Dawn of A New Era In America
Before David Buick moved from affixing porcelain to cast iron bathroom fixtures, before Louis Chevrolet came to America in the employ of Fiat, and before Henry Ford’s tantrum that led to the founding of Cadillac, the bicycle was transforming American transportation. In 1890 the number of American bicycle manufactures numbered fewer than 30. Five years later there were more than 300 companies producing bicycles, including the Wright brothers of aviation fame, and they could not meet the ever growing demand.
Even though rural roads were little more than trails, and tires were woefully inadequate for off road travel, bicycle clubs were organizing outings, tours, and races that further fueled the explosive interest in bicycling. One club in Kalamazoo, Michigan began organizing regular tours to St. Louis, a trip that followed much of what would become Route 66 in 1926. In 1896 the League of America Wheelman, an organization that launched the Good Roads movement, estimated that more than 1,000,000 bicyclists were on the roads. This is all the more surprising when one considers that a bicycle at the time often costs $100 or more.
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