New England literary news

The politics of cycling

Cyclists in Hyde Park during the 1879 Wheel Around the Hub, precursor of today’s Hub on Wheels bike tour.

The politics of cycling

The colorful and contentious history of bicycling in the Hub is told in “Boston’s Cycling Craze, 1880-1900: A Story of Race, Sport, and Society” (University of Massachusetts). Author Lorenz J. Finison is a founding member of Cycling Through History, which is developing bicycle routes encompassing sites of significance to African-American history in Massachusetts.

Finison highlights the challenges bicyclists of color and female cyclists faced during a time of segregation and debates about the rights and capabilities of women. The biracial champion cyclist Kittie Knox was barred from entering some contests. Then as now, cyclists often were viewed as the adversaries of everyone else on the road. Questions arose in rapid succession: Should cyclists be banned from riding on sidewalks? Allowed to bring their bikes on trains? Should they be subject to speed limits?

Finison traces the origins of the annual Hub on Wheels bicycle tour, being held this year on Sept. 21, back to Sept. 11, 1879. On that day 40 cyclists joined Wheel Around the Hub. Finison writes that the two-day tour, which Scribner’s magazine sponsored and covered with great fanfare, “propelled Boston cycling into the national consciousness.”

Left, Annie Londonderry of Boston bicycled 7,000 miles on an around-the-world trip she began in 1894 and lasted 18 months.

At Jamaica Pond on the first day of the tour, a police officer raised his billy club and threatened to arrest the cyclists for trespassing on private property. One of the artists hired by Scribner’s captured the moment and the cyclists moved on. Among the riders were a number of major figures in the cycling world. They included Charles Pratt, an organizer of the League of American Wheelmen and founder of Bicycling World magazine, and Colonel Albert A. Pope, one of America’s first bicycle manufacturers.

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Finison will be speaking at Porter Square Books in Cambridge at 7 p.m. July 15 and at the Museum of African American History in Boston at 6 p.m. July 16.

Foraging through archives

“Adventures in Gastronomy,” Cambridge’s sixth annual archives crawl, promises to be a mouthwatering treat for fans of Julia Child and Harvard Square’s gone-but-not-forgotten restaurants.

The crawl, which breaks itself into four tours, is a collaboration among the Cambridge Historical Society, MIT, Harvard, Mount Auburn Cemetery, city of Cambridge, and Longfellow House.

The society will display menus and matchbooks from Club Casablanca, the Tasty, and the Wursthaus as well as from the Window Shop, which served its last Viennese pastry in 1972, and Chez Dreyfus, among the square’s few upscale restaurants in the 1950s.


In addition to displaying some of Child’s papers, the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study will feature holdings from its cookbook collection, including “How to Eat Like a Professor on a Student’s Budget,” created by the Harvard Society of Dames.

Reservations are required. Tickets are $5 and are available at

Coming out

 “Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight”
by Jay Barbree (Dunne)

 “Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s
25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace”

by Michael Morton
(Simon & Schuster)

 “Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James”by Rick James with David Ritz (Atria)

Pick of the week


Liza Bernard of Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vt., recommends “Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands” by Chris Bohjalian (Doubleday): “A contemporary and controversial subject helps make this novel scarily real. The narrator is Emily, the 14-year-old daughter of parents who work at a nuclear power plant in the Northeast Kingdom. The plant melts down; her parents are killed; and questions arise about their responsibility for the disaster. Experiencing guilt by association, Emily goes on the run and ends up homeless in Burlington.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at