Detroit museums and bike history

John Dodge's fixie cruiser from 1898

Detroit has some amazing bicycling history. Those early cyclists led the Good Roads movement, founded MDOT, and were instrumental in creating the automotive industry and motorspots.

We’re fortunate that we have the opportunity to see some of this history up close.

Detroit Historic Museum

We’ve mentioned in the past how the Museum has a replica of the famous Huber and Metzger Bicycle Shop in the basement.

But, there’s more bike history in their collection according to their curator:

We try to get everything out from time to time. We have the medals and Wheelman trophy in our Velocity exhibit now through August. There also is a 1899 F.J. Martz & Co., Detroit-made bicycle in the exhibit. I had hoped to use the Whipple, but not enough room – the perennial problem.

Some of the medals and trophy were won by Ernest Moross. Moross raced on the velodrome, was a “longtime associate of the first American auto racing superstar, Barney Oldfield… [and] obtained distinction as the first Contest Director for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway“.

The “Whipple” being referred to is a “watercolor promoting the League of American Wheelmen. Shows a woman cycle riders on good road contrasted with wagon on poor road.” It was painted by Detroit artist Seth Whipple (1855-1901), who is perhaps more famous for his maritime paintings.

But perhaps what we’d like to see most is their Evans and Dodge Bicycle. It was John Dodge’s bike from when his company built it in 1898 until 1905. It’s an aluminum frame fixie with some chrome/nickel plated parts, and black wheels with a “large gold stripe around the center.” It looks like he pushed a big gear too. Unfortunately it’s not currently on display.

The Henry Ford

The League of American Bicyclists sent the following request out to its members:

Today we had an interesting request that we thought that you all would be able to help answer. The Henry Ford museum is researching images for a new exhibit on the automobile in American life for the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich. Part of their story describes alternative choices to the automobile, past and present. They are looking for a portrait of Horatio Earle, who was instrumental in the early League of American Wheelmen, as well as a force in the Good Roads Movement in the early 20th century. If you have one the archive could use, they prefer a 300 dpi tiff digital file. Please e-mail Brynn Raupagh at

We contacted Brynn about contributing. He said he was “buried with responses!” and got a photo from MDOT — which Horatio Earle founded.

We’re looking forward to seeing this new exhibit.

And if you decide to go, don’t forgot to visit Orville and Wilbur’s original Wright Cycle Shop just next door in Greenfield Village. Henry Ford moved their bike shop from Dayton to Greenfield Village in 1937.

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