MAJOR TAYLOR biography at a glance
by Lynne Tolman
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
Nov. 26, 1878 — Marshall W. Taylor is born in rural Indiana to a black couple who moved north from Kentucky around the time of the Civil War.
1886-1891 — Taylor is raised and educated in the home of a wealthy white Indianapolis family that employs his father as coachman. The family gives him a bicycle.
1892 — Taylor is hired to perform cycling stunts outside an Indianapolis bike shop. His costume is a soldier’s uniform, which earns him the nickname “Major.” He wins his first bike race that year.
Fall 1895 — Taylor moves to Worcester, Mass., with his employer and racing manager Louis “Birdie” Munger, who plans to open a bike factory there.
August 1896 — Taylor unofficially breaks two world track records, for paced and unpaced 1-mile rides, in Indianapolis. But his feat offends white sensibilities and he is banned from Indy’s Capital City track.
December 1896 — Taylor finishes eighth in his first professional race, a six-day endurance event at Madison Square Garden in New York.
1898 — Taylor holds seven world records, including the 1-mile paced standing start (1:41.4).
Aug. 10, 1899 — Taylor wins the world 1-mile championship in Montreal, defeating Boston rival Tom Butler. Taylor is the second black world champion athlete, after bantamweight boxer George Dixon’s title fights in 1890-91.
Nov. 15, 1899 — Taylor knocks the 1-mile record down to 1:19.
September 1900 — Thwarted in previous seasons by racism, Taylor finally gets to complete the national championship series and becomes American sprint champion.
October 1900-January 1901 — Taylor performs in a vaudeville act with Charles “Mile-a-Minute” Murphy, racing on rollers on theater stages across Massachusetts.
March -June 1901 — Taylor competes in Europe, which he had long resisted because his Baptist beliefs precluded racing on Sundays. He beats every European champion.
March 21, 1902 — Taylor marries Daisy V. Morris in Ansonia, Conn.
1902-1904 — Taylor races all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, with brief rests in Worcester.
1907 — Taylor makes a brief comeback after a two-year hiatus.
1910 — Taylor retires from racing at age 32. Over the next two decades, unsuccessful business ventures and illness sap his fortune.
1930 — Impoverished and estranged from his wife, Taylor drives to Chicago, stays at the YMCA and tries to sell copies of his self-published 1928 autobiography, “The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World.”
June 21, 1932 — Taylor dies at age 53 in the charity ward of Cook County Hospital, Chicago, and is buried in an unmarked grave.
May 23, 1948 — A group of former pro bike racers, with money donated by Schwinn Bicycle Co. owner Frank Schwinn, has Taylor’s remains exhumed and reburied in a more prominent part of Mount Glenwood Cemetery in Illinois.