Taking it the world over, there is no doubt but that the present is the age of the bicycle. The number now in daily use is legion. Yet we are confident that this increase in their use is but the beginning; the first awaking into a realization of the part the modern bicycle will yet play in the history of the world. The growth of cities can even now be partially accounted for by the vast increase in the use of cycles from a utilitarian point of view —why not, then, the future growth of empires?
Even at the present time, in foreign countries where mountains must first be overcome be-fore fertile plateaus and populous cities are reached, bicycles are superseding other modes of transportation. In such countries, where imports must first be transported in small cases on mule back, bicycles with wheels and fittings removed are easily and cheaply transferred. In some countries where machinery is un-obtainable and it is impossible to make roads of sufficient width for carriages, paths suitable for bicycle riding are being constructed with comparative ease.
Statistics show that the export shipments of bicycles from the United States have in-creased wonderfully during the past year and—what is more remarkable—into countries, where many suppose bicycle riding to be yet an unheard of mode of travel. There is always a cause and an effect. One cause not to be overlooked is the pinnacle to which a few American makers have raised the quality and consequent speed and durability of their cycles. Certain American bicycles are now in greater demand in foreign countries and even in England than home productions. One of the most novel yet popular and satisfactory machines, is manufactured by the Eagle Bicycle Mfg. Co., Torrington, Conn., U. S. A.
While in the main their machines are similar in outline to other standard bicycles, extreme fineness in detail construction is noticeable; and, furthermore, Eagle Bicycles may be obtained, when ordered, fitted with their patented Aluminum Rims. These rims are especially adapted for inner tube tires which are easily detached and repaired. The rims, while very light, are extremely rigid. They do not corrode and are not affected either by moisture or heat. All tubing used in the construction of their highest priced machines is cold swaged, tapered and reinforced at the joints. This is an innovation and illustrates the high point of excellence to which American machines have lately been brought. The success of the Eagle Bicycle Mfg. Co has been remarkable.
Some of their machines are now being used by the mounted police of New York, and shipments of Eagle Bicycles with Aluminum Rims and Cold Swaged Frames are being made to all parts of the world.
– Scientific American Magazine 25th July, 1896
The Eagle Bicycle Mfg Co was one of several companies who supplied bicycles to police departments. As bicycles became more popular in the mid-1890s, problems arose in the cities because of ‘scorchers’ – speeding cyclists who hurt pedestrians and caused accidents.
New York Police Dept was one of the first to use bicycles. The machines were sponsored by local businesses, and they were a resounding success. ‘Bicycles a great help,’ proclaimed a New York Times headline from 1896. New York City started its unit with two bicycle policemen patrolling streets most often used by cyclists. Within three months, the Chief of Police proposed making the bike squad permanent and extending it to three more precincts noting that bicycles increased police efficiency and were effective in patrolling and controlling scorchers (speeders on bicycles) as well as runaway horses. Within its first year of service the 29 man bicycle squad was responsible for 1,366 arrests. Soon, the squad grew to one hundred wheelers, including noted racer, ‘Mile-A-Minute’ Murphy, and had its own station house.
In his Autobiography, written in 1913, Theodore Roosevelt described the New York Police Bicycle Squad:
‘In the spring of 1895 I was appointed by Mayor Strong as NYC Police Commissioner, and I served as President of the Police Commission of New York for the two following years. …The members of the bicycle squad, which was established shortly after we took office, soon grew to show not only extraordinary proficiency on the wheel, but extraordinary daring. They frequently stopped runaways, wheeling alongside of them, and grasping the horses while going at full speed; and, what was even more remarkable, they managed not only to overtake but to jump into the vehicle and capture, on two or three different occasions, men who were guilty of reckless driving, and who fought violently in resisting arrest. They were picked men, being young and active, and any feat of daring which could be accomplished on the wheel they were certain to accomplish.
Three of the best riders of the bicycle squad, whose names and records happen to occur to me, were men of the three ethnic strains most strongly represented in the New York police force, being respectively of native American, German, and Irish parentage.
The German was a man of enormous power, and he was able to stop each of the many runaways he tackled without losing his wheel. Choosing his time, he would get alongside the horse and seize the bit in his left hand, keeping his right on the crossbar of the wheel. By degrees he then got the animal under control. He never failed to stop it, and he never lost his wheel. He also never failed to overtake any “scorcher,” although many of these were professional riders who deliberately violated the law to see if they could not get away from him; for the wheelmen soon get to know the officers whose beats they cross.
The Yankee, though a tall, powerful man and a very good rider, scarcely came up to the German in either respect; he possessed exceptional ability, however, as well as exceptional nerve and coolness, and he also won his promotion. He stopped about as many runaways; but when the horse was really panic-stricken he usually had to turn his wheel loose, getting a firm grip on the horse’s reins and then kicking his wheel so that it would fall out of the way of injury from the wagon. On one occasion he had a fight with a drunken and reckless driver who was urging to top speed a spirited horse. He first got hold of the horse, whereupon the driver lashed both him and the beast, and the animal, already mad with terror, could not be stopped. The officer had of course kicked away his wheel at the beginning, and after being dragged along for some distance he let go the beast and made a grab at the wagon. The driver hit him with his whip, but he managed to get in, and after a vigorous tussle overcame his man, and disposed of him by getting him down and sitting on him. This left his hands free for the reins. By degrees he got the horse under control, and drove the wagon round to the station-house, still sitting on his victim. “I jounced up and down on him to keep him quiet when he turned ugly,” he remarked to me parenthetically. Having disposed of the wagon, he took the man round to the court, and on the way the prisoner suddenly sprang on him and tried to throttle him. Convinced at last that patience had ceased to be a virtue, he quieted his assailant with a smash on the head that took all the fight out of him until he was brought before the judge and fined. Like the other “bicycle cops,” this officer made a number of arrests of criminals, such as thieves, highwaymen, and the like, in addition to his natural prey—scorchers, runaways, and reckless drivers.
The third member of the trio, a tall, sinewy man with flaming red hair, which rather added to the terror he inspired in evil-doers, was usually stationed in a tough part of the city, where there was a tendency to crimes of violence, and incidentally an occasional desire to harass wheelmen. The officer was as good off his wheel as on it, and he speedily established perfect order on his beat, being always willing to “take chances” in getting his man. He was no respecter of persons, and when it became his duty to arrest a wealthy man for persistently refusing to have his carriage lamps lighted after nightfall, he brought him in with the same indifference that he displayed in arresting a street-corner tough who had thrown a brick at a wheelman.’
1896 Eagle ‘Model B’
New York Police Bicycle
1896 EAGLE CATALOGUE
Theodore Roosevelt Autobiography: http://www.bartleby.com/55/6.html