"What brings you here?"
According to the League of American Cyclists, May was designated National Bike Month in 1956 to showcase the many benefits of cycling and to celebrate the unique power of the bicycle. At the same time, Bike to Work Week was instituted to encourage an aerobic, car-free commute.
We’re celebrating National Bike Month in the library with a display of bicycle-related items from our collections, including a route book of Indiana produced by the League around 1900. At the time, cyclists were referred to as “wheelmen,” and the organization’s original name was the League of American Wheelmen. Back then, their primary motivation was to advocate for improved roads. The route book describes road conditions and places of interest on bicycle expeditions all over Indiana, some of which are hundreds of miles long.
Other items on display spotlight the bicycle craze of the 1890s, when so many bikes clogged the streets of Indianapolis that the City Council passed an ordinance requiring the purchase of a license to own and operate one. Our collection contains several catalogs from the myriad bicycle manufacturers that sprung up to supply the sudden demand. These items also document the progression of some of those companies into automobile builders.
Also in the library, you can still see a display of items explaining the importance of canning throughout the 20th century, a great supplement to the exhibit You Are There 1948: Communities Can!
Regardless of how you get here, plan a visit to the library soon. And remember, Bike to Work Week is May 16 through 20 this year!
|Matt Holdzkom is a collections assistant in Reference Services at IHS. He’s a circus history enthusiast, dog person, puppeteer, casual cyclist and karaoke nut.|