John S. Johnson

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John Johnson on his bike
John S. Johnson

John S. Johnson – inductee in 2003 for Veteran Road & track competitor (pre – 1945) Long before bicyclist Lance Armstrong was winning races and setting records, there was John S. Johnson who set a world record at Rush Park in Independence, Iowa in 1892. “He’s a Marvel,” proclaimed a headline in the Sept. 29, 1892 issue of the “Independence Bulletin Journal.” According to the article, Johnson, 21, at the time, broke the two-minute mile on his bicycle in 1:56 3/5 seconds – which marked the first time anyone ‘on two wheels or four,’ had broken two minutes. The date was Sept. 27, 1892. “He started 10 feet back of the wire, to comply with League of Wheelmen Rules,” read the article. “It was decided by his trainer, to have two (equine-horses) runners accompany him, each going one-half mile. “Uncle Henry” was the horse selected for the first half of the journey. They flew to the first quarter, in :29 1/4 seconds and reached the half-mile in :58 3/4 seconds. Here “Ned Gordon” joined the bicyclist, and together they finished the most wonderful mile ever ridden. The third quarter was passed in 1:28 1/2. Here the whip was vigorously applied to “Ned Gordon” and the mile was completed in the phenomenal time of 1:56 1/4″. Johnson was born on May 11, 1873, into a family of Swedish ancestry, and lived in Minneapolis. After his amazing feat at Independence, he became a national celebrity during the first International Championship Bicycling Meet at the 1893 World’s Fair. The U.S. won the event, receiving seven medals, with Johnson receiving both a silver and bronze medal. He also rode for racing teams sponsored by E.S. Stearns Bicycle agency out of Syracuse, N.Y., and Schwinn Bicycle Co. of Chicago. Johnson also held concurrent world records in speed skating. While racing in London, Johnson paced behind a relay of tandems to cover the mile in 1:57, a feat that earned him an invitation to dine with the Prince of Wales, Later King Edward. He retired from competition in 1900. Johnson was inducted into the Speed Skaters hall of fame, in 1960 and into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, in 2003. His fame was first started in Independence, Iowa in 1892 by racing on the famous “Kite Shaped” Rush Park Track.

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