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Nelson A. Bradt - 1891

By Charles Meinert
Web Site Bicycle History Consultant
Click On Photos To Enlarge

This wheelman grew up in Johnstown, New York, which is located in the Mohawk Valley about 35 miles west of Albany. Prior to his ride he was living on Cayadutta Street with his widowed mother Nancy Bradt, sister Nanna who was a clerk, and a brother John who managed the Western Union Office. Nelson was listed as selling fire insurance.

It is not known when he purchased his Eagle bicycle or if he belonged to the Johnstown Bicycle Club. He was an avid cyclist, however, since he had covered 2,500 miles on his machine in the first three months of 1891. We do not know his age or size, but most likely he was another young man who rode fast and long on an Eagle.

Most of the information about his ride that began from New York City on April 9, 1891 is contained in an article that appeared in the San Francisco Morning Call on Sunday July 5th.

"Yesterday as the grand military and civic parade was disbanding a lone cyclist arrived from New York, fresh and hearty to all appearances, after a ride which from start to finish, lacked but a few days of filling three months of his history.

"The wheelman was Nelson A. Bradt. He made the trip partly for pleasure and partly for business, is connection with the Eastern press offering him opportunities for correspondence, of which he availed himself largely on his transcontinental ride. He was favored with fair weather from first to last, and his journey was made particularly pleasant by the friendliness of the wheelmen's clubs en route.

"Mr. Bradt left New York on April 9th, and traveled by way of Buffalo, Chicago, Kansas City, Topeka, Denver, Salt Lake, Ogden, and Sacramento. He completed the first stage of his journey, Chicago (980 miles) in ten days. Resting there for six days he resumed his journey on April 25th and pushed his way by Quincy, Ill., to Kansas City, where he arrived nine days later. He spent four days at this place and on May 8th made a fresh start via Topeka over the prairie to Denver, riding through five inches of snow on the way when about twenty or thirty miles east of Colorado Springs.

"He put up at Denver on the 23rd of May, and next morning pushed forward for Leadville. It took him eight days of hard work to cross the mountains, which, besides being very steep, were covered with a thick mantel of snow, and then another eight days were spent in the saddle before he gave his wheel a rest in Salt Lake. This was the most trying portion of his trip, as he had to sleep outdoors during all of the sixteen days.

"On June 4, after a five days' rest, Mr. Bradt bade good-bye to Salt Lake. He reached Ogden next day and was there stricken down with fever and ague. Recovering after a nine days' siege he set out again on June 24th, crossed the Sierras, dropped down by Sacramento into the land of gold and climate and pursued his course without stop to the Golden Gate. (He reached San Francisco July 4th)

"The venturesome wheelman's outfit consisted of a full riding suit, one extra suit, shirts, collars and toilet necessaries, pair of revolvers, fishing-tackle and blankets - weighing in all about twenty pounds. He stopped at every likely stream and fished with plenty of success. On very warm days he rested during the midday and pushed forward at night."

"On January 1 (1891), instead of resolving to turn over a new leaf, as many young men do, Mr. Bradt determined to make a 10,000-mile record with his bicycle during the year. Between New Year's and his start on his present trip his cyclometer registered 2485 miles, to which he has just added 4420 miles in his meandering across the continent, a total of 6904 miles so far."

Based on this account it appears that Mr. Bradt was a very fast rider who averaged over 71 miles per day on the 62 days of the 86-day trip that he was in the saddle. Some Wheelmen of the era, however, viewed his time/mileage claims with suspicion. It seems that he was not trying to set a new record for the crossing or he would not have tarried in Chicago, Kansas City, and Salt Lake City, devoted time to fishing, or take a circuitous route. He was interested in mileage that would help him reach his goal of a 10,000-mile year.

The comment about his connection with the Eastern press and his availing himself of that opportunity suggests that there is a series of newspaper accounts of his ride waiting to be discovered.

After a number of days sightseeing in the San Francisco region Bradt traveled by train to see a brother in Denver and then continued "riding the cars" to Johnstown. The American Athlete of February 9, 1892 reported that Bradt did achieve his goal of riding 10,000 miles in 1891. In 1892 and 1893 he was listed in the Johnstown Directory as a clerk in the Western Express Office. He does not appear in the Directory after 1893.

Photo:  Eagle Advertisement of Bradt's Ride.  SourceBicycling World And L.A.W. Bulletin, July 31, 1891.
 

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