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Capital Bicycle Club Collection

Identifier: 057

Scope and Contents

The collection contains items of the Capital Bicycle Club dating from 1880 to 1929, and includes 126 photographs, two scrapbooks, and five record books. The photographs are of the Club’s events including the 5th Annual League of American Wheelman Races on May 20, 1884 and Herbert S. “Bert” Owen’s Birthday Run on May 7, 1888. Also included are member portraits from the 1880’s by professional photography studios and founding member Max Hansmann cyanotype images. The two scrapbooks span the years 1880-1929 and include clippings from The Wheelman and Club member L.Warren Seely’s original manuscript for the “Presentation of the Cat”. Series 1 includes pictorial documentation of the “Procession of the Sacred Cat”, held in 1887 with club members dressed in costumes. Record books include correspondence, meeting minutes, and other official records, begin in October of 1881 and end in July of 1911.


  • Creation: 1880-1929


Language of Materials



The majority of photographs in the collection are in the public domain, but it is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright permission from photographers and photography studios before reproducing images.

Biographical / Historical

On January 31, 1879 Herbert S. “Bert” Owen, Max Hansmann, F.D. Owen, L.P. Einolf, F.G. Wood, L.N. Jessunofsy, and Charles Krauskopf founded the Capital Bicycle Club on the steps of the United States Capitol. The Club was the third of its kind in the United States and was incorporated on May 6, 1886 with the motto “Swiftly and Silently”. The initial goal of the Club was to affect public perception of the bicycle by working with local officials on safety measures. As part of Club rules, members were instructed to use bells during the day and lamps at night to avoid collisions with pedestrians. Such measures secured local rights for Club members, and wheelmen in general, while influencing new municipal bicycle policies across the United States. Major Thomas P. Morgan of the Metropolitan Police Department was an honorary member.

The Club members were mostly professional men who devoted much time and money to bicycling. The first meetings were held in members’ homes, but growth caused club members to rent a space on 10th Street NW near H Street. In 1880 the Club moved to 412 11th Street NW. In 1882 the Club moved to 919 G Street NW for two years until the federal government bought the building for office space. The Club then decided to finance the construction of its own building at 409 15th Street NW and ground broke on May 18th 1886.

Club members organized many expeditions throughout D.C., Maryland, and Virginia; including tours of the Natural Bridge in 1882 and Cabin John Bridge in 1884. Individual members were nationally recognized for advanced riding techniques. The Club also participated in collegial races. On June 29, 1880 the Club’s first annual races were held at Iowa Circle (later renamed Logan Circle) and by 1883 the Club laid a track at Athletic Park at 9th and S Streets NW. The Athletic Park was the site of the 5th Annual League of American Wheelmen Races on May 20, 1884.

Although bicycling was the main focus, Club members took part in many other social activities including banquets, a bicycle debating society, and a camera club, which sponsored America’s first photography salon the “Washington Salon and Art Photographic Exhibition” in 1896.

The Club disbanded in 1912 . Surviving members continued to hold annual events including the “61st Capital Bicycle Club Birthday” celebration held on January 31, 1940.


4 Linear feet

10 Boxes


Series 1: Photographs, 1 linear foot (1882-1890) The series consists of photographs of the Capital Bicycle Club and it’s members from 1882-1890. The Series is arranged chronologically by date and event featuring both group and individual shots. Club members Clarence G. Allen, L. Warren Seely, Herbert S. “Bert” Owen, and Max Hansmann are prominently featured. The reverse of the photographs notes members, dates, locations, and specific activities. The series also contains reproductions of the club’s original photographs by the Star newspaper for an article documenting the club’s history printed sometime in 1926, which include two mounted rotogravures.

Series 2: Memorabilia, 3.5 linear feet (1880-1929) The series consists of scrapbooks and assorted clippings, papers, and programs of the Capital Bicycle Club and it’s members from 1880-1929. The series contains the club’s official scrapbook (1880-1890) and a scrapbook prepared by the D.C. Public Library (1891-1929). Each scrapbook is chronologically arranged by date and contains clippings, prize ribbons, and programs. Of special note is founding member L. Warren Seely’s original manuscript for the “Presentation of the Cat”, circa 1883. A corresponding transcript is included in the series from The Republic’s January 27, 1883 issue.

Series 3: Official Records, 4 linear feet (1881-1911) The series consists of the official records of the Capital Bicycle Club from 1881-1911. A list of officers for each year is included in the records as well as the club’s official meeting minutes as recorded by the Secretary. The series also contains copies of the Executive Committee’s official correspondence from 1886-1890.

Physical Location

Note that as of 2017-08-03 boxes 1, 2, and 3 will be off-site for digitization and will therefore be unavailable for research.

Custodial History

The original donor of the photographs is not known. Part of the collection consists of photographs transferred from the Historic Image Collection. Other photographs have a stamp on the back reading “Public Library November 16, 1951, Washingtoniana”, and few others in Series 1 are stamped with “Clarence G. Allen, Ontario. Apt. 601. Tel. Col. 800”. Clarence G. Allen was an active member of the Capital Bicycle Club. A scrapbook in Series 2 was created by the D.C. Public Library and documents the activities of the Capital Bicycle Club from 1891-1929.

Processing Information

General processing procedures included placing photographs protective plastic Mylar covers; interleaving the scrapbooks with buffered tissue paper to resist acid migration; and covering of record books with buffered tissue paper to contain red rot. The Memorabilia and Official Records series are arranged chronologically by date and type. The Photograph Series is arranged by date and event following the imposed order of negative number as a chronological guide within individual folders. Those items without a discernible date are placed at the end of each folder and box, except where type clearly indicates an earlier date such as in Series 1, Box 3. Photograph credit and type as well as negative number are noted when available. Cyanotypes are generally separated by type within folders, except when duplicate images exist to maintain order.

Capital Bicycle Club
An inventory of Capital Bicycle Club at D.C. Public Library
Finding aid prepared by Kari Schmidt.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001