Exhibition “Round Trip: Bicycling Asia Minor, 1891” opens Nov. 10 in Olin Library

Thomas Gaskell Allen, WU alum 1890 William Lewis Sachtleben, WU alum 1890

The exhibition “Round Trip: Bicycling Asia Minor, 1891” features circular, black-and-white photographs taken by WU alums William Sachtleben and Thomas Allen, Jr. on their bicycle trip through Greece, Turkey, Persia (Iran), and the Russian Empire in 1891. On display in Olin Library’s Ginkgo Reading Room, the exhibit runs from November 10, 2015, through January 10, 2016.

William Sachtleben’s Humber bicycle at rest in Constantinople draws a crowd of spectators. Background: Hagia Sophia and Thomas Allen on his bicycle. March 21, 1891.

Sachtleben and Allen traveled for three years (1890-1892) and pedaled some 18,000 miles across three continents, Europe, Asia, and North America. They took two novel Kodak film cameras and captured their adventures with 1,200 images on 3 ½-inch nitrate negatives. Only about a third of the negatives are known to have survived, and these are now part of the Sachtleben Collection kept since 1984 by the UCLA Library Special Collections. The negatives were scanned in 2013—a complicated process, given their fragile and combustible state.

 “The mosque of a Mogul sovereign of Irak at Sultania as seen from the road.” August 8, 1891.

The photographs vividly convey what the two adventurers experienced as they pedaled across barren dirt roads, river crossings, mountain passes, and volcanic terrains, encountering peoples and cultures entirely foreign to them. The scenes of everyday life also reflect how the locals—many of whom had never before seen a Westerner or a bicycle—reacted to them and to the marvelous technologies that were destined to change ancient ways of life.

The exhibition’s guest curator is David V. Herlihy, historian and author of Bicycle: The History and The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance. Herlihy will give an exhibition talk entitled “Pulled from the Flames: The Remarkable Backstory behind ‘Round Trip’” on Thursday, December 3 at 4:00 p.m. in Olin Library’s Ginkgo Reading Room. The talk is free and open to the public.

Round Trip: Bicycling Asia Minor, 1891 is organized and circulated by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and co-sponsored by the UCLA Library Special Collections. Support for the exhibition was provided by Lee Bronson, Shirley and Ralph Shapiro, and Sukey and Gil Garcetti.

University Archives has more information on Sachtleben and Allen. Please contact us.

Photo Credits:

Thomas Allen, Jr. (left) and William Sachtleben (right). Washington University Archives.

William Sachtleben’s Humber bicycle at rest in Constantinople draws a crowd of spectators. Background: Hagia Sophia and Thomas Allen on his bicycle. March 21, 1891. Collection of the UCLA Library Special Collections.

“The mosque of a Mogul sovereign of Irak at Sultania as seen from the road.” August 8, 1891. Collection of the UCLA Library Special Collections.

About the author