In the summer of 1890, two young Americans, William Sachtleben and Thomas Allen, Jr., set off to circle the globe on new-fangled “safety” bicycles. Three years later, after pedaling some 18,000 miles on three continents, their harrowing tales of adventure made them international celebrities (“the greatest travelers since Marco Polo,” by one glowing account). Their timely championing of the bicycle helped to spark the great bike boom of the mid-1890s, which would transform cycling from an elitist, male-dominated pastime into a wildly popular means of recreation and transportation for all. Along the way, Sachtleben and Allen chronicled their adventures with two novel compact Kodak film cameras, heralding a new “democratic” era for photography, as well.
Round Trip: Bicycling Asia Minor, 1891 features forty-two circular black-and-white photographs taken by the cyclists and reproduced from recently scanned negatives held by the UCLA Library Special Collections. The images track a year on the road between Athens, Greece and Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The accompanying captions are based on Sachtleben’s meticulous notes, written on the envelopes that contained each original negative.
The photographs vividly convey what the two adventurers experienced as they pedaled across barren dirt roads, river crossings, mountain passes, and volcanic terrains, encountering peoples and cultures entirely foreign to them. The scenes of everyday life also reflect how the locals—many of whom had never before seen a Westerner or a bicycle—reacted to them and to the marvelous technologies that were destined to change ancient ways of life.
An exhibition catalogue of the same title (8.5 x 10 inches, paper, 60 illustrations, ISBN 978-0-990762614, $20.00) accompanies the exhibition. To order, contact Fowler Museum Store: (310) 206-7004.
This exhibition is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and is co-sponsored by UCLA Library Special Collections. The guest curator is David V. Herlihy, historian and author of Bicycle: The History and Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance.
Support for the exhibition is provided by Lee Bronson, Shirley and Ralph Shapiro, Sukey and Gil Garcetti, and the many donors who made gifts to the Fowler Museum’s first-ever UCLA Spark crowdfunding campaign. The accompanying publication has been generously funded by the UCLA Library Special Collections.
We would like to thank the following donors who made gifts of $250 or more in support of the exhibition during the campaign (November 1 – December 2, 2014):
Marla C. Berns
Gil and Sukey Garcetti
Roth Family Foundation
Shirley & Ralph Shapiro