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<Bicycles, Cyclist, Cycling, Wheelmen>

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Ball, Richard
Birth Year : 1874
Richard Ball was an amateur cyclist from Louisville, KY. He was one of the competing African American cyclist in Kentucky, and said to be one of the fastest. In 1899, he went to Indianapolis to compete in a race. Ball was employed as a waiter at the Galt House Hotel [source: Caron's Directory of the City of Louisville for 1898, p.116]. Richard Ball was born in Tennessee, the son of Mary Ellis, and he was the husband of Maggie Ball [source: 1900 U.S. Federal Census]. His past time as a cyclist, then called a wheelman, was not a main source of income for Richard Ball. In Louisville, colored wheelmen belonged to the Union Cycle Club, said to be the largest African American cycling club in the South [source: Ethnicity, Sport, Identity edited by J. A. Mangan and A. Ritchie, p.20]. Colored wheelmen were barred from membership and from participating in events sponsored by the Louisville Wheelmen, and from membership to the League of American Wheelmen (L. A. W.). The color line was an issue that came up at the biannual 1894 L. A. W. Convention held in Louisville, KY; Louisville attorney, Colonel William W. Watts, put forth the motion that would limit L. A. W. membership to whites only. The vote was split 108 for, 101 against, but a two thirds majority was need, so the motion was brought forward the following year and it passed. In June of 1894, the L. A. W. chairman explained that the vote had only denied Colored wheelmen membership, not the right to participate in L. A. W. sponsored races, nor did it impact a cyclist's amateur status. For more see Richard Ball in the column "Spokes from a wheel" on p.2 of the Indianapolis Recorder, 06/17/1899; Highway History: The Road to Civil Rights, The League of American Wheelmen, a Federal Highway Administration website; and "Colored wheelmen may race," The Roanoke Times, 06/15/1894, p.2 [article available online at Chronicling America].
Subjects: Migration North, Bicycles, Cyclist, Cycling, Wheelmen
Geographic Region: Tennessee / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Bicycle Clubs (Wheelmen), Louisville, KY
Start Year : 1894
In 1894, the Union Cycle Club in Louisville, KY, had 25 members and was said to be the largest African American cycling club in the South. These were the sentiments of William W. Watts, who was speaking to the League of American Wheelmen at the 1894 convention held in Louisville, KY. Watts, a Louisville lawyer, read a letter that supposedly was written by the Union Cycle Club president, Frederick J. Scott, in support of Watts' stand to deny African Americans membership to the League of American Wheelmen [source: Ethnicity, Sport, Identity, edited by J. A. Mangan and A. Ritchie, p. 20]. See also the NKAA entry for Richard Ball. In 1899, the Booker T. Washington Cycle Club at Allen Chapel A. M. E. Church made their first annual appearance on January 25 [source: "Personal Mention," Recorder, 01/07/1899, p. 4]. The club held its meetings at 409 N. West Street in Louisville [source: "Personal Mention," Freeman, 06/17/1899, p. 8]. The first national colored bicycle tournament was held at Brotherhood Park in St. Louis, MO, June 1890 [source: "Ten thousand people witnessed...," in the article "A bob-tailed cur," Cleveland Gazette, 07/26/1890, p. 1].

  • Union Cycle Club (1894?)
  • Booker T. Washington Cycle Club, Allen Chapel A. M. E. (1899)

Subjects: Bicycles, Cyclist, Cycling, Wheelmen
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Bridges, Travis
Birth Year : 1862
Pvt. Travis Bridges, from Mt. Sterling, KY, was one of the twenty soldiers in Company H, 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps in 1897. Starting on the 14th of June, the men rode bicycles 1,900 miles from Ft. Missoula, MT, to St. Louis, MO, arriving the 24th of July. Bridges' name was submitted by Mike Higgins, who has an entry for Travis Bridges in his blog, 25th Bicycle Corps. Pvt. Travis Bridges was discharged from the Army without honor on November 1, 1897, according to the U.S. Army Register of Enlistments. He was rated as a good soldier from his first enlistment in 1885 up to the date of his final discharge.
Subjects: Bicycles, Cyclist, Cycling, Wheelmen
Geographic Region: Mt. Sterling, Montgomery County, Kentucky

Headspeth, Woody
Birth Year : 1881
Death Year : 1941
In 1899, Woody Headspeth was considered the "fastest colored rider in the country," except for the Major, [Marshall W. Taylor], according to the article "Woody Headspeth has secured..." in the column "Spokes from a wheel" in the Recorder (Indianapolis, IN), 10/21/1899, p. 2. He had raced once in Chicago at the Ravenswood track, where he came in third. He also had ridden in the bicycle races held at the Colored Fair in Lexington, KY, and always finished first, and he rode at the Newby Oval in Indianapolis, IN. Headspeth's fastest times in 1899 were the mile at 1.493-5, and the two mile at 3.39 flat with his teammate Jack Robinson. The year 1899 was also when Woody Headspeth married Winnie Partee, daughter of Samuel Partee and Charity Dotson Partee, on March 18 in Marion County [Indianapolis], IN. Woody's birth location is given as Kentucky on the marriage certificate along with the birth year 1880, as well as his father's name, Frank "Hedgepath" [source: Indiana Select Marriages, 1790-1992, FHL Film Number 413541 & 499380].


