On Thursday I started a twitter thread with old newspaper clippings of interesting cycling news as reported. I thought it would be fun to post at least one every day as a tweet. I started searching around on pre-1900 newspapers for random words paired with cycling or cyclist. I came across this story from the San Francisco Examiner Saturday January 8th, 1989 edition.
It’s up as a tweet(see below), but it’s far too epic to be lost in an image with small, hard to read column-based test. Instead, here it is through the miracle of optical character recognition and a lot of editing and reformatting. I chose to add in paragraph breaks to aid readability but have made no other changes.
It is a fascinating read, both culturally and in terms of writing style, language and even spellings.
The Round-the World ‘Cyclist’s Arrival
Thomas Steves Completes His Famous Journey.
A Sketch of His Travels and Trials From Oakland to Yokohama – Interviewing Under Difficulties
Interviewing is not always a pleasant feature of newspaper work, and under such circumstances as surrounded an EXAMINER reporter last evening, when he attempted a talk with Thomas Stevens, the wheelman and journalist, who has just completed a circuit of the world on his machine, it becomes positively arduous.
Mr. Stevens arrived on the City of Peking last night, hut the quarantine regulations forbade him landing, and the restriction the revenue officers placed on any additions being made to the steamer’s live freight, prevented any very comfortable chat. The reception by the searchers for smuggled goods who met the reporter’s boat at the gangway, which was only reached after a long pull against a strong tide, was by no means cordial and rejected the journalist with a stern injunction to keep off.
He as backed up by one of the ship’s officers, and the visitor was compelled to resume his seat in the stern sheets of the Whitehall and parley over fifteen or twenty feet of water. His errand was disclosed and his identity allayed any fears of his being on the lay for opium, and finally the concession of a rope’s end was granted. While the little boat bobbed uneasily against the side of the huge, black iron wall that formed the Peking starboard side, Mr. Stevens was sent for, and a moment later the renowned wheelman made his appearance, using a toothpick in a manner that betokened a lute discussion of the burden of the cabin mess table.
A PEN SKETCH.
His greeting of the reporter was pleasant and cordial, even while he expressed regret at his inability to attain a more intimate acquaintance. He good-naturedly descended the gangway as far as possible, however, and submitted to as much questioning as possible under the circumstances.
But little of Mr. Stevens’ personal appearance could be discerned in the dim light and his shrouding of a huge ulster and an immense Dark, broad-brimmed sombrero. He appeared, however, to be about 5 feet 6
inches in hight and well built, judging from a remarkably good pair of shoulders and his full chest.
His face is kindly and the exposures and exposures of his long journey have not left many traces or care marks about it. A pair of clear, steady eyes and an expression of determination about the mouth give
evidence of the possession of pluck and determination to carry out such an undertaking as he has just completed, and his letters to Outing, the pleasure magazine he represented on his travels, show that he was not lacking in intelligence to extricate himself from difficulties where courage and fighting qualities would have availed him nothing.
A black mustache is the only hirsute adornment of his face, and it contrasts strongly with the dear skin from which the marks of contact with all sorts of weathers have nearly faded away.
THROUGH CHINA AND JAPAN.
After the exchange of greetings Mr. Stevens said that his health was excellent and that he was beginning to feel like a civilized being once mere instead of the homeless wanderer he had been for over a year past.
“Did you get through your troubles with the Chinese all right?”
” Well, yes, with the exception of receiving a few bruises from vagrant rock-throwers. It was pretty rough experience, however, and Dasht-i-Naumid came nearly proving what its name signifies —a desert of despair—to me. Two or three times I was about to conclude that my journey was ended, but I pulled through, and after reaching Shanghai my troubles were over. How did you hear of my experiences, by the way? I was not aware that any news of my progress after leaving Teheran had reached you.”
The reporter informed him that stray scraps from foreign papers had been translated in America in sufficient numbers to mark out his route, and added that details would prove interesting.
