Posts Tagged ‘Henry Ford’

Tom Cooper: Fastest man in Detroit

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Prior to the advent of auto racing in the early 1900s, bicycle racers were the fastest men alive. And from 1895 to 1900, no Detroiter was faster than Tom Cooper.

Cooper was born in Birmingham, but moved to Detroit with his family at age 18. He became a pharmacist by trade but eventually switched to bicycle racing.

Turning professional

Friend John Colquhoun told the Detroit Free Press about Cooper’s breakthrough race when he beat champion racer Eddie “Cannon” Bald in Battle Creek on July 22nd, 1895.

“Cooper was a low salaried drug clerk at the time, fair and ruddy faced. He had no racing wheel [i.e. bicycle] of his own — he couldn’t afford it.

“As they were lining up for the pistol, Cooper could scarcely keep his admiring eyes off the great Bald. Finally Bald took offense at the individual ovation and asked the ‘kid’ what he means.

“‘I was just thinking,’ Cooper replied, ‘how fortunate I would be if I could finish second to you, Mr. Bald.’

‘”Get t’ell out of my way,’ was all the satisfaction Cooper got, ‘or you’ll not finish at all.’”

That apparently inspired young Cooper who soundly beat Bald. Afterwards Cooper was approached with a sponsorship deal.

“‘How would you like to sign for the rest of the season at $50 a week?’

“‘For $50 a week!’ cried Cooper. ‘Come sign me for life.’”

The bidding began and he was eventually under contract earning $200 a week (~$5,500 a week in today’s dollars) while also getting paid $1,000 to use a sponsor’s saddle and $500 to use another’s chain.

After six years of professional cycling — and most likely being the highest paid athlete in Detroit sports — he’d saved $60,000 to $100,000.

Cooper was the pride of the Detroit Wheelmen cycling club.

He set world records in 1897, was the National Cycling Association (NCA) U.S. Champion in 1899, and spent the 1900 season racing in Europe.

After returning from Europe he agreed to a match race against Marshall “Major” Taylor, who was the League of American Wheelmen champion and world champion in 1899, and the NCA Champion in 1900.

Taylor wrote in his autobiography, “If there were two riders on earth that I wanted to meet in match races above all others, they were Eddie Bald and Tom Cooper.”

The race was held in front of a 10,000 spectators at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Taylor won the first two races to take the best of three. Cooper left humiliated.

He continued to race the U.S. circuit in 1901 but retired afterwards at the age of 25.

Interestingly enough, his last bike race may have been at Detroit’s first major automobile race on October 10th, 1901. He and Barney Oldfield raced a motorized tandem bicycle against the clock, which received “scarcely a ripple of applause” according to the Detroit Journal.

Henry Ford was in that first auto race. He had Tom Cooper ride with him during his warm up laps. The champion cyclist advised Ford on how to best race the track and handle his machine. Ford won the race.

Afterwards, Cooper headed to Colorado to manage a coal mine but he would be back the next summer itching to race once again — this time in automobiles.

Read more about Cooper’s return to Detroit and his partnerships with Henry Ford and Barney Oldfield

 

Bicycle history in the Henry Ford Collection

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

The Henry Ford has some key bicycle history. Perhaps the most well-known is the Wright Bicycle shop that Henry Ford worked with Orville Wright and relocated to Greenfield Village in 1937.

The museum also owns a considerable amount of other bicycle history, which they are digitizing. There are over 8,000 items in the collection now and 197 match the keyword “bicycle.”

Most of the bicycle items appear to be from other parts of the county. Still there are a few local favorites.

We especially love this “tweed ride” photo of Edison Illuminating Company employees in 1895.

In the 1890s, the safety bicycle became a way for many workers to travel to and from their jobs. This group of employees from the Edison Illuminating Company poses with their bikes for a photograph taken about 1895. The photographer was a fellow employee at the company and also owned a bicycle, Henry Ford.

Mr. Ford was better at building cars than framing his photograph.

Also among our favorites are these photos of Henry Ford with his bicycle in 1893 and famous Detroit bicycle racer Tommy Cooper in 1890-1891.

They also have the only known version of the ten-person Oriten bicycle by Orient. They also have a photo of it from 1899 on a street in Detroit .

Detroit biking articles all over the local media

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

A couple weeks ago we wrote about seven different biking articles that ran in the Detroit media.

Well here’s another nine!

Cycling for Health

Our friend and longtime Detroit cyclist Cassandra Spratling wrote this article in the Detroit Free Press. The Daley’s adoption of biking as transportation — and how they lost 210 pounds between them — is quite a story.

When Don and Darla Daley dine at restaurants near their Royal Oak home, they no longer drive their car.

It’s the same with quick trips to the store or nearby Royal Oak Farmers Market. They hop on the bicycles they bought two years ago — their favorite form of recreation and exercise.

“I never thought I’d love it as much as I do,” Darla Daley says. “Other bikers wave at you. It’s just fun.”

There are other health success stories included here as well.

Cycling for Green Jobs

The Free Press also ran this story on Vanita Mistry and her Detroit Greencycle company that provides curbside recycling.

