Released February 9, 2022
Major Taylor Exhibit Opens March 5
“Major Taylor: Fastest Cyclist in the World,” an interactive experience examining the life and career of champion bicycle racer and Indianapolis native Marshall “Major” Taylor, will open March 5 and run through Oct. 23 at the Indiana State Museum. The exhibit is free with paid museum admission.
The experience will take visitors into the training room to learn how Taylor developed his speed and agility through a regimen of exercise and diet. They will discover the pervasive racism that Taylor battled on and off the track – including being denied food and accommodations – and hear from great contemporary cyclists Justin Williams and Indiana University graduate Rahsaan Bahati about how Taylor’s story has the power to inspire a new generation of Black riders.
“Major Taylor: Fastest Cyclist in the World” will offer many opportunities for visitors to create and discover. Visitors will be able to tinker with bikes and bike parts and test their skills and times on stationary bikes. They’ll also learn about bicycle design and find out about the city’s “invisible riders” who commute by bicycle because they have no car. Plus, they’ll get to see Taylor’s bicycle, on loan from the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis, California, along with many artifacts from the museum’s collection donated in 1988 by his daughter Rita Sydney Taylor Brown, including trophies, scrapbooks, letters and postcards.
“Half a century before Jackie Robinson, Major Taylor was breaking barriers as a champion cyclist,” said Cathy Ferree, president and CEO of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. “His achievements are all the more remarkable given the racism he faced in Indianapolis and elsewhere. Our hope with this exhibit is twofold – that Major Taylor is appropriately remembered and honored for his achievements and that we can help Indianapolis continue to build a bicycle culture that would make Major Taylor proud.”
Taylor was born in Marion County in 1878. He earned his nickname because he wore a military uniform when he performed tricks and stunts outside an Indianapolis bike shop to attract business. He was a world-class bicycle rider while still in his teens but moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1895 to escape Indianapolis’s “whites only” tracks.
In 1898, Taylor won 29 races, finished second nine times and third 11 times, and by that time had racked up seven world records. In 1899 and 1900, he won the world sprint championships. He was only the second Black man to win a championship in any sport. (Boxer George “Little Chocolate” Dixon was first.) From 1901-1903, he had 113 first-place finishes and was second 48 times.
Kisha Tandy, the state museum’s curator of social history, is the curator for “Major Taylor: Fastest Cyclist in the World.” She said the remarkable story of this champion cyclist and trailblazer “should inspire us to talk and think about who rides bicycles, test our athletic skills, tinker with bike design and mechanics or just discover the joy of riding free and going where we like.”
Good background on Major Taylor is available at: