Posts Tagged ‘bicycle history’
Monday, April 18th, 2011
By David Herlihy, author of The Lost Cyclist and Bicycle: The History
My new book, The Lost Cyclist, germinated over a dozen years ago. A journalist approached me to find out what I knew about Frank Lenz, an American cyclist who disappeared in Turkey in 1894 while trying to complete a round-the-world journey on a new-fangled “safety” bicycle with inflatable tires. I was already known as a bicycle historian, thanks to my research on the early development of the bicycle. The inquirer, John Kelly, explained that he was writing a book about this forgotten pioneer while on leave from the Washington Post.
At that time, I didn’t have much to offer Kelly, but I made a point of gathering information on Lenz whenever I came across his name while reading late 19th century cycling literature. I also connected with a young man near Boston who had a scrapbook of unpublished photographs taken by Lenz during his world tour. After I completed my first book, Bicycle: The History, in 2004, I decided to write a book on Lenz myself, the Kelly book having never materialized.
I already had copies of Lenz’s articles from Outing magazine, his sponsor, but I wanted to supplement those with newspaper reports that might add details or revealing interviews. I found that newspapers frequently reported on Lenz’s visits. So I traced his first two summer high-wheel tours with Petticord, from Pittsburgh to St. Louis in 1890 and to New Orleans in 1891, and then the start of his world tour across North America in 1892. I used digital databases, and I emailed librarians with specific research requests. I also traveled to the key state libraries where I mined newspapers on microfilm. I did the same to track Allen & Sachtleben’s ride across the US, and employed similar tactics to document both parties’ foreign travels (William Sachtleben would eventually travel to Turkey in search of the lost Lenz).