Over the past 200 years, the bicycle has evolved into a vehicle that opens doors to new adventures and experiences for all ages. From transportation and infrastructure to manufacturing and recreation, this humble 19th-century invention significantly impacted life in the Chicago area by redefining an era of newfound leisure and independence.

The Elmhurst History Museum presents a new exhibit that considers the myriad ways the bicycle has made an imprint on Chicagoland. “The Bicycle: Two Wheels to Adventure,” will be on display from June 9 through September 17, 2023 at the Elmhurst History Museum, located at 120 E. Park Ave. in downtown Elmhurst.

The exhibit depicts the story of the “human-powered carriage” as told through examples of iconic bicycles, artifacts, and timeless photographs. Visitors will view photos and video as well as bicycles and gear from different eras interwoven with interactive displays.  A spotlight will shine on Elmhurst adventurer, educator, and “World’s Most Traveled Man,” J. Hart Rosdail, and share colorful tales from his record-setting journeys across the globe on his trusted bicycle, Jacqueline. Another feature will profile the history of the Illinois Prairie Path, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and runs through central Elmhurst providing a “rails-to-trails” recreational pathway that links the western suburbs.

Developing the Exhibit

Elmhurst History Museum’s Curator of Exhibits, Sarah Cox, researched, wrote, and designed the “Two Wheels to Adventure” exhibit, and she learned some fascinating stories about the history of bicycling in the process.

“Bicycles are such a great topic for a summer exhibit due to their wide appeal, and because everyone can relate to stories of their first bicycle or riding around their neighborhoods with friends and family,” said Cox. “I loved putting this exhibition together, from learning about the significance of the Chicagoland area to the bicycle's history to working with local collectors and community cycling organizations.”

Cox tapped into the Elmhurst History Museum’s own collection for many artifacts to build the exhibit storyline, including Rosdail’s bicycle and photos and memorabilia from his journeys. In addition, a few rare bicycles loaned by a private collector will be featured, including a “velocipede” bone shaker from the 1860s and an 1888 high-wheeler. A women’s cycling outfit circa 1890, on loan from the DuPage County History Museum, illustrates how bicycles were a liberating “freedom machine” for turn-of-the-century women.

Exhibit-Related Programs

The Elmhurst History Museum will present an array of engaging programs and events related to “The Bicycle: Two Wheels to Adventure” exhibit throughout the summer. Program details and reservation information can be found on the museum’s new website at www.elmhursthistory.org. Some of the program offerings include:

  • June 22: Elmhurst Community Ride, Free, 6:30 p.m. The Elmhurst Bicycle Club will lead a fun summer ride on low-traffic streets throughout Elmhurst.
  • June 25: Cycling in Chicago Lecture, Free to Members/$5 Non-Members, 2 p.m. Author Chris McAuliffe shares an intriguing look at the history of cycling in the area and its influence on recreational culture throughout history.
  • July 9: Bicycle Bonanza, Free, 1-5 p.m. The Elmhurst History Museum is throwing a summer celebration on the museum grounds lawn with an afternoon of bike-themed games, crafts, performances, face painting, and other activities for all ages. Visitors can explore the exhibit, see BMX champion and America’s Got Talent semi-finalist Matt Wilhelm perform, enjoy live music by School of Rock, test skills on the big wheel obstacle course, and more.
  • July 16: Gallery Talk with the Curator, Free to Members/$5 Non-Members, 12 p.m.

Curator Sarah Cox will guide participants through highlights of “The Bicycle: Two Wheels to Adventure” exhibit with exclusive access to galleries.

  • August 13: The World’s Most Traveled Man: J. Hart Rosdail, Free to Members/$5 Non-Members, 2 p.m. Curator of Collections Dan Lund shares a presentation about longtime Elmhurst resident and adventurer, J. Hart Rosdail, whose frequent travels—often on bicycle—earned him the Guinness Book of World Records title of “World’s Most Traveled Man.”
  • August 20: History on Wheels Bike Tour, $5/person, 11 a.m. The Elmhurst Bicycle Club and Elmhurst History Museum staff will conduct a biking tour of local historical spots throughout Elmhurst.

Exhibit and Visitation Information

Take an exciting journey through history this summer by experiencing “The Bicycle: Two Wheels to Adventure” at the Elmhurst History Museum. The exhibit runs from June 9 through September 17, 2023 at the Elmhurst History Museum, located at 120 E. Park Avenue in downtown Elmhurst. Museum hours are Sunday and Tuesday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Admission is free, and limited free parking is available. The exhibit is sponsored by Feze Roofing, Lakeside Bank, and Michael V. LoCicero Attorney at Law. For the latest exhibit and program information, please visit www.elmhursthistory.org.