Members of the public are invited to come see a collection of a dozen historical photos from the late 1800s and early 1900s alongside a replica Penny Farthing bicycle at the Peterborough Public Library on December 3, 2018, starting at 12 noon. The free exhibit showcases Peterborough’s rich cycling history and will run until the New Year.
Peterborough was at the centre of the cycling craze in the 1890s and held the first ever Canadian Wheelmen’s Association provincial meet on July 1, 1898, where big wheel – or Penny Farthing – bikes raced around the track at Morrow Park to the delight of almost 7,000 onlookers. Peterborough also has one of the longest standing bicycle clubs in the country.
“Peterborough has a long tradition of cycling excellence and that tradition needs to be acknowledged – and it needs to continue,” says Tammy Thorne, the creator of TheBicycleMuseum.ca and the subsequent pop-up exhibits here in Peterborough, which launched last month. “There’s so much heritage that needs to be preserved in Peterborough – and it’s not just buildings, there are many great stories from this city’s illustrious industrial past that need to be told, and cycling is just one part of that,” says Thorne, founding editor of Toronto’s arts and advocacy magazine for cyclists, dandyhorse.
Peterborough’s new mayor attended the first iteration of the pop-up at B!KE: the community bike shop and vowed to continue to support cycling in Peterborough.
“Cycling is an important part of Peterborough’s transit systems. Our cycling infrastructure is growing through the expansion of bike lanes and trail connections. Living in a bike friendly City boosts tourism, encourages active transportation, and ensures people of all ages are able to live in a healthy, sustainable way. I am delighted this pop-up exhibit is available to show our City’s history of cycling excellence, and I encourage you to experience it for yourself,” says Diane Therrien, Mayor of Peterborough.
“This big wheel bicycle has meant so much to our family,” says Tim Belch. “This replica Penny Farthing – the only one I am aware of in the county – was actually ridden many times by my father Dr. Willoughby Belch, a former surgeon here in Peterborough, at many area events. It would mean so much to my father to know that this marvelous machine he ordered via Banks Bicycles, to celebrate Canada’s Centennial was being celebrated here today in Peterborough.” Belch, who is a councillor for Cavan-Monaghan Township, adds, “There are just so many great memories that this unique bicycle has provided – even those memories that ended in crashes.” Belch shared his story with TheBicycleMuseum.ca and you can read more about his tumble from atop of the high wheel here.
The images are largely from the Peterborough Museum and Archives, but part of the collection comes from Peggy Brownscombe, the daughter of the former owner of one of the city’s earliest bike shops; White’s Cycle and Sporting Goods.
“Many of the images have stories behind them that are yet to be discovered,” says Thorne, “For example, we have this lovely photo of Alex Gibson with his high wheel bike and medals. He was a member of the Peterborough Cycling Club, even the treasurer for a time, and his father was likely a watchmaker. If there is anyone in the community who knows his story – or his grandchildren – we’d love to hear from them.”
Jennifer Jones, Peterborough Public Library CEO, says, “Cycling is a large part of the Peterborough community and has been for some time. This pop-up exhibit gives us the opportunity to glimpse into the rich history of bicycles in our neighbourhoods. The Library is thrilled to be able to provide the space to bring some of that history to light."
During the month of December the library will feature staff picks for bicycle and history books and you can read our interviews with the Peterborough Public Library Staff online at TheBicycleMuseum.ca (coming Friday.) There will be a book to sign where you can add your bicycling history story and contact information. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have information about this exhibit or historic bicycling artifacts you would like to share for a future exhibit. TheBicycleMuseum.ca will produce new exhibits in 2019 featuring CCM artifacts and bicycles and another exhibit featuring service bicycles and stories.
The Bicycle Museum Pop-up project is very grateful to B!KE where the first pop-up launched on November 2, 2018. Tegan Moss, Executive Director of B!KE says, “It’s easy to forget that people have been riding bicycles for longer than they have been driving cars! It’s challenging to imagine what our cities looked like before the automobile. Peering into the past shows us how quickly sport and transportation can change. We at B!KE love to talk about bicycles, and we were delighted to host The Bicycle Museum as it is an incredible opportunity to learn more about the history of bicycles in Peterborough.”
You can read more about this exhibit and view some of the images on display at the website: TheBicycleMuseum.ca.