What a Difference 100 Years Makes

I was intrigued by these photos of a Nashville intersection on Shorpy.com.

Here, the intersection of 3rd and Church in 1910, almost 100 years ago. (Is it weird that I find it weird that 1910 was almost 100 years ago? Because I do.)

Original caption: "George Christopher, Postal Telegraph messenger #7, fourteen years old. Been at it over three years. Does not work nights."

Original caption: "George Christopher, Postal Telegraph messenger #7, fourteen years old. Been at it over three years. Does not work nights."

Glad to hear you don’t work nights at 14, George! I totally covet your bike. Maybe it’s just the white tires but it reminds me of either the Batavus Fryslan, or the bike I would be riding if I were a man: the Pashley Guv’nor. The days of bike messengers aren’t completely gone for Nashville, but the streets definitely don’t look the same:

The same corner today

The same corner today. One lonely ped, no bikes.

Shorpy’s image collection is full of fascinating glimpses of the past–though sometimes you have to look closely. Take this photo of a bank in Washington D.C., circa 1918:

Not too thrilling, until you look at the full-sized photo and notice this bicycle–a Dayton Motor Bicycle, according to the comments.

Picture 1

And this one, leaning against the wall

Picture 2

I love how the people are blurry because of the long exposure time.

And I can’t resist posting this picture of Frances Benjamin Johnson, one of the first female photographers and now my latest feminist idol, posing dressed as a man with a penny-farthing. I really want to try riding one of those things. Have any of you been on one?

Circa 1890. "Frances Benjamin Johnston, self-portrait, dressed as a man with false mustache.

Circa 1890. "Frances Benjamin Johnston, self-portrait, dressed as a man with false mustache."

If you’re feeling nostalgic or if you’re into history, Shorpy is a wonderful way to while away an hour or two. If you check it out, be sure to share any good bicycle pics you find with us.

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36 thoughts on “What a Difference 100 Years Makes

  1. Ashley says:

    Trish, I think Clarence may have been on one! I’ll ask him.

  2. dottie says:

    These pictures are so interesting. It’s sad to see a bustling downtown street corner become comparatively desolate. I want to dress up like a 1910’s man and ride a penny-farthing!

  3. Hi Dottie! Luv you site! I have been reading your archives for winter riding advice for over here in Missouri. If you can ride in Chicago in winter, you can probably ride anywhere! :-)

  4. Jon Grinder says:


    I’ve owned a Penny-Farthing for about 15 years. I have put somewhere in the neighborhood of 7000 or 8000 miles on it. My longest ride was around 75 miles, and I’ve done quite a bit of gravel road and off-road riding on it.

    I’ve only crashed it once (low speed, thank goodness), and that was plenty. Both “header” nd “breakneck speed” came into the lexicon as a result of the horrific outcomes of P-F crashes. (And, that’s the reason the modern diamond frame bike is referred to as a “safety”.)

    • Trisha says:

      Too cool. Crashing on that must be something. Do you have pictures of you riding it on your blog? (and if so, how did I miss them?!?)

  5. Ooooh a Penny Farthing! I should get one being Polly Farthing! It looks absolutely wonderful. So high up though…

    Polly x

  6. dukiebiddle says:

    For s**ts and giggles, I just did a searh of my local historical society’s photo database, and came up with these:

    Ladies in a park

    Tandem tricycle, 1885

    And the best of the bunch:

    Awesome 2 oddly dressed guys on really awesome bikes!

    I’m not sure which I like more, the guy in the Union Army uniform, or the dandy with the cycling cap, but I do know that I looooooove those bikes.

    • Trisha says:

      That tandem tricycle is amazing. And the oddly dressed guys might have my new favorite bikes! Dot, we need to get some costumes and re-enact that ladies in the park shot…

  7. I did a search for Detroit on Shorpy and found a couple cool photos with bikes. Detroit seems to truly be the Motor City, though. The bicycles were few and hard to find!

