1890: A Teenager Begins a Bicycle Journey across the United States

April 21, 1890

Frank E. Weaver launched a coast-to-coast trip, pedaling out of New Haven, Connecticut, on a four-foot (1.2-meter)-high bicycle built by the Eagle Bicycle Manufacturing Company. The 19-year-old Weaver was originally from New Bedford, Massachusetts, but had lived in New Haven for four to five years.  Weaver established himself as one of the most accomplished riders in the city’s bicycle club, which had more than 100 members at the time, and held local records in such categories as long-distance bicycling. “He is a small and apparently slight-looking youth, but he is stout and solid and weighs 125 pounds [56.7 kilograms],” stated the Boston Daily Globe in reporting on his transcontinental trip. 

Weaver’s cross-country bicycle trip was among the few undertaken up to that time. The first of those journeys had been completed only six years earlier by Thomas Stevens during his ride between San Francisco and Boston. Weaver’s tour was also noteworthy since it was the first trip of its kind since 1887, when George W. Nellis, Jr., and Charles Theron Gray each pedaled across the United States; until Weaver decided to follow their example, there was much uncertainty about whether there would even be any more coast-to-coast expeditions via a high-wheel bicycle. 

After leaving New Haven, Weaver made his way to Washington, D.C., and found time to ride into northern Virginia to see a few Civil War battle sites. Weaver then headed to Hagerstown, Maryland, and from there he followed the National Road through part of that state as well as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. He then rode to St. Louis, where he visited such landmarks as the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Weaver subsequently continued to travel westward, reaching San Francisco on his Eagle bicycle in mid-August. (The above image depicts the type of Eagle bicycle used by Weaver for his coast-to-coast trip.)

For more information on Frank E. Weaver’s 1890 transcontinental bicycle trip, please check out https://www.thewheelmen.com/sections/americanjourneys/shiningsea/weaver.php

Additional information on the Eagle Bicycle Manufacturing Company is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eagle_Bicycle_Manufacturing_Company

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