, the bicycle enjoyed a brief golden age in Oregon as it did across the U.S. Although the bicycle’s Belle Epoch was most evident in the heavily urbanized cities and towns of the north eastern United States, the bicycle frenzy that swept the country in the late 19th century did not by any means pass unobserved by Oregonians. By the mid 1890’s a nascent yet considerably extensive bicycle culture had taken root in the state. Unsurprisingly, many of the characteristics and trends that had come to define this early bicycle culture in other parts of the U.S. were consciously and, in many cases, inevitably replicated in Oregon. As they had in more urbanized states, such as Massachusetts and New York, newly formed cycling clubs and wheelmen associations—overwhelming composed of well-to-do white males—became the driving forces behind Oregon’s early bicycle movement. Although these groups were fairly exclusive organizations, they came to define a cohesive bicycle culture and became the nearly forgotten symbols of a brief yet intriguing period in the state’s history.