“I would like to oblige you,” returned the ’cyclist, “but it is but long a story to tell tonight in such an uncomfortable position, but I will meet you tomorrow with pleasure.” “How did you fare after leaving Shanghai and getting into Japan?” “Splendidly. I received excellent treatment from the Japs, and while my hatred and disgust of the Chinese peasantry will last through life, I shall ever retain a kindly memory of their neighbors. The bicycle is not wholly a novelty in some parts of Japan, as some of the young men who were educated at American colleges carried machines home with them. They proved rare enough, however, for me to create considerable wonderment. In the larger cities I found a good many people prepared for my coming, mainly from receiving papers containing notes of my progress.”
THE START ABOUND THE WORLD.
The situation proved too uncomfortable to prolong the interview to any extent, and with a few general questions the reporter cut it short.
”How long is it since you left us, Mr. Stevens?” “I mounted mv wheel in Oakland in April of 1885,” said Mr. Stevens, “and I still retain a kindly remembrance of the hearty good-by given me by a lot of your boys, who rode with me to the city limits. I was 105 days in riding to New York, which was my intended destination when I started. It was April of 1885 when I left New York for Europe, and my toughest wheeling began at Constantinople. But I suppose you have had ample opportunity to learn of my experiences during the main portion of my journey?“
“Oh, yes, your letters have been pretty extensively copied.” “All right, then; I won! have so much to tell you tomorrow.”
“How many bicycles did you use up on your trip?” “Only one,” returned Stevens, laughing, “or rather one and parts of several others. I don’t think there is a great deal of the original machine left, as the rough country caused a good many repairs.”
“Yes, indeed. I wouldn’t take a good deal for it, and as for carrying It with me —that and my faithful pistol constitute about the only baggage I have. I started without anything and have arrived with just as ranch, as a trip like mine did not afford much opportunity for curio gathering. I depended on purchases to renew my clothing, ana sometimes I found I was leaning on a broken reed,” and the traveler shuddered at the remembrance of having had to wear one suit of underclothing continuously for seventeen days in a country where luxuries of the sort were unknown.
“I can tell you, some interesting things about the different sorts of clothing I have worn,” he continued, “but will have to go through my notebook and refresh my memory regarding localities.” With a renewal of the mutual promise to meet on the morrow the interview closed, and the reporter pulled back to shore, leaving the plucky little gentleman still a prisoner on the Peking.
HONORS IN STORE.
He will be landed this morning, however, and during his fortnight of stay here will be the guest of the San Francisco Bicycle Club, which has great honors in store for him. Yesterday evening a committee of the
club, consisting of B.H. Patrick, H. A. Greene, Harrison Houseworth and John W. Gibson, went down the bay on the tug Millen Griffith and bade him welcome. They were not allowed to board, but convinced their illustrious brother of the warmth of the greeting awaiting him from the deck of the tug. Chief Consul Welch of the League of American Wheelmen
was also of the party.
Mr. Stevens will be fittingly escorted to the club’s rooms this morning and the first entertainment in his honor will be a banquet given by the Oakland Ramblers this evening. Next Thursday the club will entertain him, assisted by the Olympic Club, at the latter club’s rooms, and the officers of the two clubs are to combine in banqueting him. Another banquet is to be given him by the L. A. W., and a score of minor entertainments are being planned the time of his stay.
CIRCLING THE GLOBE
Adventure in Asia Minor, Persia, Afghanistan and China.
In view of the arrival of Mr. Stevens and the fact of his having successfully completed his adventurous journey, some account of his trip may not be inappropriate. In this connection acknowledgements are due to Frank Osborne for data and information furnished regarding Mr. Stevens and his adventures.
The trip around the world was practically begun from this city, or to be more exact, from Oakland, upon April 22, 1885, upon which day he started away from the mole across the bay amid the cheers of a large number who had assembled to see him off a trip across the continent to New York.
