During the middle years of the twentieth century, W. E. Garrison was one of the preeminent church historians in the United States. Although his books covered a broad range of historical topics, he was especially interested in American Christianity and in the distinctive history of his own church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
During Garrison’s years as a graduate student in Chicago, in the 1890s, the modern “safety” bicycle with pneumatic tires was developed and became a new mode of personal transportation for enterprising people like Garrison. In 1898, following the completion of his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, Garrison spent two months bicycling through Britain and the following summer two months bicycling through central Europe. In 1900, his father’s publishing company published Garrison’s book describing these two excursion.
I know of only four locations where this book can be viewed. One of them is the Disciples of Christ Historical Society in Nashville, Tennessee, where the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is now in session. Earlier this year, I posted four chapters from this delightful travel narrative. You can find these postings in the February 2011 archives of this blog.
Garrison’s first chapter was written on board ship as he traveled to Liverpool. It gives his thoughts about why bicycling is such a fine way for people to travel through an interesting country. To read his first chapter, click About Bicycle Touring.
Although he was only 24 years old when he made this trip, Garrison was a remarkably well read man, showing extensive knowledge of English history and literature. This intellectual interest shows through clearly as he describes his journey. His writing gives no attention to the sweat and hard work that dominates so many modern cycling narratives. Rather, Garrison gives fascinating insights into the places and people whom he meets. I have also scanned and posted three additional chapters, which you can access by clicking on these two links: Into the Heart of England; Shakespeare’s England; The East Side of England.