What's new on this page? (01 Feb 2010)

Since getting ahold of the club scrapbook of the Bay City Wheelmen earlier this year (along with an original leather jersey patch), I've been engaged in research on the club, towards the end of putting together a history of this early (and quite influential) San Francisco bicycling organization. Eventually, I'm hoping to publish at least an article on the club, if not pull enough information together to perhaps even form a book out of it. I'm lucky in that the scrapbook covers the club's strongest years, in the mid/late 1890s, but while rich in photographs, it is sometimes quite poor in information, so one of the main objects of my research is to be able to identify people, places and events that aren't named in the scrapbook. It's a time-consuming task, covering 3 decades around the turn of the 20th century, but I'm enjoying it mightily - stories of cycling from that era are fantastic reading.

In the meantime, Im keeping a continuously updated summmary of the club's history on this page, as well as a quick overview of the scrapbook's contents, in case anyone is interested, and perhaps maybe, with a huge bit of luck, track down some of the club member's descendants. Who knows? Stranger things have happenned... Anyone who may have information to share concerning this club, or, for that matter, any early (pre-1918) cycling clubs Bay Area/Northern California/Pacific Coast/West of the Rockies or who were otherwise associated with/part of the California Associated Cycling Clubs, California Inter-club Road Racing Association or the Western and Pacific Coast divisions of the League of American Wheelmen with possible connections, is heartily encouraged to contact me!

In early September of 1884 (the 1st or the 4th, there are articles citing both dates), 13 San Francisco cyclists met at the residence of Edwin Mohrig, and formed what would become, in time, one of the most influential cycling clubs in the United States - the Bay City Wheelmen (BCW). Several, if not all, of the founders were former SF Bicycle Club members, which resulted in a rivalry and feud with that club (and the Olympic Club, which later absorbed the SFBC) that lasted well into the 1890s.

Shortly thereafter the popularity of cycling as a pastime and sport, and the interest of the population, made meetings at Mohrig's house (he was the club's first president) impractical, and a storefront at 108 Golden Gate Avenue was rented, where the California Division (later the Northern California Division) of the League of American Wheelmen (LAW) was organized, on February 18, 1886. In June of that same year, the BCW moved its headquarters to 202 McAllister street, the first in a series of moves over the next decade that would culminate in a move to 441 Golden Gate avenue in January of 1894, where the clubhouse was to remain until destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. The club, however, survived the 1906 earthquake, and moved out to 1501 Scott for several years before seemingly dissolving in 1911.

The club, sometime around 1893, built a bicycle track in Central Park (8th and Market streets), which was five laps to the mile, banked and of cement surface, at which more than a few race meets were held. The BCW's racing victories were many and formidable. Fred Russ Cook, the club's early racing man, for a time in 1885 held the American 24-hour record (207.5 miles) and the World 1/4 mile record (37 and 2/5 seconds), and was sent to Springfield at the expense of the club to race there. In April of 1895, the BCW team beat out the other cycling clubs of the Bay Area in the 2nd annual 100-mile relay around the lower half of the San Francisco Bay, and won this race several more times through its history. The Terrill brothers, Harry and William, raced throughout Europe in 1897, being the only American racers other than Zimmerman and Baker to meet with success there at that date. More than a few Pacific Coast and World's records on the track and road were held by BCW clubmen at one point or another - though it must be remembered that this was a time when world's records changed hands on an almost weekly basis. When visiting Eastern and foreign champions came to visit San Francisco, the BCW reputation had preceded it in the form of its travelling racing men, and their ranks were almost invariably bolstered with their memberships. The club's display case was well-stocked with trophies indeed.

The BCW was instrumental in the creation of both the California Inter-Club Road Racing Association (CIRRA) in 1888, and the California Associated Cycling Clubs (CACC) in 1892 (which may have been a transmutation of the CIRRA). The club also figured prominently in the Northern California Division's split from the LAW in May 1897 and the takeover at that point of racing sanctions by the CACC (largely due to issues dealing with Sunday racing, but also with concern for the undue influence of the Eastern membership of the LAW on Pacific racing issues, as well as the LAW's distaste for road racing). The CACC rapidly grew to encompass most of the Western states and parts of Canada, and quite probably was part of the impetus behind the formation of the National Cycling Association (NCA), which took over racing from the LAW sometime during 1898-99. In January of 1900, the racing interests of the CACC were given over to the NCA, making touring and the 4 annual road races (100-mile relay, 25-mile handicap, 20-mile team race and 10-mile handicap) the CACC's primary concerns.

The early 1900s brought along the invention of the motorcycle, and with it the dissolution of many a wheelman's organization, but the BCW have their role to play there as well, as George A. Wyman, a Bay City, became the first man to ride across the United States on a motorcycle, in 1903. Sometime around 1911, the BCW may have morphed into the Bay City Motorcycle Club, but I'm still looking for more info on this.

Here's what started me off down this bit of research - the BCW club scrapbook, covering the years 1894-1903. These aren't the greatest pictures, but they give you an idea of what it's like. many of these pictures are most likely never before published in any form, and provide an invaluable (however incomplete) look into the history of this club during it's strongest years.

I have recently acquired 5 original trophies won by the Bay Citys, including the Cleveland Relay Cup and the BCW-CCW 50-mile relay trophy (see lower right corner photo), both of which are pictured in the above scrapbook, along with other trophies won in the period 1902-1910.

Also, an original BCW patch - a Maltese cross in leather (to approximate old gold) with crimson embroidery, the club's insignia and colors. I was originally thinking this was a jersey patch, but I tend now to think it's likely some sort of armband.

Things I'm currently looking to buy, borrow, get scans/photocopies of, or otherwise gain access to:

Issues of Cycling West, The Bearings, Pacific Cyclist, The Referee, The Olympic Good Roads & Cyclist or any other period magazines that may have had articles referring to the BCW, CIRRA, CACC or other related cycling history.

Any issues of the League of American Wheelmen Bulletin with BCW members in the "New Members" section, or with BCW/CIRRA/CACC/related articles.

Information concerning the possible changeover of the BCW into the Bay City Motorcycle Club.

East Coast cycling magazines of the period with references to Fred Russ Cook's racing ventures in Springfield.

European cycling magazines of the period with references to the Terrill brothers' racing ventures on that continent.

Any surviving relatives of BCW (or other local area cycling clubs) members with information or ephemera.

Any leads as to local area museums or collections of any size that might be of use.

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