Mt. Hamilton Ride description from April 1888

A map of a ride from Alameda to Mt. Hamilton by Joseph Bliss.


I stumbled across a detailed description of a ride by Joseph J. Bliss of Alameda that took him to the Mt. Hamilton summit on Sunday, April 21, 1888.

It’s in the January 1889 issue of The Wheelmen’s Gazette. My link takes you directly to the article. I think it’s being displayed by the Internet Archive, which may be different from the original location of the Smithsonian.

The tragedy is that I can’t find the second installment, which must have been in a later issue. Sigh.

I’ll summarize his trip, which is well worth reading in detail.

Bliss emigrated from Britain in 1865, from what I’ve gathered. He had three children. Based on his story, he was a clerk of some kind. His ride didn’t start until Saturday evening because back in those days the only rest day was Sunday. That’s true for some parts of the world even today.

He rode alone. I can well imagine he would have a hard time finding a companion for such a difficult ride. His bike was a 51-inch New Mail ordinary. Safety bikes were just becoming popular, most of them manufactured in England.

He stopped for dinner in Centerville, today’s Fremont. He continued on in darkness to downtown San Jose where he got a hotel room.

Next morning he left as early as possible, trying to finish the ride on Sunday so he could be back to work on Monday morning. He stopped at a restaurant and stage stop, today’s Grandview Restaurant, about five miles into the climb.

From his description, the road was in good shape, but despite that he had to walk, ride, walk, ride. No surprise on an ordinary. It’s not the gear that was the problem, but being high on the wheel made control a challenge.

He dismounted to let a stagecoach pass. The road was even narrower than it is today.

Based on his conversation with a boy he met on the road, cyclists rode up Mt. Hamilton regularly.

Previously, I wrote about Al Bouton’s ride in January 1888, the earliest documented ride I can find. I suspect that there were riders before Bouton, after reading this account.

If anyone knows where I can find the second part of Bliss’ story, let me know!

One Response to “Mt. Hamilton Ride description from April 1888”

  1. Peter LOCKE Says:

    In about 1952 I lived in a trailer park, I believe called Trailer Tell near the intersection of 2nd St, San Jose, and ‘Bloody Bayshore’ or Hwy 101. Another kid, Oscar ? and I rode our Stormy Archer 3 and 4 speeds up the mountain quite a few times, stopping at Smiths Creek Ranger Station to cook hamburgers. Yes, walk and push the bike. Go from one shaded spot to the next!

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