Bike racers at the Hartford Wheel Club’s bicycle tournament

The bicycle racers posing for this 1889 photograph in Stamford, Connecticut, at the height of the national craze for bicycle racing could not have known that it also captured the end of an era.  At the time this photo was taken, bicycle racing was a hugely popular sport and top riders were handsomely compensated. The New York-based riders pictured here competed in short track races covering between one and three miles, unlike the long-distance road races familiar to the modern cycling fans.

However, the high-wheeled machines with which they are posing had been rendered obsolete the previous year with the invention of the “safety” bicycle, and market saturation combined with a severe economic depression crippled the bike industry for decades. Although track cycling still exists, it never regained its prominent place in American sports.