The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s: 95. “Sumptuary laws” for Chicago cyclists

From Clarion 17 August 1895

This has nothing much to do with the Clarion CC – apart perhaps from the club’s interest in and support of the rights of women to cycle in “rational dress”. It appeared in Swiftsure’s “Cycling Notes”. What I find interesting is that it’s not until you get to the (pretty awful) verse that you realise – given that in those days men wore “knickerbockers”, and “stockings” could mean what we would call socks – that the edicts of the Chicago authorities were aimed at women cyclists. That said, I think you have to admire someone who can find a rhyme for Chicago appropriate to the story and then make a play on words out of the city’s name.

The new sumptuary law setting forth the kind of costume cyclists may wear when riding within the jurisdiction of the Chicago City authorities, and which has been formally passed to the Board of Aldermen of this city, is causing no small sensation in certain riding circles. Henceforth, instead of tights, or even moderately loose knickerbockers, all cyclists will have to don a costume baggy from the ankles up, and the jacket portion is to be made high at the throat. The wearing of knickerbockers and the exposure of stockings is strictly forbidden

Once more I toot the lyric horn,
And build the lofty rhyme
And ‘voke the reobatic* morn
With topic all sublime

Sing, of my muse, the sacred trews
On which have laid embargo
A few strait-laced and frosty-faced
In the City of Chic-Argot

But vain, O Prude, or Prig, or Pry
Your frowns for the sex (lord love ’em)
Having declared that they’ll wear them, why
They will – and plenty of ’em.


*Not the foggiest idea – anyone know what it might mean?

Next Time – Plans for a Clarion summer camp.


One Response to The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s: 95. “Sumptuary laws” for Chicago cyclists

  1. […] in 17 August 1895 and – following the bit about the “sumptuary laws” in Chicago (see 95 in last issue) Swiftsure turned to events much nearer at home The following, which I have received […]

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