Sunday, August 14, 2022
Aug. 14, 2022

Linkedin Pinterest

Images From the Attic: Biking history in Clark County

By
Published:
2 Photos
Matilda Stanger Overand shows off her bicycle. While machinists had adapted bicycles for women, clothing designers were farther behind. Although this model has a rear bumper to protect its rider from backsplashes, it lacks a chain guard and is a bit tall for its rider. This helps date the photo to the 1890s. Her father, John Stanger, was a Scotsman who arrived in the area with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1838.
Matilda Stanger Overand shows off her bicycle. While machinists had adapted bicycles for women, clothing designers were farther behind. Although this model has a rear bumper to protect its rider from backsplashes, it lacks a chain guard and is a bit tall for its rider. This helps date the photo to the 1890s. Her father, John Stanger, was a Scotsman who arrived in the area with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1838. He built the Stanger House in 1867, which still stands on the Old Evergreen Highway near Russell Landing. Photo Gallery

When Eva Woodruff and Ella Davis peddled bicycles in 1891, the local paper applauded them. That report made them the first women cyclists in Clark County — or at least the first to ride “safeties,” improved bikes akin to today’s one-speeds but lacking fenders and chain guards.

Although there’s no record of local women riding the earlier, less safe bicycles, that doesn’t suggest local women didn’t risk a ride or two. In 1869, people gathered to watch riders pedal front-wheel drive and springless velocipedes, the Vancouver Register reported. These bone-shakers disappeared, thanks to their rear-pounding ride. Nor is there any mention of the penny-farthing with its enormous front wheel and high seat inspiring locals. Perhaps they were cautious, for mounting a mule was easier than sliding onto the high-wheeler’s saddle — and dismounting proved equally chancy.

An 1893 meeting at the Columbia Hotel formed the Vancouver Wheel Club. Other clubs arose in a few years. Eventually, riders from Mill Plain, Fourth Plain, Hazel Dell, Fruit Valley and Salmon Creek formed clubs, and all wanted better bike paths in their areas.

The Clark County Cycle Club wrote and delivered a proposed regulation to the city council in April 1899. The wheelmen wanted cyclists to pay a $1 license fee to be earmarked for bicycle paths. In May, the council passed the ordinance. By July, the city treasurer collected the tax from 600 bicyclers. Nonpayment resulted in a $5 fine.

The dollar ordinance worked, and the city council shelled out funds to the clubs for refurbishing trails and bridges and making bicycling safer.

But cycling clubs were for men. Back then, it was scandalous for a woman to ride a two-wheeler, for a glimpse of an ankle was absolutely shocking.

Yet cycling altered women’s styles; bustles, corsets, and long skirts began disappearing at the cusp of the 20th century. Suffragist Susan B. Anthony declared bicycles did “more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.” But as for cyclists Woodruff and Davis, they biked for sheer fun.

Martin Middlewood is editor of the Clark County Historical Society Annual. Reach him at ClarkCoHist@gmail.com.

Support local journalism

Your tax-deductible donation to The Columbian’s Community Funded Journalism program will contribute to better local reporting on key issues, including homelessness, housing, transportation and the environment. Reporters will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.

Local journalism needs your help. It’s an essential part of a healthy community and a healthy democracy.

Community Funded Journalism logo
Loading...