“Everything is Bicycle”: The Revolution of the Wheel in America
In the mid-1890s, the bicycle was at the height of its popularity. The incredible success of the bicycle inspired author Stephen Crane’s wonderful vignette, published nationwide through Samuel S. McClure’s newspaper syndication, on July 5, 1896. Titled “A Glittering Spectacle,” Crane’s piece describes the scene on the once-quiet Western Boulevard in New York City:
“The bicycle crowd has completely subjugated the street. The glittering wheels dominate it from end to end. The cafes and dining-rooms of the apartment hotels are occupied mainly by people in bicycle clothes. Even the bill-boards have surrendered. They advertise wheels and lamps and tires and patent saddles with all the flaming vehemence of circus art….There are innumerable repair shops. Everything is bicycle.”
This exhibition traces the ascent of the bicycle to its apex in the 1890s, with a focus on early development, boom-time advertisements, the adoption of the bicycle by women, pastimes associated with the bicycle, and finally the bicycle’s prominent role in Bloomington and at Indiana University, where bicycle culture has made the campus famous through film and remains strong today.
“Everything is Bicycle” will be on display in the Lilly Library Slocum Room through April.
Exhibition curated by Isabel Planton, Reference/Technical Associate