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cool exhibit opening at the West End Library, reception 2/29:
"Cycling Legends of the West End"
On Tuesday, February 18, 2020, The West End Museum premieres a new exhibit, “Cycling Legends of the West End,” focusing on three key characters in bicycling history; two residents and a long time physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. The invention of the bike, its popularization and innovations in the 1800’s to the craze of the 1890s and the renaissance of the 1970s are recounted through vintage bicycles, photographs, artifacts, and graphic panels. The show reception takes place on Saturday, February 29 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Concurrent programs— film screenings, author talks, roller racing, bike tours and the New England Builders Ball (NEBB)—complement the show, which runs through May 30, 2020. The exhibit and reception are free; concurrent programs require admission for non-museum members.
“Bicycling legends, Kittie Knox and Annie Cohen Kopchovsky were residents of the West End during the progressive era, and in their own way activist for women’s suffrage.” said Duane Lucia, museum director and exhibit curator, “Dr. Paul Dudley White, long time cardiologist at MGH, led the charge for the fitness movement starting in the 1950’s, which in turn saw the reemergence of bicycling in the 1970s.”
Kittie Knox, a woman of color, was a seamstress and a member of the Riverside Cycling Club and the League of American Wheelmen (LAW) who lived near the corner of Irving and Cambridge Streets in the 1890s West End. She confronted racism and gained national attention when she attended a LAW meet with her club in Asbury Park NJ and the organizers tried to restrict the membership of African Americans. Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, AKA Annie Londonderry, left her family and Spring Street home in the West End in 1894 and proceeded to ride a bicycle around the world. Both women later became iconic figures in the women’s suffrage movement.
With the popularity of the automobile in the first half of the twentieth century, the bicycle faded to the status of a toy; mostly marketed to children. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack on September 24, 1955, noted Mass General cardiologist Dr. Paul Dudley White was called on to treat him. White, an avid exerciser and bicyclist recommended that the President develop a regimen to increase his daily activity. Dr. White would become influential in getting Americans to focus on the benefits of exercise, diet and weight control; his advocacy for safe biking would lead to the designated bike path around the Charles River Basin.
Today, the onset of climate change and a desire for healthier and more active lifestyles has led many, including Bostonians, to embrace the bicycle once again as a way of reducing personal carbon emissions while providing transportation that many find healthier and more rewarding. While the show looks back in time, much of what happened in the late 19th century is happening again today. However, where the 19th century saw the bike yielding to motor vehicles, today it’s bikes that are challenging the car’s dominance on urban and suburban roadways.
For more information visit the westendmuseum.org
(617)723-2125
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