The Wheels of Justice: Elkton Police Mount Bicycle Patrol in 1900

1891 Bicycle Patent  source:  Library of Congress

To the consternation and dismay of crooks, felons, and troublemakers, the Elkton Town Council decided  to provide its tiny police force with greater mobility in Nov. 1900.  At a council meeting that month, the town purchased a bicycle for $10, allowing their  lawman to  pedal rapidly around the municipality.  Once it arrived, Bailiff George Biddle, the only officer, whirled quietly through the streets, alleys and roads of the growing community performing his duties with greater efficiency.

The fact that Elkton mounted a wheeled patrol caught the attention of other communities.   The Chestertown Officer, Mr. Simpson, said if the town furnished the bike, “he might consider it, but he had no hankering to become a mounted policeman.”  By the time thanksgiving rolled around, Officer Biddle was in good cheer, a local newspaper reported, as he was thankful that Mayor McQuilkin and the councilmen armed him with the unit allowing him to spin from point to point on his rounds.

This was the same year the automobile started showing up in town, but the arrival of a patrol car was nearly thirty years away for the force.  But with the town council in such a progressive mood, there was talk of purchasing a pair of horses for street work.  They could also be used to pull the steamer of the Singerly Fire Company.  Nothing ever came of that idea.

(Bailiff was the title given to the officer charged with maintaining law and order in Maryland municipalities.)

elkton police biddle

Chief Biddle of the Elkton Police Department.  The titles were in transition at that time.



Two men are in downtown Elkton, showing off their bicycles.  source:  private collection


5 responses to “The Wheels of Justice: Elkton Police Mount Bicycle Patrol in 1900

  1. Mickey Williams

    Ah !!! The happy days of old. Before Joe & Mary Jo. I wonder what Ballif Biddle’s retirement and benifits package looked like.

  2. What a simpler time that must have been. So patrol cars in Elkton happened around 1930?

  3. Mike, where was Ball’s Oak Hall Clothing House?

  4. Debbie that was in the center of town near where the old courthouse stood.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s