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Major Taylor

Found in: social studies; 3-5; 6-8; 9-12

Major Taylor Champion Cyclist written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome (2004) (40 pgs.) describes Marshall “Major” Taylor’s life and racing career up to 1901. The picture book opens in the 1891 when 13-year-old Taylor is delivering newspapers on a bicycle. It was an era before automobiles, when bicycles were the rage and when one street in Indianapolis was lined with bike shops. Taylor managed, with good luck and good support, to triumph during a time when African Americans were barred from competitive sport. The book closes with his victory over the European champion Edmond Jacquelin in a rematch after a defeat a week before. (Grades 3-5)

Major Taylor “The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World” 2nd Edition by Andrew Ritchie (2010) (208 pgs.) provides a more complete biography of Major Walter Taylor. It examines bicycle racing from 1890-1910 when track racing was as popular as baseball and places Taylor’s career in the context of Jim Crow. The book includes notes, annotated bibliography of print resources, glossary of bicycle racing terminology, and many photographs. (Grades 6-12)


Major Taylor Curriculum Guide is in three parts and a fourth element, Worcester Whirlwind Flier, a one-page mini-biography.

Part 1  ( PDF, 212 KB, 22 pgs.) provides lessons for grades 3-4, 5-8, and 7-12. The grades 3-4 activities include three reading comprehension exercises, a drawing exercise that demonstrates comprehension, and a puzzle. The grades 5-8 lessons feature activities in writing and math. Grade 7-12 has a reading with discussion questions.

Part 3 ( PDF,485 KB, 23 pgs.) offers five history lessons in which students use secondary sources to examine the life of an athlete and the significance of his accomplishments in the context of his time and place.


1890s-1920s Men & Bicycles (The Online Bicycle Museum)  features contemporary photographs of British, American, and French bicycles. A separate section highlights American bicycles.

Bicycle History Timeline An Education section covers bicycle safety and helmets.

The Major Taylor Society  provides biographical and professional information, books, magazine and newspaper articles, photographs and ephemera.


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