Way back in the 1890s, bicycles were becoming a popular mode of transportation in Fairfield and across the United States. This photo circa 1890 show locals posing proudly with their bikes.

Prior to 1878, people in the U.S. who enjoyed pedaling had to import their cycles from England. Albert A. Pope became the first American bicycle manufacturer. In 1878 he began manufacturing bicycles under the trade name “Columbia” in Connecticut.

Around this time the number of bicycles in the U.S. boomed as production rose from an estimated 200,000 bicycles in 1889 to 1,000,000 in 1899. The reasons behind the popularity of the bike at this time was because it met a need for inexpensive individual transportation. The automobile was not yet widely available, horses and carriages were expensive to maintain, and public transportation was often slow and inadequate. The bicycle enabled people to travel quickly and easily to work, to school and to make deliveries.

It also caught on as a recreational/sporting activity. A nationwide bicycle club, the League of American Wheelmen, was formed on May 30, 1880, in Newport, R.I. Membership reached 150,000 in 1900. Locally, the Wynona Bicycle Club was a popular group and a local woman, Eva Stegeman, was president. Annie Pollard (pictured) was the bugler for the club.

Biking around Fairfield is still a popular activity, and the Fairfield Museum and the Fairfield Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee are organizing a bike tour scheduled for Oct. 21. The “Getting Buried in Fairfield” tour will begin at the museum and offer participants a chance to explore the history of some of the town’s cemeteries. It is open to cyclists 14 and older who wear helmets. Register at fairfieldhistory.org/event/bike-tour-getting-buried-in-fairfield.

Thanks to: America on the Move, amhistory.si.edu/onthemove

More Information

1878

The year Albert A. Pope began manufacturing bicycles under the trade name “Columbia” in Connecticut.

The Fairfield Museum, 370 Beach Road, is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members of the museum and children under 5 are admitted free. For information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org. The museum relies on funding from individuals, corporations and foundations. The museum is especially grateful for leadership support from the state of Connecticut, town of Fairfield and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.