John W. Leavitt

From Wooljersey

John Wheeler Leavitt, Sr. 19 January 1868 – 11 August 1930

John W. Leavitt was one of the founders of Leavitt & Bill, a bicycle shop that grew into a chain of shops, and went on to become a major automobile business. His business sponsored the Leavitt & Bill trophy that was awarded to the winning team of the 100-mile relay race from San Francisco to Oakland for many years.

It's worth noting the tandem ride mentioned below, with his future wife and mother-in-law.


The Bay City man on the first relay will probably be Bob Tirrell, who was not considered fast enough to take part in last year's relay. Nevertheless, soon after that race he rode over the first two relays in quicker time than the winners. Grant Bell, who rode out to Sierra Point last year for the Acmes, will probably have the same relay this time. John Leavitt, one of the Olympics' new members, will take this relay for them and is likely to surprise a lot of people. Joe Desimone is slated to take the first ten miles for the Garden City Cyclers, but he may be transferred to another relay. The other clubs have not decided on this first relay yet.

Walter Foster is the star in the Olympic Club Wheelmen team and is too well known to need an introduction. The next best man seems to be John W. Leavitt, who began riding in Cleveland in 1887. He is a native of Boston and twenty-six years old. He won his first race at Niagara Falls in 1890, it being the novice race at the National L. A. W. meet. He has ridden in a few local races at Cleveland, but does not claim to be a flyer.

READY FOR THE RELAY RACE. - San Francisco Examiner - March 31, 1894

John W. Leavitt of the O. C. W. has gone into partnership with John T. Bill of Salt Lake City, and the firm has purchased the Cleveland store, formerly conducted by E. E. Stoddard at 306 McAllister street. Mr. Bill is a brother of Louis C. Bill, manager of the Cleveland branch house next door.

CYCLING NEWS UP TO DATE - The San Francisco Examiner. October 07, 1894

I believe "Miss L. L. Anthony" is his future wife Nell Leslie Anthony, who he marries in 1902 and Mrs. A. L. Anthony is his future mother-in-law. - MF

The credit for the first century ride of the year by a woman is claimed for Mrs. A. L. Anthony, who made the circuit of the bay in ten hours. She was accompanied on a tandem by John W. Leavitt and Miss L. L. Anthony. The trip was made in ten hours, which is excellent time, although no attempt was made for a fast pace.

The San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco, California · Saturday, January 15, 1898

The members of the Cycle Board of Trade sat down to their annual banquet last night at the Viticultural restaurant on Pine street. The affair was a particularly enjoyable one, spiced with speech and song, and the members of the board entered heartily into the spirit of the occasion.

James H. Hamilton officiated as toast-master and "Jimmie," as the boys famillarly term him, made everybody who sat around the big table sing a song or tell the sad story of their lives.

The following were present: James H. Hamilton, Frank McLaughlan, Joseph Holle, W. J. Kenney, H. Nagle, Edward Rener, G. W. Peyton, J. W. Cornell, C. F. Martwell, W. B. Morill and M. C. Baker. The following bicycle companies were also represented: White Sewing Machine Company, Pacific Novelty and Shipping Company, Optic & Brown, Manson Cyclery, Morgan & Wright, Leavitt & Bill, E. C. Stearns & Co., Devany, Hopkins & Co.; Pope Manufacturing Company, Goodrich & Co., Yosemite Cycle Company and Obenhauser & Hurley.

Cycle Men Banquet. - The San Francisco Call, July 21, 1899

The employees of Leavitt & Bill will hold their annual run to Camp Taylor to-morrow, as guests of the firm. There will be about twenty on the ride, under the leadership of John Leavitt.

Bicycle Notes. - The San Francisco Call - Jun 1, 1901

These honored bicyclists were Herman C. Eggers, who rode a wheel on which he won medals in 1878, and Herman wore the medals to prove it; Dr. Thomas L. Hill, an old Bay City Wheelmen stand-by, and Robert Russ, a pioneer of the Olympic Club Wheelmen. Behind them came others, old but on more modern wheels. Judge Frank H. Kerrigan, James W. Mullen, Wilbur Knapp, Tony Delmas, Walter Foster, Walter Fawcett, George Tantau, Emil Languetin, "Trilby" Fowler, A. D. Plughoff, Charlie Howard and others of that vintage too numerous to mention, plugged along as they did twenty years ago. Behind them came riders of all sizes, ages and mounts, ranging in age from little Frankie Carroll, son of the director general of the day, to "Pop" Hopkins, who wore false whiskers to hide the wrinkles in his face. Jack Leavitt, accompanied by Mrs. Leavitt and a troupe of little Leavitts, rode side by side and brought out a big burst of applause when the procession passed in front of the grandstand in the stadium. A swarm of present day clubmen formed the rear guard.

OLD AND NEW CYCLISTS HELP TO CELEBRATE BICYCLE DAY - The San Francisco Examiner, April 10, 1916

J. W. Leavitt & Co., Pacific Coast distributors of Overland and Willys-Knight motor cars, is the story of the growth of the automobile business. This concern, now the largest single distributors of motor cars in the world, has been identifled with the automobile business ever since machines were sold on the Pacific Coast.

The organization of J. W. Leavitt & Co. dates back even prior to automobile days.

In 1892 J. W. Leavitt came out to the Pacific Coast from Cleveland, O., and went into partnership with John T. Bill under the firm name of Leavitt & Bill, to distribute, bicycles. "Jack" Leavitt in those days was one of the champion bicycle riders in the country.

Headquarters of the Leavitt & Bill bicycle organization was maintained in San Francisco and branches opened up and down the Coast in all of the principal cities, including Los Angeles. They were soon the largest single distributors of bicycles in the world.


In 1898 "Jack" Leavitt found even his speedy bicycle too slow a vehicle for his ambition and bought a machine. It was a crude affair, and while Leavitt continued to sell bicycles, he "puttered" around with his automobiles, for he saw the day coming when the bicycle would give way to the motor car.

In 1905 Leavitt pulled out of the bicycle business, dissolving his partnership with Bill. J. W. Leavitt & Co. was then organized for the distribution of motor cars.

Besides Leavitt, the members in the new firm comprised A. D. Plughoff, A. R. Theisen and W. J. Pedlar, all of whom started in with the old Leavitt & Bill bicycle organization as office boys. Leavitt, of course, was made president of the new firm; A. D. Plughoff, vice-president and general manager; Theisen, secretary and treasurer, and Pedlar, assistant general manager, which positions all retain to this day.

HISTORY OF LEAVITT FIRM. - The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, California · Sunday, April 30, 1916

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