Few thought that he would attempt anything further, and many probably doubted whether he would even complete this undertaking. As is well-known, however. Mr. Stevens successfully accomplished his transcontinental trip, and, as soon as the necessary arrangements were made, crossed the Atlantic to Liverpool.
THROUGH EUROPE TO ASIA.
Here some further preparations were made and upon May 2nd of last year at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the final start was made for the trip around the world, the journey beginning from the Edge Hill Church just after heavy rain storm was setting in.
Over 500 people, nevertheless, witnessed the start, and twenty-five members of the local bicycle club accompanied the adventurous traveler many miles upon his road.
All through England, indeed, Mr. Stevens was the recipient of many courtesies and much attention from bicyclists and others, the same condition of affairs continuing after he had crossed to France.
Landing at Dieppe. Mr. Stevens proceeded, by way of Rouen, to Paris, from whence he passed onto Vienna.
From the latter capital the enterprising traveler made his way as directly as possible to Constantinople, passing through the Servian capital Belgrade on his way. Everywhere he was received with wondering admiration by the native population, to the great mass of which a bicycle was something utterly unknown and unheard of.
Passing without mention Mr. Stevens’ stay in Constantinople, since he had no special adventures there, the reader is invited to accompany him in fancy, at least, upon his rapid flight through Asiatic Turkey, Persia, China, etc., until his arrival in San Francisco. As a rule he suffered no particular molestation except from the prying curiosity of the natives, joined in some instances to a decidedly thievish propensity.
THE FIRST ADVENTURE
His first adventure, If so it may be called, occurred on his way through Erzengan and Erzeroum in Asia Minor. But let Mr. Stevens relate it in his own words: “The narrow defile continues for some miles eastward from the khan (tavern), and ere I emerge I meet a couple of ill-starred natives, who venture upon an effort to intimidate me into yielding up my purse. They are armed with Circassian guardless swords and flint-lock horse-pistols, and one of them demands para, money, and half unsheaths
his sword in a significant manner.
“Intuitively the precise situation of affairs seems to reveal itself in a moment; they are but ordinary, inoffensive villagers returning from Erzengan. where they have sold and squandered even the donkeys they rode into town, and as they think that I am unarmed, they have become possessed of the idea of retrieving their fortunes by intimidating me out of my money.
ASTONISHED WOULD-BE ROBBERS
“Never were men more astonished and taken aback at finding me armed; and they both turned pale and fairly shivered with fright as I produced the Smith & Wesson and held it on a level with the bold spokesman’s head. They both look as if they expected their last hour had come, and they seem incapable either of utterance or of running away. In fact, their embarrassment is so ridiculous that it provokes a smile and it is with anything but a threatening or angry voice that I bid them ‘haidy!’ The bold highwaymen seem only too glad of a chance to ‘haidy,’ and they look confused, and I fancy even ashamed of themselves as they betake themselves off up the ravine. I am quite as thankful as themselves at getting off without the necessity of using my revolver, for had I killed or wounded one it would have caused me no end of trouble and delay. Moreover, these fellows sometimes do desperate work with their ugly and ever-handy swords when cornered up, in proof of which we have the late dastardly assault upon the British Consul at Erzcroum.”
AN INSULTER CHASTIZED
At the little walled village of Houssenbegkhan also the traveler bad something of an ad venture. He was conducted into a large apartment of the caravansary, which he found already occupied by three other wayfarers, who from their outward appearance might well be taken fur cutthroats of the very worst description. All about them lay a vast assortment of arms and warlike accouterments of various kinds—swords, daggers and pistols —compared with which Mr. Stevens’ modest little revolver looked very insignificant indeed. Presuming upon his apparent inability to defend himself, the travelers soon began to manifest a desire to annoy him in every manner possible, assuming to believe that he was Russian, though he had already announced himself as “Inglis.” The most reckless of the three finally stole up behind and began playing a tatoo on Mr. Stevens’ sun-helmet with two pieces of wood, evidently
anxious to show as much contempt as possible for a subject of the Czar. Stevens speedily convinced him of his mistake, however, by taking one of the sticks away, and giving him such a dressing down with it that be bowled wildly and called upon Allah to protect him. Then the other travelers solemnly avowed themselves the “brothers” of the adventurous traveler, and signified a wish to live or die with him, and even the man who had been thrashed, as soon as the smart of his chastisement died away, also desired to be included among the number of Stevens’ newly-found fraternal relatives.
