Abstract: Battle for the Six-Day Sportscape: Floyd MacFarland and the Creation of the "Czar" of Bicycle Racing, 1899-1915

Ari C. de Wilde


Up to his death in 1915, Floyd MacFarland helped shape one of the truly distinctive New York environments of consumerism during the Progressive Era: week-long, "Six Day," twenty-four hours a day, paired bicycle races in Madison Square Garden. With variably priced seating, live bands, a variety of food and alcohol items and bookies, concomitantly with racers whirring around while partners slept, ate and received rub-downs in full view of spectators, the hectic environment of a Six Day was a unique sight to behold. These races, which often attracted up to 100,000 spectators per week, were beacons of a new consumer age and important to the development of North American sportscapes. These events—part races, part shows—were a sports promoter's dream. This sportscape was so potentially profitable that it inspired Floyd MacFarland and John M. Chapman, a rival promoter, to literally trek all over the world in pursuit of racing talent and financial backing. Utilizing a variety of primary sources, this paper examines how this sportscape defined the ultimately doomed, but longstanding, North American bicycle racing industry.