Teaching Cleveland
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Elementary School Edition: K-5

Lesson 13

"The Bicycle Is All The Rage"


To understand the effect the popularity of the bicycle had on the Cleveland community. To compare and contrast the bicycle of 1890 and today.



  1. Why did bicycles become so popular in the 1890s? Who rode bicycles then?
  2. What were bicycles like in the 1890s? How were they similar to or different from bicycles today?
  3. What were some of the issues for the community concerning this new form of transportation and entertainment?


  1. Survey class on how many own bikes today. Why? What do you use bikes for today? Who rides bikes today? What are some of the "special features" of today's bikes? You could provide, or have students bring in examples of ads or catalogue descriptions of bicycles today.
  2. Distribute or display on an overhead the Cleveland Bicycle Catalogue pictures of the "newest" styles of bicycles in 1896. Have students begin to compare and contrast the bicycles including features, sizes, costs. From the information given in the descriptions and ads, have them speculate who was buying and riding these bicycles. Point out that these ads were directed to adults. Bicycles in the 1890s were not considered toys for children, but rather new, technical inventions for adult entertainment.
  3. Distribute copies of The Cleveland Leader article "They Go Swiftly", and read and discuss the article. How many Clevelanders owned bicycles? (6,000) How many were owned by women? (300) What does this say about the use of bicycles? Why do you suppose there were not as many women riders? What does that tell us about women in society of the 1890s? How many children owned bicycles? (2,000) What does this tell us about the use of bicycles? What types of people rode bicycles in the 1890s? Why were people riding bicycles? (pleasure, commute to work ) What did people wear when they went bicycle riding?
  4. Distribute reading "My Recollections of Old Cleveland", by Warren Corning Wick. Mr. Wick was brought up on Euclid Avenue when it was known as "Millionaire's Row." How does Wick's story of bicycle riding compare with the newspaper article? How does it compare to your experiences today?
  5. Have students imagine a change or innovation in transportation today, such as, closing streets in their neighborhood to car traffic; requiring residents to only take public trans-portation; development of moving sidewalks; development of a raised tram system, etc. Then have them write a newspaper article describing these changes and the effects it has had on the society.

Alternate Activities:

  • Have students write their "recollection" of their experience with their first bike. Include a description of their first bike, how they got it, how they learned how to ride, etc.
  • Draw a picture of your "dream" bike. Encourage students to be creative and imaginative.
  • Younger students could have a bike parade in honor of the bicentennial. They could decorate their bikes in celebration and parade around the playground at recess.
  • Community projects could include a bike raffle of a donated bike with the money gained from the raffle going to a school project or community project. Students could also have an "old" bike drive for charity or provide bikes for the homeless.

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