19th century League of American Wheelmen membership card

The League of American Wheelmen

Happy Fourth of July! Those words trigger thoughts of the flag, parades, cookouts, and recreation. For many Americans since the early 1890s recreation has included cycling. Did you know the Wright brothers were members of the League of American Wheelmen?

The League of American Wheelmen, a cycling club now called League of American Bicyclists, was a membership organization of recreational and racing cyclists founded in 1880. The League blazed a path for the cycling advocates of today by championing road improvements. They also defeated Ohio’s 1883 attempt to prohibit the use of bikes. By 1900 League membership was over 100,000 and even included such high society members as John D. Rockefeller and Diamond Jim Brady.

To promote cycling, League members would participate in parades and festivals, sometimes blaring horns and setting off fireworks to demonstrate their passion for the sport. The League also hosted several events in Dayton in the late 19th century. These included, in 1892, a July 4th and 5th gathering of thousands of cyclists! Many of those cyclists passed by the Wright brothers bicycle shop en route to a site popular with Dayton tourists, the Central National Soldiers Home. Dayton visitors were drawn to the beautiful grounds at the Soldiers Home, where disabled Civil War Veterans received care.

We’ll be cycling this weekend, but whatever you do to celebrate, keep safety in mind. Happy Fourth of July!




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