George H. Strong
The Man at the Wheel. George H. Strong, of this city, rode from Oakland to San José on a bicycle, passing through Brooklyn, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Alvarado, Washington Corners and Milpitas. Although the roads were fair, the heat of the weather was too intense for any great speed, but the rider arrived at San José a little after 2 o'clock, making a distance of a little less than fifty miles, in five hours and thirty-five minutes.
The portrait of Mr. George H. Strong, of San Francisco, Cal., will be found in the group of newly elected Division officers. He rode the old velocipede in 1869 and 1870, and commenced riding the ordinary in June, 1878, being one of the first three in San Francisco to do so. Other riders gradually joined the trio until in December, 1878, he organized the San Francisco Bicycle Club, which has had a continuous and flourishing existence since that time. It is the second oldest club having existence in the United States, the Boston Club being the leader. Mr. Strong was elected vice-captain of this club at the time of its organization. During the following year there was a sufficient number of new riders added in Oakland, where he had his residence (just across the bay from San Francisco), to warrant a club there, and he organized a club in June, 1879. [Oakland Bicycle Club - MF] He was elected captain of this club for several successive years and elected consul three successive years under the old organization of the League and before the formation of the California Division, and was also a member of the racing board for one or two years. During his official career an Oakland ordinance was repealed, which forbade the riding of any two wheeled velocipede anywhere within the city limits, and the Golden Gate Park of San Francisco was, after many interviews with the commissioners, opened to wheelmen to the extent of allowing them to use the south drive to and from the ocean beach (this privilege has since been extended to practically cover the whole park, except about the music stand on concert days when there is a crowd). The Central Pacific Railroad was also prevailed upon to allow wheels to be carried free if the owner purchased a ticket and accompanied his wheel. To Mr. Strong belongs the credit of laying out the first properly constructed bicycle and athletic track in California. This track was built by the Olympic A. C. and was one-fifth of a mile in extent, with banked corners, and when in condition was tolerably fast. It was used by the O. A. C. and the cycling clubs jointly, and was the scene of many interesting races among the old timers. He was elected chief consul upon the reform ticket at the recent election.
In 1877 two wheels were imported into this country, from Coventry, England, by G. Loring Cunningham and were placed on exhibition in the window of a carpet store on Bush street. They were of the Bayless & Thomas make, and proved an excellent advertisement for the house, for they became a nine days wonder. One of these wheels Mr. Cunningham kept for his personal use; the other was purchased by George H. Strong, although the cost of it was twice that of one of our modern wheels, the price ranging from $130 upward.
Then the "club" resort was had. On December 13, 1878, a club was formed known as the San Francisco Bicycle Club, which was the first organization of its kind on the Coast, and the second in the whole United States. Among the members were Governor George C. Perkins, Colonel Ralph de Clairmont, Judge Kerrigan, George H. Strong, G. Loring Cunningham, F. G. Blinn, J. G. Golby, George Hobe, Robert M. Welch, Charles L. Barrett, F. C. Merrill, E. Mohrig. F. E. Osbourne, Charles C. Moore, Fred Russ Cook, Herman C. Eggers, Frank D. Elwell and many others.
In the face of the united and determined efforts of this club the barriers of further progress in the science of wheeling were broken down. The Oakland barrier fell to the lot of George H. Strong, a resident of the city which completely ostracized the sport, and his task was not an easy one. To have an ordinance repealed, and one which thoroughly voiced the sentiments of the people, required much persuasion and a deal of delicate electioneering even to break the ice of the subject. However, with the ald of Ex-Mayor Pardee, father of the present Governor, and Henry Vrooman, an amendment was drawn up allowing the wheelmen the privilege of the streets which were practically out in the suburbs, such as the streets north of Twelfth, and down across the Twelfth-street bridge to the county road.