Fast Diggers: Burke, Dee, Fox, and Jenkins

If you read some of the Fast Digs posts, or others relating to the late 1800s and early 1900s, and say to yourself, "I don't know these names, they mean nothing to me," you are not alone. They may very well have been among the best local, state, maybe even national riders of their era, but with no comparable stage it would be hard to call them the Greg Lemond's of the time. There is not much written about them, few, if any photos. The best we can do is piece together little glimpses of who these riders were from whatever varying bits of information we can gather.

A few years ago (2012) a drive was initiated to declare the home of Frederick William Dee an Los Angeles historic structure, not because of any connection to cycling fame (though he was a member of the Wheelmen of the Past Century, a group of antique bicycle enthusiasts whose members included Eugene Biscaluz, Sheriff of Los Angeles County), but because he was the founder and long-time owner of F. W. Dee Sheet Metal Contracting Company, one of the earliest sheet metal fabrication firms in the city.

Lewis W. Fox was already a runner of some note, having made 10-seconds in the 100-yard dash. However, it was in cycling where he was expected to make his biggest mark. Throughout the state he was regarded as "the coming man," a term used to describe an up-and-coming star, from whom much was expected.

W. A. Burke, was the brother of D. L. Burke, a California state champion whose name has been mentioned in many posts here. The younger Burke was regarded as "a steady rider... a sure rider upon the track and for some time past has been regarded as a worthy successor of his brother. His performances during the latter part of last year were highly creditable and he will probably continue in the same manner this season. Burke is not an old wheelman having ridden less than a year."

Of William M. Jenkins it was said, "although very light in weight he is one of th ehardest riders in this section. He is plucky from the word go and stays with the other riders."

It's not much, is it? But in attempting to piece together a picture of who these riders were, you have to start somewhere. All but the information on Dee came from a story looking at favorites for the LAAC Field Day, held at Athletic Field in 1893.