The 1892 Herald Relay

Among the more popular cycling events in the latter 1800s were relays. Some of the ones on the east coast (Chicago to New York, Washington to Pittsburg) became quite big affairs; though time was of the essence, these were technically not races - teams did not compete against one another, nor did individual riders. The point of relays was to get a message from one city to another as quickly as possible. There was a historical component to this - think pony express, or getting battle missives from place to place during war times in the 1700s, or any time before the invention of the telegraph, when riders on horses would race from post to post, handing off some important bit of information to the next rider in turn, until it reached its final destination.

The Los Angeles Herald organized one such relay in July 1892 with riders speeding their way from Los Angeles to San Diego with relays, or hand-offs, taking place every ten or so miles. The Los Angeles clubs would be responsible for getting the message between LA and Riverside, where club riders from San Diego would take over the game.

The relay began at 4:00 on the foggy Wednesday morning of July 27, with the handing of the message to W. M. Jenkins and W. E. Gatensbury in front of the Herald office. This was the first relay to be held in California, and the message was a letter from the sports editor at the Herald to the San Diego Union newspaper. They had a few mishaps along the way, but after fifty minutes the two riders reached Savannah (the name of a railroad depot in present day Rosemead) where they passed the message on to Will Allen and T. Q. Hall. Twenty-nine minutes later those two reached Puente and handed the letter on to D. L. Shrode, the famous Duarte Cyclone. Schrode's twelve mile ride to Pomona was made in a time of one-hour, fourteen minutes which, though sounding slow, the Herald called a "good performance" due to the "execrable condition" of the roads.

D. C. McGarvin took over in Pomona and rode a solo nineteen miles into South Riverside; it was 7:50 when McGarvin arrived, riding his leg of the relay in one-hour, seventeen minutes. From there the route went into Riverside, a distance of fifteen and a half miles, which was ridden by W. K. Cowan and Will Ruby in an "excellent time of 54 minutes. With that, the first half of the ride, sixty-seven miles was finished in 4-hours, fifty-four minutes.

With no time to waste, C. A. Cowan took the message on to Box Springs, along five miles of uphill grade in a time of thirty-five minutes. Pelle and Schumaker carried on from there, for another nineteen minutes, to Alessandro five miles away. Riding between Alessandro and Perris, eight miles further along the route, were Sulcer and Melice. It was 10:17 when they arrived at Perris and handed the message to Lewis Fox, who took it nine miles into Menifee, taking twenty-nine and a half minutes. It took Joe Wilson thirty-seven minutes to ride the message on to Point Rocks, a distance of twelve miles, where it was handed to John Bigelow. Bigelow rode into Temecula, eleven miles, and forty-five minutes later. It was just after noon - 12:09.

The next leg of the relay was the longest and most difficult, taking Ray Jessup and Arthur Carroll, from Temecula to Escondido, which they reached "sometime after 5 o'clock." At Escondido the message was handed off to Lemon, who had organized the San Diego riders. He is recorded as having left the town at 6:58; unfortunately "darkness must have caught him near the Poway grade, and from there on the progress was necessarily slow." Four and a half hours later (11:30pm) nothing had been heard of Lemon, and many of the riders further along the route had given up and gone home. Never-the-less, Henry Cobb of the San Diego Bicycle Club rode up to the San Diego newspaper office at 12:30 Thursday morning with the message that had left Los Angeles twenty hours, twenty-six minutes earlier. Because other riders had surrendered their posts Cobb had been forced to ride the final fifty-two miles without relief. Due to darkness and other miscalculations the relay took six hours longer than it was predicted to take. Undeterred, McGarvin vowed to attempt another relay with a goal of thirteen hours in the not too distant future.