Louisville Cycle Clubs
Reprinted from The Courier-Journal, Sunday, August 9, 1896, Section 3, page 4
Louisville is not a bicycle club city. Theoretically, the 10,000 riders here should be a power, and with organization they would be. But they do not organize, and there is to-day only one club that can boast of a home of its own, and it has a driving as well as cycling membership. This is the Iroquois Cycling and Driving Club. Of course there are other clubs--a dozen of them--but theirs is a sort of hand-to-mouth existence: they flourish for a few months, then die almost as suddenly as they sprang into life. Occasionally, as in the mayoralty race four years ago, the wheelmen will organize and do effective work, but this is spasmodic only.
The first club of wheelmen organized in this city was the Louisville Bicycle Club. This was in 1880, when riders were few. The club had no headquarters, but met around at the homes of the members. Runs were then the thing, and every member turned out for the spin when the “bugler” blew his horn. Ferd La Mott was the President and Aaron Cornwall Secretary. A year later the Falls City Bicycle Club was organized with Orville Anderson as President and A. S. Deitzman Secretary. This claimed to be the aristocratic club, its membership embracing some of the best-known young men in Louisville. There did not at that time appear to be room for two clubs, and in a short time a movement looking toward consolidation was on foot.
Everything went well until the question of a name came up, and this proved to be an insurmountable barrier. Kentucky Bicycle Club was finally decided on, and the name was about to be adopted, when some of the Falls City members left the meeting shouting their warcry. The name “Kentucky” was adopted, the disgruntled Falls Citys continuing the old organization. Club-rooms were secured, the Kentuckians locating in the Muldoon building, on Green, near Fourth, and the Falls Citys taking rooms at Center and Green. War was declared between the two clubs, and it continued until all their ammunition was spent and they gave up the struggle and died together.
For a year or two club interest was dormant. Then, in August, 1888, the Louisville Cycle Club was organized, and its career has been one of ups and downs. After meeting around once or twice a month at the homes of members for nearly a year, the building, 716 Secont street, was secured as headquarters, and a period of prosperity set in. Sunday runs were a feature, and hardly a week passed that there was not a big crowd to follow that greatest of wheel enthusiasts, Capt. A.J. Lamb, to Mt. Washington, Shelbyville, Bardstown, Frankfort, or some other distant point. This, too, was the day of the old ordinary, when the treacherous rut or the unseen rock brought the unexpected header. But riders then were, it seems on retrospection, more loyal than the wheelmen of to-day, and they pushed their cumbersome and weighty machines over many a rough road that would appal the dainty pedaler of the feather-weights of 1896.
For two years all went well with the Louisville Cycle Club, and then came breakers. Factions were formed, and at last, in January, 1890, the split came. Eight members, headed by Mr. Oath Woodruff and Will Castle, withdrew and formed the Independent Cyclers. Rooms were fitted up gorgeously at Third and Main, and many a rider of to-day can remember an evening spent hilariously with the boys on this corner. The Independents were organized more for fun and frolic than for cycling, and they had it. In 1891 the Independents moved their headquarters to the Macauley building, Walnut, near Fourth. The membership grew to hundred but the material was not stable and the apparent prosperity was to a great extent artificial. Will Castle was the moving spirit in the club, and he devoted time and spent money trying to make it successful. In 1893 the crash came and the Independents went the way of all clubs.
Meanwhile the Louisville Cycle Club prospered. It was now five years old, and under the leadership of Dr. H. B. Tileston, who had been elected President from year to year, it obtained a reputation for conservatism and stability that was deserved. The membership ran up to over a hundred, and social features were introduced into the club-house. There were dances and euchre parties almost every week. Visitors were entertained and meetings of public interest were held. Pool and billiard tables and a well-appointed gymnasium were added to the club.
But as the social features became prominent, the cycling features lost its hold. It became impossible to get a dozen men out on the club run, and the time came when the Captain was glad to get a single companion for the weekly spin. Wheeling members dropped out, and the roll was gradually reduced until running expenses were more than receipts. Smaller quarters were secured, but the membership did not increase. At last the club decided to sell its furniture, and the fittings that cost over $2,000 were almost given away. The club-house was abandoned. The charter members of the club, however, determined to maintain an organization, and this they are now doing, although meetings are infrequent and runs are never called. The present officers of the club are as follows: President, R. F. Pelouze; Vice President, Charles Jenkins; Secretary, Curtis Scott. There are twenty-eight members on the roll, and they are all League members. The few meetings that are held are called for Fontaine Ferry Park, and the members who attend enjoy a good supper and recount experiences of the past. So far as can be ascertained, the bicycle clubs in Louisville to-day are as follows:
- Louisville ’96 Meet Club -- W. W. Watt, President. Permanent headquarters, Room 1 Board of Trade building.
- Iroquois Cycling and Driving Club -- A. H. Robinson, President. Club-house, three miles out Third-street boulevard.
- Wheelmen’s and Drivers’ League -- R. C. Kinkead, President.
- Floral Wheel Club -- Seventh and Park avenue.
- Aquila Cycle Club -- W. M. McKown, President.