Pittsburgh's Lost Cyclist
Three Rivers Heritage Trail
On May 15, 1892, thronged by an adoring public, he left his home on Webster Avenue to circle the globe on a 57-pound Victor "safety” with inflatable tires (the prototype of the present-day bicycle). Two years later, after pedaling some 15,000 miles on two continents, he vanished mysteriously in Turkey, just as he was nearing Europe for his last leg. Although his life was cut short, he helped to spark a great bicycle boom and to establish the bicycle's enduring utility and appeal.
Born in Philadelphia to German emigres, Frank moved to Pittsburgh at an early age with this widowed mother Anna Reinhart, who would soon marry Frank's adoptive father, William A. Lenz, a Westinghouse machinist.
In 1886, working as an accountant for a brass manufactory in the Strip District, Lenz spent $100 (his monthly salary) on a Columbia highwheeler. He joined the Allegheny Cyclers and rode many thousands of miles over the region's rugged dirt roads. Though only 5'7", competing
Gradually, Lenz shifted to cycle touring, packing a boxy wooden camera. In the summers of 1890 and 1891 he rode with Charles Petticord to St. Louis and to New Orleans. Finally, Lenz persuaded Outing Magazine to send him on his fateful journey.
Logo for Lenz's series in Outing Magazine
Lenz photographs himself om his highwheeler on the National Road in (Little) Washington, PA, ca. 1890
On the Smithfield Street Bridge, August 1891: Lenz (far left) and Petticord (center) start for New Orleans.
Lenz in central China, with spectators who are probably seeing a bicycle for the first time.
Lenz at the Taj Mahal in October 1893.
Last known photo of Lenz, taken in the courtyard of the Crown Prince's palace in Tabriz, Persia, April 1894. Text by David V. Herlihy, author of The Lost Cyclist (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010).
Images courtesy of John Heron, John Lenz, and the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.
Erected by Friends of the Riverfront, Over The Bar Bicycle Cafe, City of Pittsburgh, Baldwin Borough, Allegheny Trail Alliance.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Notable Events. A significant historical date for this entry is May 15, 1892.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Redman's Mills (approx. 1.1 miles away); 4600 East Carson Street (approx. 1.2 miles away); The Flood Of 1936 (approx. 1.2 miles away); Coal Tipple (approx. 1.3 miles away); Steelmaking Capital of the World (approx. 1.6 miles away); 1892 Homestead Strike Memorial (approx. 1.8 miles away); Steel on the Move (approx. 1.8 miles away); World War II Memorial (approx. 1.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pittsburgh.
Also see . . . Friends of the Riverfront. (Submitted on June 1, 2021.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 1, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 1, 2021, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 34 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on June 1, 2021, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.