Ritchie Betts: NOLA Cycling Promoter to “Father of American Motorcycling”

The good folks at Via Nola Vie have published my article on the plucky and visionary writer who whipped up a lively youth subculture around the bicycle in New Orleans in the 1880s and then went on to lead the formation of a national motorcycling culture.

Find it here.


betts from ny tribute article 1903.

To Schadwell’s!

One of the favorite destinations of the Louisiana Cycling Club on their weekend rides was out to a farm they called Schadwell’s, or “The Dutchwoman’s.”

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“The above cut represents the look of agony on the face of a certain club man when he found that he would not be able to go to Schadwell’s with the boys next Sunday, but he is trying to get all of this friends to go and enjoy the luscious fruit, nice fresh sweet milk, the delicious home-made bread and a great many other appetizing things which Mrs. Schadwell delights in setting before the L.C.C. Boys when they visit her farm. The start will be made promptly at 8:00 AM and no wait will be made for the gourmets who can’t get away without their breakfast.”

Victorians were particularly fond of the bicycle as a means of cheap independent transportation out of the dirty, crowded city and into the peace and healthy air of the countryside. To own a carriage and horses was a lavish expense that even the comfortable urban bourgeoisie of the late 19th century could not afford. While trains took the city’s denizens out to public resorts such as the West End, the bicycle offered an efficient and fun way to make excursions along farm roads to favored spots in the countryside.

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On July 9, the Second Saturday Art Ride will be stopping by the Second Saturday at Grow On to check out their urban farm and get some fresh eats!

Bike to the Country Illustration

The Gormully and Jeffery Factory

Gormullly and Jeffery Factory, Chicago 1880s

Louisiana Cycling Club Spokes Scrapbook, accession 98-62-L,Williams Research Center, The Historic New Orleans Collection

This image from the Louisiana Cycling Club’s “Spokes” scrapbook shows the Gormully and Jeffery factory in Chicago ca. 1890. Come to the 150th Birthday Party for the Bicycle on July 9 at Castillo Blanco Art Studios in the Bywater, New Orleans, to learn why this factory was so important to making cycling big and clever in New Orleans in the 1880s.

Now and Then: New Orleans’ Cycling Past and Present

I’ve been talking to a lot of folks in the cycling community in the past few weeks about the connection between the earliest cyclists and cycling clubs of New Orleans and the present day. Here is an article I wrote a few years ago that speaks to that.

“Out in the Street: The Cycling Community Gains Ground in New Orleans” in Urban Velo by Lacar Musgrove.

Image: Lady Robin


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1891 “Sports Page” Woodcut Shows High Wheels


This image is from the Daily Picayune, 1891. The woodcut illustration for the Sports Page was a brand new addition to the paper, in which there were only rarely images such as this, as wood cut images had only started in appear in the late 1880s. In the top right corner there are two cyclists on high wheel bicycles, with the grandstand of the Audubon Driving Park in the background.

Picayune Frog

The woodcut is the work of LA Winterhalder, who a couple of years later created The  Picayune Frog at the request Eliza Jane Nicholson, who co-owned and ran the newspaper with her husband.
The Picayune Frog was for 20 years the Daily Picayune’s famous “weather prophet,” delivering the daily forecast with Winterhalder’s whimsical woodcut illustrations.


The Sports Page image reflects that by 1891, cycling races had become as popular a spectator sport as baseball, boxing, and horse racing. I also really love that a woman playing tennis is depicted.

Ritchie Betts: Founder of LCC and Father of American Motorcycling

Ritchie Betts

Louisiana Cycling Club Spokes Scrapbook, accession 98-62-L,Williams Research Center, The Historic New Orleans Collection

R.G. “Ritchie” Betts, the first president of the Federation of American Motorcyclists, got his start as a bicycle activist in New Orleans. In 1887, the 17-year-old founded the Louisiana Cycling Club. The LCC was the second major cycling club formed in New Orleans, the first being the New Orleans Bicycle Club, formed in 1881. Under the aegis of Betts, the LCC grew quickly into a lively organization that soon overshadowed the NOBC.

For the first years of the 1880s, bicycles were  unpopular with the public as a strange new machine that many found intrusive and even dangerous on the streets, which were otherwise dominated by pedestrians and merchant carts. Betts and the LCC worked to convince the public of the utility of the bicycle as legitimate private transportation (as well as exercise and enjoyment), to advocate for the rights of cyclists to public roads, and to encourage the city to improve the conditions of city streets. In the spring of 1887, with Betts as Captain, the LCC joined forces with the NOBC to hold the first cycling track races in New Orleans at the Audubon Park Driving Track and the annual racing meet of the League of American Wheelmen’s Louisiana Division (the racing league to which most members of both clubs belonged) beginning that fall. The annual cycling league races at Audubon became one of the most popular spectator events in New Orleans.

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19th Century Bicycle History Ride

June 15, 2016:

Meet at Cafe Rouler at 6:00 pm.

A mobile app enhanced historical ride that follows the formation of the original New Orleans Bicycle Club in 1881 to the site of the Audubon Driving Park, New Orleans’ first venue for bicycle racing. We’ll also pass by the clubhouse of the Louisiana Cycling Club, built specially for the club in 1890.

Follow the Facebook Event Page for details.

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Through the mobile app, downloadable at neworleanshistorical.org, participants will be able to view historical images related to each site.

This is a one-time, free event open to the public.

We will assemble at Cafe Rouler and visit two historical sites in the CBD before riding up St. Charles Avenue (or a less conjested parallel street) to Audubon Park.

You can read my article on the Audubon Driving Park here:


To sign up for the ride, please email me at lacar.musgrove@gmail.com.