January 26, 1895
The First National Exhibit of Cycles, Cycle Accessories, and Sundries – better known as the National Show – came to a rousing end at 11:00 p.m. in New York City. “The most successful cycle show ever held in this country, and probably in the world, was brought to a close at Madison Square Garden last night,” asserted the next day’s edition of the New York Tribune.
This show displayed numerous bicycles at a time when that transportation mode had reached unprecedented levels of popularity in the United States, and hopes for the event were sky-high when it opened on the evening of January 19. “The great show has been talked about the country over for weeks past,” reported the New York Times in its article on the start of the event, “and before the week is ended, it will be visited by manufacturers from Maine to California.” Over the next several days, thousands of people with a strong interest and involvement in the bicycle industry made their way to the lavishly decorated amphitheatre at Madison Square Garden to check out the latest models and innovations.
The vast array of products and services made available by the E.C. Stearns Bicycle Agency, which was headquartered in the city of Syracuse, New York, helped illustrate what the event had to offer for bicycle manufacturers and riders alike. The New York Times recounted, “Their display is one of the largest and most complete at the show, and anyone is convinced after a short talk with the salesman, that the Stearns wheel is a good one.” The novelties exhibited at the show included bicycles with motors attached (those models were already being called “motorcycles”) and three-wheeled duplex cycles built for two.
Overall, the show helped set the standards and expectations for subsequent bicycle exhibitions. This event also placed a bright spotlight on the bicycle’s exponential growth in popularity, something that was underscored when the Board of Trade of Cycle Manufacturers held its annual meeting on the afternoon of January 26 in the Madison Square Garden concert hall.
The board’s newly elected president was Albert Goodwill Spalding, founder and head of the Chicago-based sports equipment manufacturing company A.G. Spalding & Brothers. Spalding, who also achieved fame as a baseball player and executive, took time during the board meeting to discuss how far the cycling industry had progressed in terms of public demand. “A short time ago the word ‘bicycle’ only meant recreation, experiment, oddity,” said Spalding. “Do you realize what it now means? A decade ago the dozen of wheels then in use could be counted on the fingers of your hands. Today the hairs on your head are inadequate.”
Additional information on the First National Exhibit of Cycles, Cycle Accessories, and Sundries is available at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015024546809&view=1up&seq=70