1896 - Bicycles and Business. Hard Times Attributed in Part to the Wheeling Craze.
Now the bicycle is accused of responsibility for a lot of hard times in various lines of business. The theatrical man stands in front of his showhouse and swears as he sees the men and maidens wheeling by. The confectioner stands in his doorway and looks into his window full of unsold candy and says the bicycles are ruining his business. The clothier says he can't sell half as many fine clothes as he did because people wear bicycle suits more than half the time. The cigar man says his trade is suffering because everybody rides a bicycle and not one in 20 smokers smokes awheel. The livery stable man and the riding academy man grind their teeth in rage and declare that business is going or has gone to the demnition bowwows. The shoe man says he can't sell anything but cheap bicycle shoes now. The hat manufacturer says his order for fine hats are off one-half, and all he can sell is cheap caps, in which there is no money. Everybody is growling except the bicycle man, and the bicycle has to bear the brunt of it all.
A New Yorker now in the western part of the state writes: “I have made a discovery since I left home. It is not the silver question which has caused the financial depression throughout the country. It is the bicycle. I have talked with men in a dozen different trades, and each one says his business has been nearly ruined by the cycle mania.
A large bookseller, for instance, told me that he did almost no business, because instead of reading as they used to do, everybody and his wife go bicycling every evening. He said that his magazine sales had fallen off one-half and his book trade proportionately. There are 80,000 bicycles in use in Buffalo and between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000 are invested in them in Rochester.
“A sewing machine agent told me that his customers failed to pay him because they had spent their money in buying bicycles. This loss is the worst feature of the craze. People who cannot afford it buy bicycles and either, as in this case, do not pay their debts or go without things that are necessary to their well being.”
The tradesmen who are kicking haven't any hope in sight. It isn't likely that half the people who are going to ride the bicycle are riding it now, and not all those who ride own their own wheels yet, but they all intend to. It's a great harvest for the bicycle men, and they are happy as clams at high tide.
The unlucky tradesmen who are losing money can obtain consolation in the thought that a large part of their loss is a gain to humanity as well as to the bicycle dealer. One of the best known physicians in New York, in conversation with the reporter a few days ago, said: “Not in 200 years has there been any one thing that has so benefited the race
as the invention of the bicycle. Why? Why, thousands upon thousands of men and women who previous to a year or so ago never got any outdoor exercise to speak of are now devoting half of their leisure time to healthy recreation. They are strengthening their bodies and developing themselves in every way, and not only are they reaping benefits themselves, but the generation that follows them will be born of healthy parents and will start in life with the constitution that our fathers had, free from the weaknesses that come to those who are habitually indolent.” - New York Sun.
Lewiston Daily Sun
June 4, 1896
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