Over the past year and a half, many of my fellow bloggers and I have written about the importance of photo research to our work. As I thought about what to focus on in this post, I decided to take the topic of photo research one step further and invite you, our readers, to be part of the process. It’s an unorthodox invitation, to be sure, but since I’ve been trolling eBay for people’s archival family photographs recently, it seems to make sense to “widen the net” and ask anyone who’s interested to search their own photos for possible use in my next book.
So here’s my pitch: I’m looking for photographs of your grandmother, great grandmother, great aunt, any female friend or relative with a bicycle in the 1880s, 1890s, or early 1900s. She can be riding or racing or posing with her bike, and there can be men or boys in the picture, too. But my book is about women and bicycles at the turn of the century—more specifically, about how the bicycle changed women’s lives at that time. So the main protagonist(s) in the photo should be female.
Note that the photo should be an original photographic print if at all possible—not a picture in a book, newspaper, or magazine--because reprinting a previously scanned image diminishes the quality to an unacceptable level. I’ll need to borrow the original or have you send me a high-resolution (300 dpi or greater) scan. My book will be published by National Geographic and if I use your photo, I’ll pay you an amount to be determined by the size that the picture appears in the book. But this is no get-rich-quick opportunity. No money will exchange hands until the book is on the way to the printer a year or so from now.
If you have any family stories to accompany your picture, I’d be thrilled to hear them, too. Come to think of it, if you have a great story about a female ancestor’s adventures with a bicycle during that time period, but no photograph to go with it, I’d love to hear it anyway. As I get further into my research, I’m finding that the rich history of the bicycle extends beyond the public record to family lore. So if your great aunt foiled a bank robbery by chasing down the robber on her high wheeler, please do tell.
You can comment on this post in the traditional way, but please e-mail me directly at email@example.com if you have a photograph or an elaborate story. And thanks for bearing with me in this unusual request.
Oh, Sue, what a great idea! I love it--going to our readers for photo research help. Why not?! I wish I could help you. I have a wonderful photograph of my father with a bike prop--he was almost 6 and was about to embark on his journey from Russia to America. He told me that he and his older cousin rode to the photographer's studio on a bicycle, but the photographer had them use his prop. Keep us posted as to how many photographs you get, o.k.?
I don't have any, but my wife might. I posted a link to here on my facebook status, see if any of my friends have anything. Figured it was worth a shot.
There's a great photo of Pierre Marie Curie on their wedding day leaving on their honeymoon in 1895 on their "modern" safety bicycles. This was an early version of a two-wheeler with equal sized wheels. Marie has flowers on her handlebars. The source is Getty Images. I used it in my biography Marie Curie.
Marlene Targ Brill said . . .
There are two pictures in my book MARSHALL 'MAJOR' TAYLOR: WORLD CHAMPION BICYCLIST of women riding bicycles in the late 1800s-early 1900s (one from Brown Borthers and the other from Hutton Archive/Getty Images) in a sidebar called "Bicycle Women." You have a great idea. Good luck!
How clever you are to widen your net! I've seen a picture of Katherine Wright -- sister of Orville and Wilbur -- with her women's cycling group. It may be at the Library of Congress.
Thanks to everyone who's written so far. And to those who posted my request on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It reminds me of when I was working at Scholastic and writing my first book about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League on the side. Colleagues brought me every clipping they found on the league. It sure is easier when more brains than just one are on the job.
I only have tricycle photos of my dad and uncle but will put the word out also.
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