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Unearthing a Piece of (League) Family History

wheelmen certificate

Brian McEntee struck gold last fall.

Well, it’s “gold” as far as we are concerned over here at the League.

The Washington, D.C.-based bike commuter and blogger late last year dug up his great-grandfather’s League of American Wheelmen membership certificate, which was issued in 1895. McEntee found the century-old document, which bears the League’s former namesake, stashed away in his parent’s home amid family trees, funeral holy cards and cemetery plot deeds.

“Clearly, it was of some importance if my grandfather kept it for all of those years prior to leaving it to my own parents,” McEntee told us. “…I had no idea that my family biking history extended back to before the 20th century!”

brian mcenteeMcEntee (pictured) says he knows very little about his great-grandfather, John J. McEntee. When he received his League of American Wheelmen certification, he was living in Seaside, N.Y., in Queens. McEntee said his great-grandfather passed away when his grandfather was young, so his family isn’t sure what profession he held or how he became involved with the League. A guess? Perhaps “he was just swept up in its popularity at the time,” McEntee said.

And he’s right about the popularity of bicycling: By the turn of the century, the League had more than 100,000 members across the country. Some members at the time included the Wright brothers, John D. Rockefeller and Diamond Jim Brady. (Read more about the League’s history here.)

Ironically enough, McEntee said, biking has never been a major part of the family history.

“I learned to bike as a kid, but it was almost incidental amongst my childhood activities,” he said. “I grew up in a suburban bedroom community in Connecticut and spent more time being driven to soccer practice than riding around the neighborhood until I took up biking as an adult as a healthy, easy and cheap way to get to work.”

McEntee has been riding his bike to work for the last five years, including a stint in Denver, Colo., and he’s been bike commuting year-round for the past three.

“Prior to starting bike commuting, I hadn’t really ridden a bike since childhood,” he said.

His blog, Tales from the Sharrows, details the adventures of daily bicycle commuting. His Twitter feed, which boasts more than 1,000 followers and first tipped us off to the vintage League certificate, hits on issues related to biking in the nation’s capital.

McEntee has since framed his great-granfather’s certificate, an homage to his bicycling heritage.

“In many ways, I find it somehow fitting that the rediscovery of the certificate parallels my own redisovery of bicycling,” he said.

Be sure to check out McEntee’s blog, and follow his great-grandfather’s lead by joining the League as a member today!


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