Bike Travel in 1889: Henderson Man Journeys 500 Miles

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Mr. E. J. Stephenson likely used the newly developed “safety” bike for his travels. Image Credit: The Durham daily globe. (Durham, N.C.), 02 June 1893. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

 

In 1889, Mr. E. J. Stephenson made an arduous journey from Henderson, North Carolina to Newark, New Jersey via bicycle. At times, Stephenson was unable to ride his bike and resorted to walking along dusty and bumpy roads, sometimes for twenty to thirty miles. At one point, the roads would have been so difficult to travel on that he was advised to take a brief train ride.

During his two weeks of travel, he wrote about his journey documenting the sights and his expenditures as he made his way to New Jersey. He observed the Blue Ridge Mountains, crossed the Shenandoah River, and gazed across the Susquehanna River. In addition to this, he stopped for a day in Washington D.C. to visit many of the sights that are still popular destinations today. Notably, he visited the Washington Monument stating that it “is 500 feet high and took the elevator 8 minutes to get up.”

When he arrived in Newark sixteen days after departing Henderson, Stephenson had traveled 533 miles and spent $13.00 (approximately $340.00 in modern day currency.) The current time from Henderson, North Carolina to Newark by bike is approximately 44 hours since roads can be more easily traversed by bicycles since the year Stephenson made his trek. Read about the adventure, including broken spokes and free pears from farmers, in the published pages of Stephenson’s diary in the September 26, 1889 issue of The Gold Leaf.

 

 

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