I came across the below story and picture (The best I have seen of Marshall Taylor) while researching a 19th Century Inventor. The below story and picture are courtesy of;
The New York Post
Writer: Harry Siegel
For a brief moment in America, the bicycle was king, and Major Taylor was king of the bicycle, one of the country's first black sporting heroes. As author Todd Balf notes, the papers dubbed him "the colored champion" and "the Worcester Whirlwind."In 1897, at the peak of its popularity, there were two million bicycles in the US, sharing the road with only 4,000 cars. It was the dawn of the era of individual speed, and men pedaled themselves to previously undreamable velocities: In 1898, the fastest car managed 39 miles per hour, while the bike record was 45 mph.
The men who rode these machines attracted tens of thousands to great new velodromes to watch them fight through nearly week-long endurance affairs that left the surviving riders literally hallucinating. While baseball at the time had capped salaries at $240, "Taylor had earned nearly that in a single two-minute-long exhibition race at Madison Square Garden," Balf writes.
Major Taylor's father was a former Kentucky slave who moved the family to Indianapolis. Major, the first member of the family born in the North, was adopted by and lived with his father's white boss, a railroad man, for three years. By the time his new "family" moved, he'd already been exposed to a culture that often excluded blacks, and to bike riding, at which he excelled from the start. After a few years of amateur racing, Taylor came to the attention of inventor Birdie Munger, a Jewish speed and biking enthusiast who became Taylor's friend, mentor and manager. Major first made a name for himself as a 16 year old when he set a new world speed record, lopping a full seven seconds off the previous best time. His reputation grew, and Taylor and Munger actually tried, unsuccessfully, to bleach his very dark skin, to ensure he could compete in Chicago's prestigious, whites-only Pullman Road Race. "For days and days we poured it on the lad," Munger later recalled, but "the mixture was poisonous in the extreme and we had to stop it."
Though unable to race in the South, and treated poorly throughout the country, Taylor became famous for his incredible bursts of passing speed, and held an amazing 200-12 record in high-stakes race matches. Teddy Roosevelt was a fan. Taylor set about constructing a public identity, a strict Baptist who refused to race on Sundays, even as his opponents colluded to move championships to exclude him, and the press called him racist names and mocked what they deemed his holier-than-thou posture. When he married, he and his wife concocted a fake past for her, so she could publicly match his upright standing in birthright as well as conduct.
The book culminates, along with Major's career, in Australia, 1904, where Taylor raced against his longtime foe, the racist rogue Floyd McFarland, who'd once appeared for a race against him to the strains of "All Coons Look Alike To Me." Badly injured in an earlier race, Taylor left his hospital room to race, even though he has to slice open his own badly injured leg just before mounting his bike to even complete a pedal stroke. Taylor won against a field of 10 racers, with eight of them colluding against him. Think Curt Schilling times 50.
Following this triumph and his subsequent retirement, the speed craze moved on to motorized vehicles and Taylor quickly receded from the public eye. There is little documentation of his post-racing life. We know that his business endeavors did poorly and his wife left him, and that he was buried, like his father, in an unmarked grave (though he was later interred and reburied by his racing comrades). Happily, his story has resurfaced, and numerous black racing clubs in his name have sprung up in places as South Central Los Angeles.