In 1900, Woody Headspeth and Reese Lewis, from Tennessee, were employed as bicycle repairmen in Chicago; they roomed at the home of Frank Harris, from Kentucky, and Mamie Harris, from Georgia [source: 1900 U.S. Federal Census]. Woody Headspeth was living in Indianapolis in 1901; he is listed on p. 503 of R. L. Polk & Co.'s Indianapolis City Directory for 1901. In 1901, in Springfield, OH, Woody Headspeth won the six-day, 135 1/2 mile race at the Coliseum with a time just two seconds behind the world record [source: "Woody Headspeth's Victory," in the column "Sport" edited by Breakaway in the Freeman, 10/05/1901, p. 7]. He was again a champion in 1902 at Pabst Park in Milwaukee, WI [source: "Headspeth a star: colored rider wins five-mile and ten-mile motor-paced bicycle race,"Wisconsin Weekly Advocate, 09/04/02, p. 5]. Winnie "Hedgepeth" was still living in Indianapolis in 1902; she is listed on p. 507 of the R. L. Polk & Co.'s Indianapolis City Directory, 1902 as living at 758 W. 13th Street. Woody Headspeth was still racing in the United States, but he was about to become an expatriate in Europe.


Woody Headspeth was still a young man; his birth, according to the 1900 U.S. Census, took place in March 1882 in Kentucky, but according to his U.S. Passport Application dated September 14, 1905, he was born June 14, 1881, in Indianapolis, IN. There is other conflicting information on other passports belonging to Woody Headspeth. In 1905, he was already living in Paris, France, when he submitted his passport application to the U.S. Embassy there. On his application, he lists bicycle rider as his occupation, Paris, France as his temporary residence, and Indianapolis, IN, as his permanent address; he was requesting a passport from the U.S. Embassy for travel to Russia. In 1908, Woody Headspeth submitted another U.S. Passport Application to the American Embassy in Paris, France; his occupation was listed as professional cyclist; his birthday as June 15, 1881; and again he was seeking the passport to travel to Russia [application dated March 2, 1908]. There was a fourth U.S. Passport Application, dated June 22, 1921. The name on that application is spelled Woody "Hedspath," son of Frank "Hedspath" who was born in "Levenon, KY" [Lebanon, KY] and was deceased. Woody's birth date is given as June 15, 1884. According to the application, Woody Headspeth had visited the U.S. in 1904 and still gave Paris, France, as his temporary address at 30 rue Nollet, and his permanent address as Indianapolis, IN. His occupation was bicycle racing and he intended to visit several other European countries. According to his 1921 application, his previous passport (the third application) had been granted by the American Embassy in Berlin, Germany, on September 3, 1903. The date may be a typo; Woody Headspeth had applied for an emergency passport in Berlin, Germany, on September 3, 1913. According to that application, Woody Headspeth was a "bicycle-rider" with no passport, "which I have left at home." His permanent residence was Indianapolis, IN; He stated he had last left the U.S. in April of 1908 and was at present temporarily sojourning in Berlin, Germany. He wanted the passport to travel to Russia on business. Accompanying the application was a certificate that Woody Headspeth was a professional cyclist who was a member of the National Cycling Association of the United States.


It is not known when Woody Headspeth's career as a bicyclist ended in Europe. Woody Headspeth died in Portugal on April 16, 1941, at the Hospital Curry Cabral in Lisbon [source: Report of the Death of an American Citizen, American Foreign Service, May 8, 1941, Ser. No. 1221]. He died from typhus and intestinal tuberculosis and was buried in Lisbon, Portugal in the Bemfica Cemetery on April 21, 1941, grave #3303. His effects were to be burned on the advice of the attending physician. Woody Headspeth had in his possession his last American passport, No.3419, issued in Paris, France on February 4, 1941; he was a "member of the Repatriation Group 14 from Paris [France] under Red Cross auspices. Personal effects were old, mostly in poor condition, and almost valueless. Deceased was destitute." When Woody Headspeth was rescued from France, it was during WWII and the Germany Army had occupied Paris.


Relatives listed on the death report of Woody Headspeth was a daughter, Mlle. Genevieve Le Maitre Hedspath at Maria Boven, par Rostenem, Cotes-du-Nord, France; and the daughter's mother, Mlle. Rosalie Le Maitre, c/o M. Lallines, à Ker. Two telegraphs were sent with the notice of Woody Headspeth's death, one to his daughter on April 22, 1941, and one to Jim Gibson on April 19, 1941.


