A Bicycle Challenge in the Nation’s Capital

This past year a researcher called to our attention a series of photographs of children posing with bicycles in the National Photo Company Collection. Below is one of the images, which came to the Library with a somewhat mysterious title: “Times girl on bicycle.”

Theresa Ebert with bicycle won through Washington Times bicycle contest

Times girl on bicycle. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1921 and 1924. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.22067

Documentation obtained by the researcher through the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America historical newspaper database provides a fuller picture. The August 8, 1921 issue of The Washington Times reveals that the girl in the image is Theresa Ebert of Cherrydale, Virginia, and that she had earned the bicycle in a contest sponsored by the newspaper by convincing 35 people to purchase an annual subscription to the publication. Ebert’s name and information about the contest has been added to the online catalog record for the photograph, providing more context for researchers.

"Little Virginia Girl Wins a Free Bicycle," detail from the The Washington Times, August 8, 1921, p. 3. //chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1921-08-08/ed-1/seq-3/

Detail from the The Washington Times, August 8, 1921, p. 3. //chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1921-08-08/ed-1/seq-3/

In the June 21, 1921 issue of The Washington Times, we learn that the paper was offering a $60 Ranger bicycle to the first of 5,000 people to sign up “35 new yearly subscribers.” This advertisement, located on the same page as a feature article, directs interested parties to write to the Washington Times Bicycle Department for more information about the process.

Detail from The Washington times. June 21, 1921, p. 4. //chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1921-06-21/ed-1/seq-4/

In addition to explaining more about how to enter the contest, the ad seems to give a clue as to where the photographs of the children were made. In each of the photographs, the children are posing with their bicycles in front of a window display featuring another bicycle. In the photo below, the sign above the window appears to say, “The Washington Times Bicycle Contest Department.” The ad locates the Bicycle Contest Headquarters at 1222 F Street N.W., placing the children just a few blocks from the White House in these images.

Boys with bicycle, won through bicycle contest sponsored by The Washinton Times, June 1921.

Boys on bicycles […]. Photo by National Photo Company, June 1921. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.21927

Times boy on bicycle. Photo by National Photo Company, 1921. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.04506

We are always grateful when researchers are able to provide us with more information to contextualize images in the collections. If you find that you can provide more background information for any of the images in our online catalog, please feel free to contact us through our Ask a Librarian service, and some of the details may find their way into our online catalog records.

Learn More:

  • Look at additional bicycle contest images from the National Photo Company Collection.
  • View “Winning a Bicycle in Three Scenes,” a fun illustrated guide to earning a bicycle through the 1922 contest announced by The Washington Times in the July 10, 1922 issue. The 1922 contest required entrants to secure only 15 subscriptions rather than the 35 required for the previous year’s contest.
  • Explore the National Photo Company Collection, a collection that offers a view into life in the nation’s capital, primarily between 1909 and 1932.
  • Interested in opportunities to comment on our images? If so, feel free to peruse the pictures (and comments) in the “Great Comments” Flickr album to see how others have offered context — or weigh in yourself if you have a Flickr account. If that album piques your interest, you may be inspired to browse through additional themed Flickr albums.

2 Comments

  1. Matthew Gilmore
    December 22, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Check out Washington’s first bicycle craze here–Washington’s first bicycle craze — ‘Cycling in the 1880s and 1890s

    https://matthewbgilmore.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/washingtons-first-bicycle-craze-cycling-in-the-1880s-and-1890s/

  2. Joanna
    December 23, 2021 at 8:01 am

    What awesome details to add!

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