Globe-girdling cyclist honored in hometown, Pittsburgh

I’ve written several times in this blog about Frank Lenz, a round-the-world cyclist who went missing in 1894, and about David V. Herlihy, the author who chronicled Lenz’s ill-fated journey and the quest to find him in a 2010 book The Lost Cyclist.
David, who passed through Fort Worth last month and spent a night at our house, told me of his efforts to have Lenz honored in his hometown, Pittsburgh.

Logo for Lenz's series in Outing magazine

Logo for Lenz’s series in Outing magazine

The other day, he sent me a copy of an informational sign about Lenz that is to be placed on Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Heritage Trail, 24 miles of pedestrian and biking trail along both sides of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.
“On My 15, 1892, thronged by an adoring public,” the sign says of Lenz, “he left his home on Webster Avenue to circle the globe on a 57-pound Victor ‘safety’ with inflatable tires (the prototype of the present-day bicycle).
“Two years later, after pedaling some 15,000 miles on two continents, he vanished mysteriously in Turkey, just as he was nearing Europe for his last leg. Although his life was cut short, he helped spark a great bicycle boom and to establish the bicycle’s enduring utility and appeal.”
Sign honoring Lenz to be placed on Three Rivers Heritage Trail

Sign honoring Lenz to be placed on Three Rivers Heritage Trail

Another bit of cycling news that emerged from David’s visit:
The man who was dispatched by Outing magazine to find out what had happened to Lenz, the magazine’s correspondent, was Will Sachtleben, who was from Alton, Ill., which is also my hometown.
Sachtleben had already completed a globe-girdling bicycling trip with Thomas Allen Jr., so he was a logical choice to search for Lenz.
During their own trip, Sachtleben and Allen had carried with them a newly introduced Kodak film camera, with which they chronicled their travels.
Allen and Sachtleben in London in 1890

Allen and Sachtleben in London in 1890

Some 400 nitrate negatives that they shot ended up at UCLA, which has been scanning the negatives for eventual publication or display.
David reports that the UCLA technicians have nearly completed the scanning project and that the Hayner Public Library in Alton, which David visited after Fort Worth, “is very keen about putting up an exhibition of the UCLA images.”
I’m hoping to post a selection of the newly scanned images in this blog as soon as they become available.
Stay tuned.



Filed under Americana, Cool stuff, History, Journeys, Travels

4 responses to “Globe-girdling cyclist honored in hometown, Pittsburgh

  1. Mark Pace

    This is great news! I still live close to Alton, so I would be able to enjoy this exhibit if it is offered. I have met both you and David, on separate occasions, and it would be wonderful to see you again if you attend. Perhaps a ride up the River Road will be involved?

  2. Looking forward to seeing the images of these bold adventurists. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Very interesting post, Jim. I had not heard of Lenz before, but I’ll enjoy following up on his travels. Norman

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