Ridin' Dirty In The 1890s

Houston's 19th Century Cyclists

Lords' Cycle Club: The first riding society in the "Magnolia City."

By John Nova Lomax August 14, 2013


Behold the Lords' Cycle Club, which once stood at the corner of Chenevert and Congress. By 1897, when this photo was taken, the home was 38 years old and had formerly served as the residence for a German baker by the name of Michael Floeck and later a Mississippi River steamboat captain by the name of Longcope.

At its peak, the Lords' club was the largest such society in the South, with a membership approaching 500 men, all of them, apparently, so handsome they could only be known as "lords." (Women would only be allowed to take up cycling later; for a time, to ride was to be known as liberated and modern.)

According to the Southwestern History Quarterly, cycling was one of 1890s Houston's chief pastimes. The first Galveston run was undertaken in 1892 and took ten hours to complete, and that same year, according to local historian Betty T. Chapman, 6,000 people braved a 94-degree day to view and gamble on a 30-man bike race in Magnolia Park.

Those fragrant environs -- now a barrio of the same name, though lacking in aromatic trees -- were also the site of Lords' Cycle Club-hosted bike-themed field day in 1900. According to the May 6, 1900 Houston Daily Post, the Lords' "amusement committee" came up with a "programme" including (but not limited to) potato, sack, backward and three-legged races; a "comic prize fight and doughnut dance"; a flour dive; and apple-biting and match-chewing contests. (Don't worry: I don't what the sam-hell some of things are either.) Nearby Buffalo Bayou was the scene of the day's swimming, boating and "high and fancy" diving competitions. 

All of this was to be set to the strains of "Herb and Lewis' band of 12 pieces," which, as a band name, needs some work, though modern trends in pop group nomenclature seem to be heading more in that direction than away.

This being a Lords' event, of course there was cycling on display, namely "fancy trick bicycle riding by Prof. Latosi of Chicago, the world's renowned trick rider."  

"The club guarantees a fine assortment of pretty prizes," the Lords' promised. "Some of the finer prizes will be on exhibition this week in the different show windows on Main Street."

The coming of King Car spelled doom for this halcyon era of H-Town cycling. Fitting (if sad) it is then that that the majestically New Orleanian former site of the Lords' Club on Chenevert is now a surface parking lot for Minute Maid Park. 

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