Four days a week before heading out to her day job, Mistry straps an 8-foot trailer to her mountain bike and pedals for several hours through a number of Detroit neighborhoods, including Clark Park, the Eastern Market district and Corktown to pick up recyclables and compost from her regular customers.

She totes twelve 18-gallon bins on her trailer, with a capacity to carry up to 300 pounds. Mistry separates plastic, cardboard, paper, glass and aluminum. She also collects composting material.

“I find that I’m driven more by public service and giving back,” Mistry said. “What motivates me is knowing I’m making a difference in the work I’m doing, and I’ve found that Greencycle is one of many ways I strive to make a difference in my community.”

Next, the Huffington Post continues their series on Detroit biking with an interesting look at the city’s bike messenger history.

CBS Detroit also joined in with this article on Shane O’Keefe’s Hot Spokes food delivery company.

O’Keefe said it’s sometimes a challenge to balance several meals inside his thermal bike box and his hands, but he does it. O’Keefe said they’ll deliver in any weather — even deep snow.

The last time they could not make a delivery was more than two winters ago during a major snow storm.

O’Keefe said he does not own a car and he’s glad he doesn’t have to pay for gas while trying to run a delivery business.

Critical Mass

Again, the Huffington Post published this article, Detroit Critical Mass Helps Area Cyclists Find Common Ground On City Streets. It accurately paints a mixed view on how successful this ride is. Interestingly, the critics aren’t motorists, but other Detroit cyclists. We’ve heard from critics of this popular ride as well: it’s too fast, too long, too organized, and it caters too much to suburban cyclists who drive to the city for the ride.

Ironically enough, the Detroit Critical Mass ride was moved to this location in part because of its free car parking. The bike lanes being installed this year eliminate much of that free parking. Will Critical Mass move again because of the bike lanes?

A View from Below

The Lakewood Observer from the Cleveland-area published, The Detroit Comparison: Sam Willsey’s Recent Cycling Experience. It’s an interesting article that gives the impression that Detroit is ahead of Cleveland in terms of adding bike lanes and trails. We’re not sure how both cities compare, but it seems we have much lower traffic on our streets.

The article does get a couple things wrong. We do have a bike advocacy group — the Detroit Greenways Coalition. And, the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance is not proposing or significantly funding these projects. Non-profits and the City are the ones proposing, while funding comes from a variety of state, local, and philanthropic sources.

A Bicycle Lending Library

Stories about Fender Bender’s plan for a community-based bike share program were published in both Mode Shift and the Huffington Post.

From Mode Shift:

Like any bike sharing program, The Bicycle Lending Library will rent bikes out from one to four days with the single-day rental being the most “expensive” and adding days will make the rental cheaper. [Sarah] Sidelko says the program is going to be very affordable, but does not have the specific dollar amounts worked out yet.

In addition to renting a bicycle, the Library will also lend out a helmet, a bike light and lock and a map of Detroit, which will have an emphasis on bike lanes and greenways, and will have other prominent destinations peppered in.

Detroit Cycling History

The Huffington Post rounded out their bike series by touching on the city’s rich cycling history. The article is primarily an interview with the Hub‘s Jack Van Dyke.

And on a related note, the web site Roads were not Built for Cars ran this story on Henry Ford and his connection to cycling back in the day. The web site’s author Carlton Reid was recently in Detroit. We had the opportunity to give him a bike tour that connected our cycling history. During our ride he asked, “Are we downtown?”. Yes we were. It was midday on a Friday and the streets were ours. There was very little traffic. He was rather impressed and said, “This is the cycling city of the future.”

The Ordinary bike

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

The Henry Ford blog has a new post which gives a basic but brief early history of bicycles.

“Hurry out to Greenfield Village — the summer season with all its old-fashioned games on the green, period-clothed strollers and ordinary bicyclists ends this Sunday, August 22!”

It’s too late to see the bikes firsthand, but you can see them in this video.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DURjFwgNfvQ

If you do get a chance to visit Greenfield Village, don’t forget to see the Wilbur and Orville’s Wright Cycle Company building, which Henry Ford bought and moved to Dearborn in 1937.

Detroit bikes to work

Monday, May 17th, 2010

There are three bike-to-work rides scheduled for this Friday in Detroit

  • Woodward Ave ride (Royal Oak/Ferndale/Midtown) to Campus Martius
  • Jefferson (Grosse Pointe/East Side/Rivertown) to Campus Martius
  • Michigan Ave ride (Dearborn/Mexicantown) to Campus Martius

All of the ride information, including the stops along each route, are included on the Detroit Synergy web site.

Information on volunteering for this event is also on the web site.

There’s are also bike-to-work events scheduled across Michigan. The Michigan Municipal League’s Let’s Save Michigan site has a good listing of those rides. You can also sign their pledge, though it’s unclear just what that does for you.

And, this Saturday is a Henry Ford bike to work day. As you may know, Ford was an active cyclist. In fact, he was the first bicyclist in Detroit to Share the Road with a motorist — Charles B. King. He often rode his bike to work as his house in the Boston-Edison neighborhood was conveniently located near both his Highland Park and Piquette factories.

This Saturday ride — as the flyer wisely notes was a work day back then — starts from Ford’s house and ends at the Piquette plant where the Model T was invented.