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Lon­don­derry - A Trade Show Su­per­star!

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - BY WIL­LIAM HUMBER

pring is the sea­son for bi­cy­cle trade shows, but to­day's an­nual af­fairs must com­pete with those for boats, cars and even air­planes. For­tu­nately it's one the “wheel” can man­age these days, hav­ing re­claimed its place in the mo­bil­ity wars from its once lowly sta­tus of a half-cen­tury ago.

It had fewer late-19th-cen­tury com­peti­tors, and they were more likely to be found at agri­cul­tural fairs in the horse sta­bles.

Few trade shows were big­ger than the Salon du Cy­cle, held in the Parisian win­ter months and where ri­val pro­duc­ers chal­lenged each other with their new in­no­va­tions. On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the decade was a con­stant series of one-up­man­ship mod­els and add-ons com­pa­ra­ble to to­day's dig­i­tal ma­nia.

In late 1894, the Salon could ad­ver­tise a true sen­sa­tion, the ap­pear­ance of Made­moi­selle An­nie Lon­don­derry, de­scribed as the “dar­ing young globe girdler” and the prime at­trac­tion at one of the booths from Eng­land.

The Salon boasted of her prow­ess, of her sou­venirs for sale, of her in­cred­i­ble will­ing­ness to test roads and coun­tries to which few men would dare ven­ture and par­tic­u­larly not on a bi­cy­cle.

Yet for all her ap­pear­ances, there was even more to Lon­don­derry's story than met the French pro­moter's eyes. For one thing, his coun­try­men had been par­tic­u­larly rude in greet­ing her at dock­side in Le Havre, where her boat had re­cently an­chored. They took her bike, mocked her ap­pear­ance and gen­er­ally put road­blocks in her way that few would have cared to sur­mount.

Lon­don­derry, how­ever, was no shrink­ing vi­o­let. Her life story up to then was ex­tra­or­di­nary. Born An­nie Co­hen in 1870, she was a child im­mi­grant – her par­ents from Latvia. She grew up in Bos­ton, and even­tu­ally mar­ried Max Kop­chovsky, a ped­dler and a de­vout Jew. Three chil­dren fol­lowed, but An­nie was not cur­tailed from pur­su­ing op­por­tu­nity, and when a bet was wa­gered that no woman could cy­cle around the world within a des­ig­nated time and with a prize of $10,000 if one did, the plucky An­nie took the bait.

She took the name Lon­don­derry from a lo­cal spring­wa­ter com­pany, per­haps con­scious of the anti-Semitic over­tones of her day. She adopted the lat­est in women's bi­cy­cle cloth­ing, and was not ad­verse to freely of­fered sup­port, such as a bi­cy­cle 20 pounds lighter than her ini­tial ride.

She made the best of her stay in Paris in the win­ter of 1894 and early 1895 before making her way east by bi­cy­cle and often by boat and even train, since the wa­ger of which she was the pur­suer was rather vague as to the man­ner in which one trav­elled.

Some crit­ics even claimed her world tour was more like that of a woman ac­com­pa­nied by a bi­cy­cle rather than one on which she rode for sig­nif­i­cant dis­tances.

For her part, she de­scribed rid­ing to Mar­seille in early 1895, where she boarded a boat for Alexan­dria and Port Said in Egypt, de-board­ing so she could ride about and see the sights. Jerusalem fol­lowed with its echoes for her own re­li­gious be­liefs, fol­lowed by Aden in Ye­men, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Sin­ga­pore, Viet­nam, Hong Kong, Korea and pos­si­bly even Rus­sia before touring Ja­pan and vis­it­ing Na­gasaki and Yoko­hama. She then sailed for home, and, on ar­rival, cy­cled across the United States and, oc­ca­sion­ally (some said more often than she claimed), hitched a ride with her bike on a cross-coun­try train.

An­nie “Lon­don­derry” Co­hen ad­vanced women’s cy­cling and was a true world-sportswoman pi­o­neer.

Nev­er­the­less, she ar­rived before the dead­line and col­lected her prize.

When word reached Paris at the time of the next Salon du Cy­cle, a few glasses of cham­pagne were raised in hon­our of her sheer au­dac­ity.

While An­nie may have died in rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity in 1947, she had done some­thing few could even imag­ine at­tempt­ing, much less a young woman in the 19th cen­tury, when ob­struc­tion­ist so­cial and po­lit­i­cal mores, re­stric­tive cloth­ing and the un­cer­tain lo­cal con­di­tions of most places made such ad­ven­tur­ism im­prac­ti­cal and even dangerous. Af­ter all, American cy­cling world-trav­eller Frank Lenz had been mur­dered on a sim­i­lar trek just a year before.

It didn't stop An­nie, and any­one at that Paris trade show would have met a true pi­o­neer­ing world sportswoman.

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