As my next research project, I am undertaking the process of constructing – or maybe refining – the history of bicycles in New Mexico. There are a lot of fascinating prospects to a project like this. With Santa Fe as the oldest capital city in the United States, there is the possibility that pre-bicycles like the Hobby Horse were in the area during the Spanish Colonial period (c. 1540-1821) and the Mexican period (1821-1848). What is more likely, and very possible, is the identification of the time in which bicycles began to appear in the New Mexico Territory (1848-1912). New Mexico’s territorial period coincides with developments in France in the 1860s that led to the first true bicycles – two wheeled and pedal driven. By the time the “safety bicycle” was developed in the 1880s, Albuquerque was fast becoming a full-fledged city. Right now, my curiosity is centered on when the first bicycle retailers and bicycle clubs began to appear, and how bicycles situated New Mexico within the transnational/international development and spread of bicycles at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.

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Cyclists in New Mexico, c. 1880s. (image source: See, footnote no. 1 below)

I’ll be writing for a general audience – not professional academics. My plan for this series is to write about the research process, and along the way consider the question of what “history” is, and whether we can “know” anything about the past. There will also be blog entries dealing with the use of social and economic theory as a tool of historical analysis – and there will be some rumination about what form this history will take when it is ready to be published, whether book, article, website, or public exhibit. Since I’m a lawyer, you can bet on a number of posts dealing with the intersections of bikes and the law.

It should be said that there has been some work along these lines. Michael Taylor, a librarian at the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico has done extensive research into the history of bikes in the American West, including New Mexico. An outline of his work can be seen here: “Wheels West: The Early Days of Bicycling in New Mexico”[1] I exchanged emails with Michael and he was very supportive of my project, and pointed me to a couple of published articles he wrote: “The Bicycle Boom and the Bicycle Bloc: Cycling and Politics in the 1890s,” Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 104, no. 3 (Sept. 2008): 213-240; and “Rapid Transit to Salvation: American Protestants and the Bicycle in the Era of the Cycling Craze,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, vol. 9, no. 3 (July 2010): 337-363. I’m sure both of these will come in handy as I move forward.

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Advertisement for “safety” bicycles in the Santa Fe Daily New Mexican,  June 7, 1893 (image source: See, footnote no. 1 below)

There will be no chronological order or formal organization of subject matter. There will just be posts whenever there is something interesting to report. Style and convention will be addressed when there is a publication – whatever form that may take.

Oh, and if you have any information, ideas, suggestions, leads, etc. you’d like to pass on – please do. I’m open. I am particularly interested in historic photos, advertisements, phone listings, and the like.

Should be fun – at least for me.

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[1] Michael Taylor, “Wheels West: The Early Days of Bicycling in New Mexico,” Research Guides Blog, University of New Mexico, University Libraries, http://libguides.unm.edu/blog/wheels-west-the-early-days-of-bicycling-in-new-mexico (accessed 12/12/16).