MAJOR TAYLOR, bicycle racer
biography at a glance

Nov. 26, 1878 -- Marshall W. Taylor is born in rural Indiana to a black couple who moved north from Kentucky around the time of the Civil War.

1886-1891 -- Taylor is raised and educated in the home of a wealthy white Indianapolis family that employs his father as coachman.  The family gives him a bicycle.

1892 -- Taylor is hired to perform cycling stunts outside an Indianapolis bike shop.  His costume is a soldier's uniform, which earns him the nickname "Major."  He wins his first bike race that year.

Fall 1895 -- Taylor moves to Worcester, Mass., with his employer and racing manager  Louis "Birdie" Munger, who plans to open a bike factory there.

August 1896 -- Taylor unofficially breaks two world track records, for paced and unpaced 1-mile rides, in Indianapolis.  But his feat offends white sensibilities and he is banned from Indy's Capital City track.

December 1896 -- Taylor finishes eighth in his first professional race, a six-day endurance event at Madison Square Garden in New York.

1898 -- Taylor holds seven world records, including the 1-mile paced standing start (1:41.4).

Aug. 10, 1899 -- Taylor wins the world 1-mile championship in Montreal, defeating Boston rival Tom Butler.  Taylor is the second black world champion athlete, after bantamweight boxer George Dixon's title fights in 1890-91.

Nov. 15, 1899 -- Taylor knocks the 1-mile record down to 1:19.

September 1900 -- Thwarted in previous seasons by racism, Taylor finally gets to complete the national championship series and becomes American sprint champion.

October 1900-January 1901 -- Taylor performs in a vaudeville act with Charles "Mile-a-Minute" Murphy, racing on rollers on theater stages across Massachusetts.

March -June 1901 -- Taylor competes in Europe, which he had long resisted because his Baptist beliefs precluded racing on Sundays.  He beats every European champion.

March 21, 1902 -- Taylor marries Daisy V. Morris in Ansonia, Conn.

1902-1904 -- Taylor races all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, with brief rests in Worcester.

1907 -- Taylor makes a brief comeback after a two-year hiatus.

1910 -- Taylor retires from racing at age 32.  Over the next two decades, unsuccessful business ventures and illness sap his fortune.

1930 -- Impoverished and estranged from his wife, Taylor drives to Chicago, stays at the YMCA and tries to sell copies of his self-published 1928 autobiography, "The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World."

June 21, 1932 -- Taylor dies at age 53 in the charity ward of Cook County Hospital, Chicago, and is buried in an unmarked grave.

May 23, 1948 -- A group of former pro bike racers, with money donated by Schwinn Bicycle Co. owner Frank Schwinn, has Taylor's remains exhumed and reburied in a more prominent part of Mount Glenwood Cemetery in Illinois.

Source:  "Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer"
an illustrated biography by Andrew Ritchie (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996)

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Contact:  Lynne Tolman
updated 4/7/2003