News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 23, 2013

HISTORICAL TREASURE: Vintage Trans-Continental Bicycle Relay medal on display at museum

Barbara Carney
Special to the Tribune-Star

---- — A coveted vintage medal is a recent addition to the Vigo County Historical Museum’s collection. It is a flat, circular bronze piece measuring 2 inches across. On one side is a map of the United States showing a designated route from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The other side is inscribed “Trans-Continental Bicycle Relay, League of American Wheelmen, 1934,” with an engraving of a large eagle and a bicycle on it. Between the eagle and bicycle is space for the engraving of a name. This medal is special to Terre Haute as it engraved with the name of a former local bicyclist, Owen Youngblood.

In 1934, Youngblood, a 15-year-old Wiley High School student, participated in a relay conducted by the American Wheelmen’s organization in an attempt to break the past coast-to-coast record of 131⁄2 days. The riders carried the dispatches from Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York City to Mae West, Hollywood actress, and several west coast mayors in California.

In order to qualify for the big race, local bicycle riders took to the road for a 25-mile race over a course that ran from Fruitridge Avenue and Poplar Street, west to 25th Street, south to Hulman Street, east to Fruitridge, and north to Poplar. Youngblood’s time of 1 hour, 16 minutes and 2 seconds made him the winner and eligible to ride in the national relay.

Youngblood was the first Terre Haute dispatch bearer to take the package that was to be carried from coast to coast. He was handed the case at Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue and covered the first lap of 10 miles. Other local pedalists completed the ride between here and Effingham, Ill.

The gift, from Nina Youngblood, also includes two letters to the athletes from Charles Persons, who was associated with the trans-continental event, in which he said (in part), “Each medal owned by a rider represents and proves his part in the most tremendous Athletic achievement in the entire History of Bicycling.”

Shown with the medal is a photo of a mature Youngblood.