    I’m going to post them on my blog (http://cyclinmissy.blogspot.com).

  8. FYI~ Schwinn Bicycle was started in Chicago, in 1895. To me, that makes it one of the birth places of bicycles.

  9. Catherine says:

    The Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs collection is another really great resource:

    LC Prints and Photographs

    It’s fully cataloged and searchable :)

    This one remains a favorite of mine: Sew Your Own Buttons, I’m Going for a Ride

    Also, LC has some collections on Flickr. They’ve done this to open the collections up to user tagging and comments and for general help identifying people/places. It’s a really cool experiment. I’d link it but Flickr is blocked from the Senate server for some unknown reason.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      Catherine, do you work at the LOC? I know you are at a Capitol Hill library. I only ask because my father worked at the LOC for 40 years.

      • Catherine says:

        I’m in the Senate Library, which is in the Russell Senate Office Building. We fill a slightly different role than LC in serving Congress. Whereas the Congressional Research Service (the branch of LC that actually serves Congress–most of the rest of LC is really more the de facto national library) does in-depth research and analysis of policy issues for Congress, we fill more of a quick research/ reference type role, with historical records responsibilities thrown in.

        I’d love to work for LC though, if this Senate gig doesn’t work out. My bike commute would hardly be any different at all–I’d just ride up the South side of the Capitol instead! It has always been my favorite building in DC and there are many more and more unique opportunities for librarians over there (shocking, I know). I dream of working with Prints and Photographs, which is probably why I’m constantly pushing them :)

        • dukiebiddle says:

          Oh, cool. I was a little scared that you might have known my dad… and that would have been small-world-internet creepy. ;-)

  10. Catherine says:

    Oops, I left out a close tag or something and can’t fix it. Sorry!

  11. anna says:

    Interesting collection, I prefer the old picture of the intersection. People are nicer than cars, and a telegraph office is also nicer than a parking house.

  12. Bikejuju says:

    I love Shorpy! I previously posted this great image, of
    a one-legged trick cyclist from 1921.


  13. Ghost Rider says:

    I ran a few photos from the Tampa Library’s “Burgert Brothers” photographic collection a couple months ago:


    I love these old photos — capturing a slice of time for the ages!

  14. Christa says:

    Love the photo comparison! Reminds me of this video of Market Street in 1905 San Francisco: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NINOxRxze9k. Naked Street! (Real urban planning term)

    • Market street isn’t that much different, today- people jumping in front of moving vehicles, jaywalking, bikes weaving in and out of everything, hundreds of people… no horses.

  15. ksteinhoff says:

    I ran across these pictures of kids in Ohio riding bikes 41 years ago. It’s amazing how much more common it was back then.

    And my wife ran across these pictures of my mother, father and mother-in-law with their bikes in the 1940s.

  16. dukiebiddle says:

    I just found one on my hard drive of my dad in a bike basket, circa 1938ish.

  17. ksteinhoff says:


    Isn’t it cool how bikes were designed to carry stuff back in those days?

    By the time my kid brother got his Sears Spyder, they were on their way to becoming toys.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      Hey, I’ve got a WAY bigger basket on my bike now. I could carry a 4 year old in mine.

      On a related and agonizing note, about 6 years ago, before I got back into bicycles, I threw away my fathers 60’s Raleigh 3-speed roadster. My mother even asked me if I wanted it… and I said no. Ugh.

    • Dean Peddle says:

      Nahh….it was the “mountain bike” years that killed that generation of bikes.

      • dukiebiddle says:

        Hah. You and I’ve had this conversation before, but I’ll take the functionality of my basketed rigid modified mtb beater over a schwinn cruiser any day. I don’t know if it’d be any good on a mountain, but man is it great for a hilly roughshod city.

  18. Zweiradler says:

    I like these comparisons with old photos. Our newspaper does this, too. It’s an impressive way to show how our quality of living was reduced by our car-centric culture, in my opinion.


  19. gwadzilla says:

    that photo archive rocks!

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