Saturday, October 24, 2009

Major Taylor

There's a Major Taylor Blvd in Worcester and I was curious as to why it was there. I had known about him from studying and teaching black history and had made part of the slide show five years ago. Yes, I know the background song is whacky. I stuck it in because it was a favorite of my mother. Excerpt from the Major Taylor Association

"Marshall Walter "Major" Taylor (26 November 187821 June 1932) was an American cyclist who won the world one-mile track cycling championship in 1899 after setting numerous world records and overcoming racial discrimination. Taylor was the second African-American athlete to achieve the level of world championship—after boxer George Dixon.
Taylor was the son of Gilbert Taylor and Saphronia Kelter, who had migrated from Louisville, Kentucky with their large family to a farm in rural Indiana. Taylor's father was employed in the household of a wealthy Indianapolis family as a coachman, where Taylor was also raised and educated. At an early age, Taylor received a bicycle the family and he began working as an entertainer at the age of 13. Taylor was hired to perform cycling stunts outside a bicycle shop while wearing a soldier's uniform, hence the nickname Major.
As an African-American, Taylor was banned from bicycle racing in Indiana once he started winning and made a reputation as "The Black Cyclone." In 1896, he moved from Indianapolis to Middletown, Connecticut, then a center of the United States bicycle industry with half a dozen factories and 30 bicycle shops, to work as a bicycle mechanic in the Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company factory, owned by Birdie Munger who was to become his lifelong friend and mentor, and racer for Munger's team. His first east coast race was in a League of American Wheelmen one mile race in New Haven, where he started in last place but won.
In late 1896, Taylor entered his first professional race in Madison Square Garden, where he lapped the entire field during the half-mile race. Although he is listed in the Middletown town directory in 1896, it is not known how long he still resided there after he became a professional racer. He eventually settled in Worcester, Massachusetts (where the newspapers called him "The Worcester Whirlwind"), marrying there and having a daughter, although his career required him to spend a large amount of time traveling, in America, Australia, and Europe."

It looks like his former home on Hobson Ave is right near Clark University
great kids' biography by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome

There's also another good bio by Todd Balf


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