The Library of Congress is a true treasure trove of photographic images from the early 20th century, many of which document the world of 6-day cycling. I recently found the above photo of Floyd MacFarland in the newly digitized George Grantham Bain Collection, and I knew I came across his name in the rash of New York Times articles which I’ve skimmed regarding the early 20th century cycling scene in New York City and Newark, NJ. As luck would have it I’d saved the article in question because the story is just too rich to ignore. This story made the front page of the New York Times, April 18, 1915:
“Some 150 fans, men and boys, were watching practice yesterday afternoon at the Newark Velodrome when they saw Floyd A. MacFarland, the former sprint and six-day bike racer, now General Mangager of the Cycle Racing Association, which operates the velodrome, approach David Lantenberg of 240 Grafton Street, Brooklyn, who has a concession for the sale of confectionary and refreshments at the track. Lanterberg was placing signs advertising his business along the rail guarding the edge of the track, about opposite the bleachers, and some of the crowd could hear MacFarland as he remonstrated with Lantenberg.The manager did not want the signs along the rail and Lantenberg appeared to believe he was within his rights in putting them there. The crowd heard the men argue heatedly, and at last saw Lantenberg turn again to a sign, into which he was driving a screw. As he put his screwdriver against it MacFarland grabbed his arm.
Instantly, both men appeared to lose their tempers. Lantenberg, according to witnesses the police found afterwards, struck at MacFarland with the screwdriver and the manager turned his head to avoid the blow. The point of the screwdriver struck back of his left ear and the point was forced through the skull into the brain. MacFarland dropped senseless just as a crowd of riders, preparing for the races today, and many of the fans rushed around the couple…”
Ouch. Evidently, screws from the advertisements were working their way loose, falling onto the track, and causing flat tires. MacFarland was pissed when he saw Lantenberg defy his no-sign policy. MacFarland was rushed to the hospital in Lantenberg’s car, but he died later that evening having never regained consciousness. Many of the world’s greatest cyclists were at his bedside when he passed. MacFarland had twice won 6-day events held in Madison Square Garden as well as 6-day races in Europe, but he was even better known for his skills as a race-promoter, both in the US and Europe, once his professional cycling days came to an end. The 1915 track season at the Newark velodrome was set to be the grandest of all time since MacFarland had spent the previous winter bringing all of Europe’s best riders to the U.S. since WWI put a stop to racing on the continent. I think it speaks volumes about the prominence of the sport and the importance of MacFarland that the New York Times made his murder a front-page affair.
Most likely the photograph was taken at the Newark Velodrome, but the exact location and date are unknown.