Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Review: Boston's Cycling Craze, 1880-1900

I read a book on the history of the bicycle last year, and wanted to get into greater detail about cycling in the United States, and especially here in Massachusetts. The title of this book made it seem exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the sub-title: A Story of Race, Sport, and Society. Actually,  with chapters about the bi-racial Kittie Knox, and chapter headings like Women's Cycling Clubs and the Movement to Oust Women from a Boston Club, Ethnic Cycling Stories, and African American Cyclists, this book would be more accurately titled A Progressive Whiggish History of Boston Cycling. And yes, I must confess that when I see the word 'gendered' in print, my sixty year old eyes roll back in my head. I'd love to know what Umberto Eco would do with the semiotics of such language. But that's just me.

If your interest in local history consists of reaching into the past to support your own political/ideological beliefs, and said beliefs are of the left-progressive color, then you should enjoy this book. It seems well documented, although it's not particularly systematic in its approach. That being said, history by anecdote is quite popular these days, so give it a try.

If, after I find a good book on the cycling craze of the late 19th century with a focus on Massachusetts, I want to look further into the subject, I'll come back to this book. The problem I have with it is no doubt the fault of the editor or marketing manager, not the author. The main title is simply deceptive, and led me to disappointment.

Boston's Cycling Craze, 1880-1900 

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