Sunday, April 18, 2010

Marshall "Major" Taylor, World Bicycling Champion, 1899-1901

Marshall W. Taylor was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Nov. 26, 1878. His family moved to Indiana from Kentucky following the Civil War. As a teenager, Marshall worked for a bicycle shop, performing stunts while wearing a soldier's uniform as a costume. This earned him the nickname "Major." During the ensuing decade, he set multiple world records and won numerous cycling championships. He was a world champion cyclist and athlete, and he was, and continues to be, an inspiration to anyone seeking to overcome the oppressiveness of racial prejudice and bigotry. Indianapolis belatedly honored Taylor in 1982 when it opened the Major Taylor Velodrome near Marian University (formerly, Marian College).

Our book trailer gives a preview of one of Taylor's biographies, Marshall "Major" Taylor: World Champion Bicyclist, 1899-1901, by Marlene Targ Brill (21st Century Books, Trailblazer Biography Series, 2007; ISBN 9780822566106).

Anyone interested in further readings about Taylor should consult another of his biographies, Major Taylor: the Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World, by Andrew Ritchie (Van der Plas/Cycle Publishing, 2nd ed., 2009; ISBN 9781892495655). Ritchie took part of his book's title from Taylor's self-published 1928 autobiography, a copy of which is difficult to obtain today (e.g., facsimiles are listed on for over $100).

Indiana students interested in Indiana history should consider "Major" Taylor as a Hoosier biographical subject. He led a fascinating life and achieved greatness by overcoming enormous barriers.

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