Additional Sources:


Zeidler Miklós, "Egy régi pálya a polgári korban – a Millenáris Sporttelep: VERSENYPÁLYA A CSÖMÖRI ÚTON," KORALL 7-8, p. 125. [Hungarian]. Woody Headspeth is referred to as the black "Lightning Man" in reference to a 1906 race he won in Hungary. - art trade on the internet [Hungarian]. Postcard with photo image of Woody Headspeth. "Woody Headspeth, African American cyclist. World Champion"


Nemzetközi kerékpár-verseny. 1906 Június. [Hungarian].


PorfelhÅ‘lovagok: a magyar kerékpározás története az elsÅ‘ világháborúig. 2012. ápr. 18. Németh Balázs [Hungarian].


  See photo image and additional information at the Woody Headspeth Wikipedia page [written in German].  
Subjects: Migration North, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Tuberculosis: Care and Deaths, Bicycles, Cyclist, Cycling, Wheelmen
Geographic Region: Lebanon, Marion County, Kentucky / Indianapolis, Indiana / Chicago, Illinois / Paris, France, Europe / Russia, Europe / Berlin, Germany, Europe / Lisbon Portugal, Europe

Rout, Richard
Birth Year : 1861
Death Year : 1905
Richard Rout was born around 1861 in Stanford, KY, the son of Judy [or Juda] Rout. In 1891, he re-enlisted in the U.S. Army in Cincinnati, OH, on December 8 [source: U.S. Army Register of Enlistments]. He had previously enlisted in November of 1886, serving with the 25th Infantry. He enlisted again the 12th of December 1896, at Ft. Harrison, MT. Rout was one of the twenty soldiers in Company H, 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps. In 1897, starting on the 14th of June, the men rode bicycles 1,900 miles from Ft. Missoula, MT, to St. Louis, MO, arriving the 24th of July. They were testing the bicycles as a mode of transportation for troops. According to an article in the National Baptist World newspaper, the bicycle had been considered a failure for Army purposes in 1894, based on tests in Germany, France, and Austria. But in 1897, Lt. James A. Moss was given the mission of leading 20 soldiers on the 1,900 mile trip; Lt. Moss's final report would be a factor as to whether the U.S. Army would form a Bicycle Corp or not. Richard Rout and his fellow soldiers completed the journey, but a bicycle corp was not formed. Rout was still in the Army in 1898, Company H, 25th Infantry, stationed in Ft. Missoula, MT, according to a newspaper article; Richard Rout had written a letter to his sister, Annie Rout Myers Saulter, in Stanford, KY, saying that he was getting ready to go to war and his company would be marching to Dry Tortugas [source: see "Richard Rout" in article "Added Local," Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, 04/01/1898, p. 2, column 2]. The orders were changed and the unit went to Cuba. Richard Rout was discharged from the Army Jun 17, 1899 at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, and he was noted as an excellent corporal [source: U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1896, p.43]. According to his death certificate #283, Richard Rout was born in 1861, and he had been employed as a porter prior to his death from hepatitis at St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson, AZ, on September 20, 1905, and he was buried in the Citizens Cemetery in Prescott, AZ. [From 1864-1933, both veterans and civilians were buried in Citizens Cemetery which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.] In addition to his sister, Annie Rout Myers Saulter (1865-1911), Richard Rout's other siblings were Jessie Rout Myers (1859-1915) and Susan Rout (b. 1853) [sources: 1870 U.S. Federal Census and Kentucky Death Certificates]. For more see Richard Rout in On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier II, by I. Schubert and F. N. Schubert; "Pvt. Richard Rout," Riders of the Bicycle Corps blog, and an overview of 25th Bicycle Corps; see "25th Infantry Regiment Bicycle Corps" the daily account on pp. 28-38 in Black Warriors, by A. E. Williams; The Bicycle Corps: America's Black Army on Wheels, a PBS Home Video; and "A failure: the bicycle not a success for Army purposes - test made in Europe," National Baptist World, 11/09/1894, p. 3.

See photo image of the 25th Bicycle Corps at the blog site.
Subjects: Migration West, Military & Veterans, Bicycles, Cyclist, Cycling, Wheelmen
Geographic Region: Stanford, Lincoln County, Kentucky / Fort Missoula, Montana / Saint Louis, Missouri / Tucson, Arizona

Taylor, Gilbert and Saphronia Kelter
The Taylors, Gilbert and Saphronia (d. 1897), from Louisville, KY, were the parents of Marshall Walter Taylor, "The Colored Cyclone." Marshall Taylor (1878-1932) was a champion cyclist; he won the annual one mile track cycling championship in 1899, 1900, and 1901. Marshall was nicknamed "Major." He was born outside Indianapolis, IN, where his parents had migrated from Kentucky. Gilbert Taylor served in the Union Army. For more see Major Taylor: the extraordinary career of a champion bicycle racer, by A. Ritchie; and Major Taylor Association, Inc. website.
Subjects: Fathers, Migration North, Military & Veterans, Mothers, Bicycles, Cyclist, Cycling, Wheelmen
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Indianapolis, Indiana


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