'Wheel Fever' recounts WI's history of bicycling

There was a time in Wisconsin that the bicycle – the “poor man’s horse” – ignited great controversy. It was considered not suitable for women. Or the working class. Or people of color. Those notions didn’t prevail through the era that “wheel fever” took hold of Wisconsin.

Nicholas Hoffman will present Wheel Fever at 6 p.m. Thursday, August 21, at the Fond du Lac Public Library. His presentation is one of the library’s History at Home series. The program is free. No registration required.

Hoffman is co-author with Jesse J. Gant of the book, Wheel Fever: How Wisconsin Became a Great Bicycling State. His presentation will explore the origins of bicycling in Wisconsin, starting with the velocipede craze of 1869. He’ll recount the impassioned debates over who should be allowed to ride, where they could ride and even what they could wear. For many years, the sport was dominated by all-male cycling clubs for the wealthy. As models became more affordable, bicycling changed, too. Hoffman will sell and sign copies of “Wheel Fever.”

Hoffman, a native of Hillsboro and avid cyclist, is chief curator at the History Museum at the Castle in Appleton and has written articles for the Wisconsin Magazine of History. His lifelong interest in Midwest history led to a master’s in History from UW-Milwaukee.

History at Home is a monthly series of talks that bring the area’s and state’s past into full view. The free programs take place at 6 p.m. the third Thursday of the month. Upcoming programs:

  • September 18: Yellowstone Trail, presented by Mark Mowbray.
  • October 16: The History of the Brothertown Nation, presented by Patty Loew and members of the Brothertown Nation.
  • November 20: Christmas on Main Street, presented by Mary Leb of the Fond du Lac Public Library.

 

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