2018-05-17 / Around Town

First Bicycle Society Met in Newport

Now that spring is here and cyclists are out and about, it’s worth noting that bike riding was once a novel activity and that Newport helped bring it into fashion.

On May 31, 1880, the first national bicycle “meet” ever held in the United States took place on Kay Street near Ayrault Street under the supervision of Charles Ed Pratt of Boston, the editor of “Bicycle World.” The first bicycle club had been formed in Boston in 1878 and bicycle clubs had begun to spring up across the country.

At the Newport meet, writes author and historian Brian M. Stinson in “Newport Firsts,” there were almost 30 clubs represented by 132 riders in fashionable uniforms. “Kay Street and Bellevue Avenue were lined with spectators, but, to the annoyance of the riders, many carriages were in the way,” Stinson writes. “As the parade went down Bellevue Avenue, a large number of carriages and sightseers followed to the end, where the bicyclists were photographed at the boathouse near the end of Ledge Road.”

Stinson’s book, “Newport Firsts: A Hundred Claims to Fame,” from Arcadia Publishing &

The History Press, offers a chronological collection of vignettes detailing the city’s many firsts. Stinson is a research historian, author, photo researcher, documentarian and lecturer who grew up in Newport. He was a regular contributor, photo researcher and research historian for Newport Life magazine for almost a decade, until 2009. He has done research for authors across the United States and is considered an expert on Newport.

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