Joseph John Bliss

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Bay City Wheelmen

Joseph John Bliss October 1857 – 20 February 1927

He was Chief Clerk of the Quartermaster's Department of the U. S. Army.

He had an adventurous riding group named for him, Bliss Tourists, which he led on some big rides.

Joseph J. Bliss is author of, or featured in these articles:

Henry W. Burmeister, Joseph J. Bliss and R. M. Welch rode to San Jose and back last Sunday. They left San Francisco at 5 A. M.; breakfasted at Redwood City at 7:50 o'clock, and reached San Jose at 11:30 A. M., and got home again at 8:40 P. M.

The Wheelmen. - San Francisco Chronicle, 20 May 1889

J. J. Bliss, who at one time was recognized as the most extensive tourist on the wheel in California, has retired from active riding. He is devoting all his spare time to the improvement of his ranch.

THE WHEEL. - Picnic Run of the Bay Citys - Oakland's Lady Riders - Oakland's Lady Riders - The San Francisco Call, 13 Apr 1890

The road race of the wheelmen on the San Leandro road this morning will attract many of those interested in cycling affairs. The preparations have been carefully made and a fine race should result. The contestants will go over on the 8:30 A. M. boat and the race will be started at 10:30 A. M.

On Monday the San Francisco Bicycle Club will start for a trip through the Yosemite valley, proceeding first to Stockton by boat and hence by wheel to the valley. They extend a cordial invitation to all attached and unattached wheelmen to join them.

The Yosemite Tourist of Friday, May 22d, records the arrival in the valley on the previous evening of Joseph J. Bliss. He left his home at Fruitvale awheel on Sunday, May 17th. The itinerary of his journey is as follows: Sunday, Fruitvale to Gilroy, 70 miles; Monday, through the Pacheco pays to Newman, 58 miles; Tuesday, to the junction below Coulterville, 65 miles: Wednesday, to Fritz' 34 1/4 miles: Thursday, to Barnard's in the valley. 33 3/4 miles, a total of 260 miles in five days. He is returning by way of Mariposa, Oakdale, Stockton and Livermore. The rains of the past week seriously impeded his movements in the valley and also on the return trip. Mr. Bliss is a veteran wheelman, and disdaining the lowly safety of the present day rides the "good old ordinary," as its devotees are fond of calling the high wheel.

Sat, May 30, 1891 – Page 5 · San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California) ·

Joseph J. Bliss, chief clerk of the Quartermaster's Department, United States army, who started for Los Angeles on his wheel on August 13, has been heard from at Templeton, which place he reached on August 16 at 5:30 P. M., finding that the thermometer had reached 111 in the shade during the day. He has kept a careful record of his progress, with valuable notes, which will be given when the story of his long journey is complete.

CHAT ABOUT THE CYCLE. - A Brief Sketch of the Capitol City Wheelmen. - The San Francisco Call, Aug 22, 1892


Death Comes Suddenly to Prominent Napa Valley Resident.

Joseph John Bliss, a resident of Napa valley for more than twenty years, died at his picturesque home, "Wonneruhe," on the highway four miles Northwest of St. Helena, shortly before noon Sunday. Mr. Bliss had been in failing health for many months and for some time had been under the care of physicians. For the past few months he had spent most of his time with his wife and daughters in Oakland. Although in poor health he had been up and around and always took a keen interest in public matters.

Last Saturday he had two of his daughters, Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Gripp, bring him up from Oakland so he could see what, if any, damage had been done to his country home by the storms of February. Mr. Bliss and daughters had dinner at one of the local hotels and then drove out to the farm where the evening was spent. Mr. Bliss reading out loud from one of his many splendid books which had been his companions for years. At 10 o'clock Mr. Bliss retired, apparently feeling as well as usual. In the morning Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Gripp prepared breakfast but as Mr. Bliss did not come down stairs they thought he had overslept and so decided not to disturb him. About 11 o'clock, however, they went up stairs and there found their father unconscious but still breathing. A physician was hastily summoned, but before he arrived the aged man was beyond earthly aid, having entered his eternal sleep.

Coroner Treadway was summoned and an autopsy held by Doctors Blodgett and Rue, of Calistoga, revealed that death was caused from intestinal trouble of long standing.

Deceased was a native of England and had reached the ripe old age of 74 years, 6 months and 9 days. Many years of the life of deceased were spent in this country, his successful business activities in the bay cities in California covering a long period. Nearly twenty-one years ago Mr. Bliss came to Napa Valley and purchased the George Schonewald property on Hudson avenue, St. Helena, now owned by Mrs. Susan R. Potts, and, with his wife and daughters came here to reside. After a few years he sold out and went to Alameda to establish his home. Mr. Bliss had become captivated by the charms of Napa Valley, however, and was never happy after returning to the bay cities. He longed for the country, so not many months elapsed before he came once more to St. Helena in search of a home and found the former Major Christie farm, a small place with possibilities, for sale. He purchased it. gave it the name of "Wonneruhe" and most of his time since has been spent in that secluded and charming spot. Mr. Bliss enjoyed cultivating the small acreage by day and evenings found him in his library surrounded by his wealth of books from which he drew liberally to enrich his life. Mrs. Bliss and daughters divided their time between the city and the country, but Mr. Bliss found sufficient joy at "Wonneruhe" to keep him happy and contented. He was a great reader, an interesting conversationalist and a kind friend.

Deceased is survived by his widow Mrs. Justina M. Bliss and three daughters - Mrs. Nellie B. Edwards, Mrs. Grace E. Hill and Mrs. Lenora L. Gripp, all of Oakland.

H. P. Ward, of the Noble service, sent the remains to Oakland Monday for incineration, the funeral services being held at the crematory.

Wonneruhe means "blissful tranquility," according to google translate. It was spelled three different ways, three times in the article, fixed.

JOSEPH J. BLISS PASSES AWAY. Fri, Feb 25, 1927 – 1 · The St. Helena Star (St. Helena, California) ·

But more commonly, small groups of urban cyclists packed their bags for a weekend or even a week-long trip. Some set a course for a far-away metropolis, others for the hinterland. Joseph Bliss, a regular rider from the San Francisco area, took trips to Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Sausalito, Napa, and San Jose. Along the way, he stopped every fifteen miles or so for some rest, supper, cigars, or beer.


1) Joseph Bliss, Bicycle Routes: MS. 5, 1894-1903, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Friss, E. (2015). The Cycling City: Bicycles and Urban America in the 1890s. United Kingdom: University of Chicago Press.