The Big Race

On 4 and 5 July 1892, the Ohio Division of the League of American Wheelmen (LAW) held their twelfth annual meet in Dayton, Ohio. It was hosted, in part, by the Dayton YMCA, of which Wilbur and Orville Wright were new members. Cyclists came from not just Ohio, but neighboring states as well, to compete in dozens of races for medals and trophies made of solid gold and silver. There were other events as well, including a downtown parade, concerts, dinners, "smokers," and "runs" to attractions around the Dayton area on "sandpapered" (smoothed and improved) roads. Thousands attended.

The cover of the program for the 12th Annual Meet of the Ohio Division of the League of American Wheelmen in Dayton, Ohio.

Certainly this monumental gathering of cyclists had some bearing on Wilbur's decision to open a bicycle shop in the same year. It may have also had some bearing on his choice of location. The Wright Cycle Exchange at 1005 West Third Street was on the route the cyclists took on their run to the Old Soldiers' Home. At the time, the Home and its beautifully landscaped grounds were a popular attraction in Dayton. Since we don't know exactly when Will hung out his shingle, we don't know whether he did so to attract the hundreds of cyclists whizzing up and down West Third Street or whether the sight of these cyclists convinced him it was a good location for a cycling business. Whatever the case, it's a good bet that the LAW meet jump-started his career as a bicycle maker.

The Old Soldiers' Home as it was shown in the LAW program. The Home was three miles west of Dayton on West Third Street.

The Big Dayton Bicycle Race