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One of the best-known photographs of Yellowstone Park shows eight uniformed men standing with their bicycles on Minerva Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs in 1896. They were members the 25th Infantry, U.S. Army Bicycle Corps, a unit of African-American soldiers with white officers.

The unit from Fort Missoula was on maneuvers to test the utility of bicycle soldiers. By the time they reached Mammoth, the soldiers had already set up relays to demonstrate they could move messages quickly, and sneaked up on an army camp to show they could spy silently. They had traversed primitive roads, forded streams, climbed fences and traveled up to 90 miles a day—with each man hauling more than 70 pounds of food and equipment.

The Lieutenant in charge said the maneuvers demonstrated the “practicability of the bicycle for military purposes, even in a mountainous country. The matter was most thoroughly tested under all possible conditions—we made and broke camp in the rain; we traveled through mud, water, sand, dust, over rocks, ruts, etc.; for we crossed and recrossed mountain ranges, and forded streams, carrying our rations, rifles, ammunition, tents, blankets, extra underwear, medicines, tools, repairing material, cooking-utensils and extra bicycle parts.”

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— Information from “Recent Experiments in Infantry Bicycling Corps,” by Lieutenant James a Moss, Outing: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine, 1896-97.

— Colorized photograph by F. Jay Haynes.

Learn more about Army 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps.

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