Joseph Pearson (1849 - 1939)

Draper, cyclist and map publisher born in Sydney. After attending Miss O’Connor’s school and Fort Street Model School, he worked for George Chisholm & Co., drapers, in 1862-65. Returning to Sydney after employment in Bathurst, he competed in pedestrian events and learned to ride a velocipede or ‘bone-shaker’ bicycle. In the 1880’s he worked as a draper at St Leonard’s and by 1889 he had opened a men’s clothing store in Sydney Arcade, George Street.

In 1882 Pearson visited England and Europe becoming very interested in cycling, and that year joined the Wanderers’, a Sydney bicycle club noted for its extensive touring. He won a Sydney-Parramatta road race on an imported penny-farthing and in 1887 rode a solid tyre model to Melbourne, covering as many as 70 miles (113 km) a day. He began to tally mileages with an odometer, and noted road conditions and accommodation facilities. In six years he covered about 12,000 miles (19,312 km) on penny-farthings. He then had a Speedwell ‘safety’ bicycle made, and fitted it with pneumatic tyres.

When Pearson toured Britain and the Continent in 1893, he rode some 3500 miles (5633 km). He bought road maps and, inspired by them, vowed to persuade his fellow cyclists ‘to take an occasional tour in the country … to get into our wide spaces’. In 1896 he published the Cyclists’ Touring Guide of New South Wales, which contained many practical hints. He agitated for the erection of road signs and that year helped to found the New South Wales Cyclists’ Touring Union, serving on the executive board.

A keen hill-climber, he was one of the first cyclists to reach the top of Mount Kosciusko. He was enthusiastic about the State’s scenery and advised the government when a tourist bureau was formed in 1905. Although he took up motoring, he continued to cycle until he was 73; he estimated he had ridden 162,000 miles (260,713 km). After retiring from his store, he published Reminiscences Including Cycling Experiences in 1925, and revised it in 1933. He was a keen swimmer and an opera enthusiast. Survived by his wife, two daughters and three sons, Pearson died at his Hunters Hill home on 30 September 1939, and was buried in Waverley cemetery.

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