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1892-1899 Gold Watch Cycling Races
The Great Smethport, Pennsylvania Cycling Races

Wheel Around the Hub Cycling Race Information

The cycling craze hit Smethport broadside.

Race start July 4, 1895:  9AM: Smethport Bicycle Club Sponsored Race
photo credit:  R.C. Gleason Collection 1895

The Great Smethport Bicycling Races held in Smethport during about 1892-1899 commenced in front the Smethport Court House.  The original route went east through East Smethport, south past what would later become the fairgrounds road and back to Smethport on the Galico Crossing Road and the Galico Bridge over Nunundah (Potato) Creek.

Dr. F. C. Pierce and M. L. Armstrong were officials in the Smethport Bicycle Club which helped to organize the race.  Dr. F. C. Pierce was a dentist who had been practicing in Smethport since 1871. Dr. Pierce also was an agent for Ramble Bicycles and had free catalogs at his dentist office.  M. L. Armstrong sold Columbia Bicycles out of his jeweler store in the 400 block of Main Street. M. L. Armstrong was a local jeweler who owned a shop on Main Street. M. L.  donated the prize for the race a gold watch pictured below.

methport's Natural Topography Blesses the Bicyclist
he natural lay of the topography of the paved roads area surrounding Smethport, Pennsylvania makes "wheeling" the entire region delightful.  The stunningly picturesque region is geographically blessed with some of the most advantageous bicycling routes in the nation.  Several of the scenic valleys "hubbing" out of  the McKean County Seat have a marvelously gentle, rolling topography which seems to magically propel the cyclist through the area's vast natural beauty. 

In only two directions does the cyclist encounter Smethport's majestically forested hills & these hills are both a challenge and an adventure to the wheelmen's experience.

In addition, there is a vast network of back roads for the mountain biking enthusiast but the bicyclist must proceed with caution.  Gradually the back country routes through the region will be explored and improved.

Early Bicycling in Smethport: 
One of the Centers in the Nation of the 1890's Bicycling Phenomenon
Early bicycling as a citizen past time, & serious bicycle racing as a popular sport had very early origins in Smethport, Pennsylvania.  The natural environment despite the dirt, muddied roads put Smethport bicyclists exploring and traveling, primarily for pleasure to Olean, Port Allegany, Kane, Friendship, NY, Buffalo, NY, Rochester and all parts in between.  On long journeys sometimes the wheelman would ride to a destination & then return on one of the railroads serving Smethport.  From 1880 until 1899 the BB&K Railroad and the McKean & Buffalo Railroad  provided the rail service in and out of Smethport, throughout the county,  region and nation.  In 1899 the Shawmut Railroad and the Kusequea Railroad literally crowded into Smethport giving the Smethport citizen a virtual 1900 web of railroads and making the remote, forested mountains totally accessible to the outside world.  Bicyclists could easily come and go from Smethport on these many railroads.

Smethport's Chapter of the League of American Wheelmen were advocates of early road improvement and joined a the pre automobile bicyclist movement for better highway directional signs  so the traveling bicyclist would not get lost along the way on his extended journey.  Prior to the 1890's bicyclist signage lobby the roads connecting towns and villages from county to county and then state to state were largely underdeveloped, rutted dusty or muddy routes with dramatically varying qualities of road surface.

The Smethport Bicycling Phenomenon changed rapidly with the advent of the automobile.  Because of the exceptional wealth of many of the early entrepreneurs in Smethport the automobile in its earliest horseless carriage stage was a hotbed of interest.  Many of the wealthier families or young men purchased an automobile and the Smethport exuberance for the bicycle faded away into forgotten memory. 

Smethport's "Father of Bicycling"
Father of Smethport Bicycling: Dr. F.C. Pierce

Father of Smethport Bicycling:  Dr. F.C. Pierce
Thanks to the efforts of early bicycling advocate Dr. F.C. Pierce, the Borough of Smethport was a  leading national 1890s region of citizen bicycling hysteria and a leader in the national 1890s bicycling movement.

Dr. Pierce brought the very first high wheeler to Smethport in 1883.  Because of his devotion to his bicycling hobby, the dentist set up a secondary business of marketing quality Rambler Bicycles. 

Then, in 1893 the high quality Rambler "Safety Bicycle"  arrived with a radical new design quite similar to today's mountain bicycle (but built for speed), the bicycling hysteria took off. 

The cycling craze hit Smethport broadside.

Everyone from student to 50 year old citizen who could afford one of the machines purchased a bicycle.  Purchases were announced in the McKean County Miner.  Racing swept through the baseball crowd.

The Great Smethport Gold Watch Bicycle Races, organized by M.L. Armstrong & Dr. Pierce were held in Smethport from 1892-1899.  The races commenced in front the McKean Court House and did a loop east toward Prospect Mountain & back to Smethport on the Galico Crossing Road and historic Galico Bridge over the Nunundah (Potato) Creek. 

The winner earned the coveted Gold Watch reward.

Wheel Around the Hub Cycling Race Information
Location map of the Great Gold Watch Cycling Race Start & Finish

Location in Smethport of 1890s "Wheel Around the Hub" Gold Watch Races
held in famous Smethport, Pennsylvania