My 2nd great grandfather Robert John Steven Sellers has been mentioned in an earlier question: Finding New York City/State records relating to Sellars family (British subjects) births/deaths mid 19th century?.
He led an interesting life:
- born to Scottish parents in Albany, New York State, USA in 1854,
- living in New York City around 1857 (when his brother William was born),
- spending some time in New Grenada (now known as Colombia), Panama around 1863 (when his brother John was born),
- living with his aunt in Glasgow after losing his mother (and probably his father) by about 1870,
- becoming an apprentice seaman by 1871,
- leaving the sea in 1874 to settle in Melbourne for four years
- then living in Adelaide for the rest of his life which ended with heart failure in a city street on a very hot day during a visit to Sydney in 1908
His obituary says that he was an enthusiastic cyclist but makes no mention of our family legend which says that he was the first person to cycle from Adelaide to Melbourne, possibly racing against the train.
I have found that such rides occurred by others in 1893 and 1894 without claiming to be the first.
Also, while writing this question I just found another article that confirms that he was cycling from Adelaide to Melbourne on 18 July 1896 but that is clearly not the first such ride nor does it mention an earlier ride.
I suspect that a family story of perhaps "he was one of the first" became the legend of "he was the first, and was racing the train!".
Does anyone know where I might be able to find out who was the first to complete the ride and when?
If it were him after all, I am assuming that it must have happened between about 1878 (when he moved to Adelaide) and 1893 (when the article above is talking about it being done quicker than previously). At that time he was between about 24 and 39 years of age so probably at or near the peak of his cycling fitness.
I'm not sure if the direction (Adelaide-Melbourne vs Melbourne-Adelaide) affects my legend but I just found an SA Memory on Early cycling in South Australia which says:
Cycling in Australia developed rapidly after the importation of the first ordinary or 'penny farthing' bicycle to Melbourne in 1875. A Melbourne Bicycle Club was formed in 1878 and South Australia followed in 1881.
The first cycle trip from Melbourne to Adelaide took eight days in 1881.
The bicycle we know today - known then as the safety bicycle - was introduced to Australia in the late 1880s.
A worldwide cycling craze occurred in the mid 1890s. In 1897 the number of different brands available in Australia peaked at over 150 spanning the alphabet from Acme to Zimmy. Prices for touring bicycles dropped dramatically during that decade. About 1897 in rural NSW a new low priced bicycle cost about the equivalent of four or five weeks wages for a rural worker.