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Bicycle mania strikes Bluffton in the 1890s

By Fred Steiner

Harry Fenton fell off his bicycle Sunday, and dislocated his thumb and little finger and seriously injured the middle finger of his left hand. – 1896 Bluffton News 

This story may not make news today, but 126 years ago, it was a worthy news item in the Bluffton News. 

Why? Because, in the mid-1890s Bluffton, like much of the nation, caught itself up in a two-word phrase: bicycle mania. 

In the decade referenced here, frequent Bluffton News stories shared good and bad accounts of this contraption (or corruption) sweeping the nation at the time.

Read this May1895, Bluffton News account warning of the “bad policy of buying a bike on credit.”

If there is a mania existing at present it is certainly a bicycle mania. It would be a good thing if it were as ephemeral as the days were of the cart craze a few years ago.

Many buy bicycles on credit, not having any means to pay for it and must have someone to go their security.

This is a bad policy: our advice to young men is – earn your money before you spend it.*

*Read two editor’s notes at the bottom of this story . 

Meanwhile in May of 1895, the News announced a Bluffton bicycle repair shop. This is the first-ever reference we’ve found in the Bluffton News concerning this type of business. Here’s a classified advertisement about the shop:

Bicycles repairs. Frank Eaton has a first-class repair shop, near Bixel and Welty’s jewelry store, where he is prepared to do all kinds of repair work. Bicycle sundries a specialty.

 In June of 1895, the town had a bicycle committee and bike race plans for the Fourth of July, as indicated by this story:

The bicycle committee will rent a room for headquarters for all bicyclists on July 4. A competent attendant will be engaged and wheels may be checked and left there with perfect safety. All bicyclists, as well as everybody else will be well taken care of on that day.

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