Scorchers of minstrelsy

“Scorchers of Minstrelsy” is a horrible name for a rock band; it doesn’t exactly roll off of the tongue.

Minstrel Scorchers

Primrose & West’s Big Minstrels; Always up to date! Printed in Cincinnati, 1895. Looks like some type of circus act. Note the men in blackface.

“Scorchers” in the 1890s were so called because they flouted traffic laws as they flew down the streets as fast as they could ride on their brakeless fixed gear bikes, scaring women, children, and horses.

In 1895, New York City’s police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt created the “Scorcher Squad,” a group of bicycle riding officers whose job included ticketing scofflaw cyclists and catching the occasional runaway horse and carriage. From The Bicycle & The West on New York’s bike police:

They [the Scorcher Squad] frequently stopped runaways, wheeling alongside of them, and grasping the horses while going at full speed; and, what was even more remarkable, they managed not only to overtake but to jump into the vehicle and capture, on two or three different occasions, men who were guilty of reckless driving, and who fought violently in resisting arrest.

Jim Kellet’s documentary “Victorian Cycles – Wheels of Change” also discusses scorchers and attempts to stop them in 19th Century Denver, Colorado.



One comment

  • December 20, 2011 - 1:26 am | Permalink

    • In 1895, “scorching” meant exceeding an 8mph speed limit in NYC, 5mph in San Francisco.

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