Wheeling Through Europe by Winfred Ernest Garrison, republished by Nabu Public Domain Reprints
One hundred seventeen years ago, on April 26, 1900 (p. 534), the following notice appeared in the Christian-Evangelist, a religious news magazine published in St. Louis and distributed to more that 20,000 subscribers in the United States and Canada:
“Wheeling Through Europe,” by W. E. Garrison, will be ready for delivery by the time this issue reaches our readers. During the summer of 1898 and 1899 the author traveled extensively through England, Scotland, Wales, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. All of this touring was done on a bicycle, and he was thus enabled to see Europe as it cannot be seen by the tourist who rushes through the several countries on railway trains. He has written of his travels in a most entertaining and fascinating style. “Wheeling Through Europe” is a beautiful volume of 263 pages, handsomely bound and illustrated with half-tone cuts from photos taken by the author. Price, postpaid, $1.
Most readers of this notice would have been familiar with the travel narratives in this book because they already would have read them. During the summers of 1898 and 1899, as the cyclist-author was taking these two long bicycle journeys, he had sent reports home to his father, J. H. Garrison, owner, publisher, and editor of Christian-Evangelist, who published them in his magazine. Since his father also published books, the young Garrison (he was 24 and 25 years old when he took these “vacations,” as he called them), it was a logical next step to republish these reports as a book.
During the closing years of that century, W. E. was completing his Ph.D. degree at the University of Chicago, and in 1900 his father also published his dissertation entitled “Alexander Campbell’s Theology: Its Sources and Historical Setting.” It too was priced at $1.00.
Garrison had well-developed ideas about traveling by bicycle, as can be seen in the first chapter of Wheeling Through Europe, which carries the title “About Bicycle Touring.” Traveling by bicycle provides “an unrivaled opportunity for seeing the picturesque in nature and observing the life of people out of the beaten path of travel.” You can tailor your travels to do exactly as you please; it can fit your desires. “But don’t forget,” he adds, “that you are out to enjoy everything, sunshine and shower, down hill and up, smooth road and rough. . .If you can be happy only when physically comfortable, then do not risk a bicycle trip, for there will be many hours when there would be more actual comfort in the aforesaid hammock than in pushing a wheel through the sand of a country road or ploughing through the mud in the premature dusk of a rainy day to reach a gloomy inn before it is absolutely dark.”
The bicycle touring that Garrison describes has an easy-going feel to it that obscures the aggressive character of his travel. In a prefatory note Garrison writes that it “may interest wheelmen to know that the exact amount actual bicycling involved in these tours was 6,150 miles.”
I discovered Wheeling Through Europe in the library of Christian Theological Seminary, where I taught, in the early 1970s, read it with great interest, and in recent years have been turning again both to this book and to other bicycle-related travelogues that Garrison wrote. Soon after this book was published, he discontinued his cycling adventures and focused attention on his career as church historian, academic administrator, writer, and multi-talented senior statesman. While he is known for his many accomplishments, Garrison’s early life as remarkable cyclist has been largely overlooked. Not surprisingly, his book published more than a century ago is held by only a small number of libraries.
This summer, to my great surprise and delight, I discovered that Wheeling Through Europe can once again be purchased from online and local bookstores as a Nabu Public Domain Preprint. A note by the publisher explains that the book “may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process.” The new publication enlarges the size of the pages (7.5 x 9.75), and therefore the print is easy to read and photographs are fairly clear. The cover photo is not from the original and is not identified by the reprint publisher. Nabu Press is an imprint of BiblioLife in Charleston, South Carolina.
Winfred Ernest Garrison was born in 1874 and died in 1969 at the age of 94. He was elected president of the American Society of Church History for 1927-28. Among his books are Catholicism and the American Mind (1928); The March of Faith (1933), which describes the role of churches following the Civil War; A Protestant Manifesto (1952); Christian Unity and the Disciples of Christ (1955); and The Quest and Character of a United Church (1957). He is described in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (2004).