October 8, 1897
A large parade of bicyclists took place in Louisville, Kentucky. The event, which was part of a carnival celebration, reflected the strong enthusiasm for bicycling throughout that era. On the day before the parade, the city’s Courier-Journal newspaper even ventured that the event could be “as pretty a bicycle display as has ever been offered to the South or West.”
The Friday night parade was held to help honor the Louisville Board of Park Commissioners for authorizing construction of a cinder bicycling path along Southern Parkway. The parade began at the intersection of Third Street and Broadway Avenue at eight o’clock. The end point for this procession was the headquarters of the Iroquois Cycling Club at Southern Parkway. A total of 10,000 bicyclists ended up riding in the parade and as many as 50,000 spectators lined up along the route. Many of the parade’s participants and the bicycles they rode were festively attired for the occasion.
Along with serving as a celebration for the still-unfinished cinder path, the parade was initially expected to feature the debut of a marble fountain and limestone bench in memory of a beloved Kentucky bicyclist. A.D. Ruff, who died the previous year, had been a longtime member of the Kentucky Division of the League of American Wheelmen. Enid Yandell, a Louisville native and renowned sculptor, was commissioned to create the fountain and bench honoring Ruff.
While it was originally hoped that Yandell would have the two-part memorial ready for the parade, both works were not completed until the following year. (The above image depicts both the fountain and bench.) The fountain is no longer around, but what has become popularly known as the “Wheelmen’s Bench” remains intact at the intersection of Southern Parkway and Third Street. A nearby historical marker commemorates both that memorial and the 1897 bicycle parade.
Additional information on the 1897 bicycle parade in Louisville and the memorial in honor of A.D. Ruff is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enid_Yandell#The_Wheelmen’s_Bench and https://www.theclio.com/tour/608/2/reverse