TURNED BACK BY AN AFGAHN
Leaving Erzeroum Mr. Stevens passed on to the Turkish frontier entered Persia. He found the people peaceable enough here, but strongly inclined to all manner of petty tricks and deceptions. One circumstance which excited his attention and interest was the enormous number of Princes, all of the blood royal apparently, whom he came in contact with. This arises from the fact that every descendant of the royal line, no matter how many generations intervene, retains his rank and title as Prince, though many of them occupy positions as telegraph agents, etc., at salaries ranging from $40 a month up.
Mr. Stevens was, generally speaking, treated with much consideration in Persia, both by the nobles and the common people, the exceptions generally arising from the conduct of natives of other races than the Persian. Upon several occasions the wild Koordish shepherds attempted to interfere with his progress, assaulting him with clubs and stones, and even swords, but a display of the little Smith & Wesson was always effective in making them take themselves out of his way.
TURNED BACK BY AN AFGHAN.
Mr. Stevens made his grand entry into the Shah’s capital of Teheran at one o’clock upon the 3Oth of last September, up to which time he had traveled a distance of 4,076 miles since leaving Liverpool upon May 2d, having, there fore, been five months, lacking two days, upon the road— certainly in itself a most remarkable trip.
After a short stay at the Persian capital, during which he had an audience with his Majesty the Shah, and was made much of by the high dignitaries of the empire as well as by the European residents there, Mr. Sievens proceeded on his journey, passing into Afghanistan. Here he encountered his first serious difficulty, being arrested at Farrah, half way between Herat and Kandahar, by an Afghan Chief, and compelled to return first to Herat and afterward across the line into Persia. He could not persuade his Afghan captors, who, nevertheless, treated him kindly, that he was traveling with no political object in view whatever.
Returning to the Caspian, be went by rail and steamer to Constantinople and Kurrachee, afterward traversing Lahore, Delhi, Agra and Cawnpore, until he arrived at Calcutta, where he took passage by steamer for Honkong.
MOBBED IN CHINA.
From thence he proceeded to Canton, where he again had recourse to the bicycle, but found it practically useless, and was finally compelled to take to a sampan, or river boat, owing to the almost total absence of
passable roads. To add to the discomfort which this circumstance caused him, when he reached Kan-Tchon-Foo the natives proved violently hostile, assembling in a mob and attacking him with stones and clubs so savagely that he narrowly escaped with his life. But for the protection which a few soldiers gave him until he could reach the dwelling of a magistrate, it is altogether likely he would have been ruthlessly murdered.
The people crowded about the house by hundreds, shouting “Kill the foreign devil!” and endeavoring also to smash the bicycle, which was slightly injured. The Magistrate issued proclamation after proclamation, and it was only by great personal exertion upon his part that the mob was at last induced to disperse.
As it was, Mr. Stevens did not escape without several severe bruises about the face and bead. Leaving the town where he had experienced such rough treatment, Mr. Stevens made the best of his way to Shanghai,
whence he afterward proceeded to Japan, preliminary to sailing for this city.
— ENDS —
Thomas Stevens is memorialized in wikipedia, you can read about him here. As it turns out, Stevens was born not that far from me, in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, 103 years before I was born in Hemel Hempstead. He moved to Denver, which is about 25-miles from where I live now. If anyone knows a producer, this seems to me would make a great film.
Hopefully from tomorrow I’ll be back posting short but interesting “old news” articles about cycling that won’t need transcribing into a blog post! Subscribe, follow etc.