Bicycles — they’re not just a fad

Published 9:00 am Friday, April 26, 2019

By Linda Evenson

Photos courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum

As the 19th century exited, bicycles were no longer considered just a fad but a form of transportation, recreation and sport. Local businesses were offering bicycles, supplies and repairs.

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Henry Stenerson, a machinist, operated a gun and bicycle shop at 128 E. Main St. in Albert Lea. A newspaper advertisement from 1896 indicated Henry was selling new bikes for $28 to $33 and could make repairs in the case of an accident.

Thompson’s Shoe store sold bicycle shoes with elk skin soles for $1.50 to $2.75 a pair. Men’s work shoes sold for $1.25.

As the use of bicycles increased, many more options became available. Wulff Manufacturing Co. handled “The Cycle Whistle,” described as the most perfect bicycle alarm on the market. The company also offered gas lamps and a variety of bicycle supplies. It built new wheels to order and repaired broken frames.

In 1901, the Bee Hive store proudly announced it would soon be equipped with a bicycle delivery cart. The Freeborn County Fair and other community events added bicycle races to their activities. The 1895 county fair featured five bicycle races with distances of a half mile, 1 mile and 2 miles. All the races were governed by the Albert Lea Cycle Club rules. Prizes of cash and merchandise were awarded.