Born: June 11, 1869
Died: October 22, 1936
Arthur Augustus Zimmerman was born June 11, 1869 in Camden. The son of a real estate broker, Arthur was an accomplished track and field athlete as a teenager, particularly in jumping events. He also raced on the old penny farthing bicycles, with the giant front wheel and tiny back wheel. By the time the chain-drive bicycle appeared in the early 1890s, New Jersey was a focal point of a major U.S. Bicycle Boom.
Known far and wide as “Zimmy,” Arthur was no small part of cycling’s popularity. Specializing in sprint events, which utilized his jumping muscles, he was crowned U.S. champion each year between 1890 and 1892. He was also very competitive in longer distances. Arthur’s nickname was The Jersey Skeeter—it was said he could pedal three times per second ay his best.
Arthur also competed and won overseas, where cycling was a more developed sport. He won the British 1-mile and 5-mile championships in 1892. In 1893, he won 101 of 110 races he entered, including the 10K and sprint titles at the world championships in Chicago. The worlds were held in Chicago to take advantage of the crowds at the Columbian Exposition.
Cycling was regarded as an amateur sport, but top riders were well compensated through the “gifts” bestowed upon them for winning or, in Arthur’s case, just showing up. A New York Times article listed his 1892 “winnings” as one house, six pianos, several horses and carriages, 29 bikes, a coffin, and gold and silver medals and trophies too numerous to count. He also signed endorsement deals for Zimmy shoes and Zimmy cycling uniforms., and appeared in ads for Raleigh bicycles.
It was around this time that Arthur ran afoul of the International Cycling Association. The ICA took a dim view of his commercial activities and, under pressure from England’s influential National Cycling Union, moved to ban him from amateur races.
Arthur responded by declaring himself a professional in 1894. He quickly established himself among the world’s top competitors, and his fame helped put pro cycling on the map. In his first major event, in Paris, he so dominated the preliminary heats that race officials pleaded with him to make his remaining races a little closer for fear of a mutinous crowd. In the final, he stayed at the back of the pack until the final the final turn when he blasted into the lead and beat the pack to the finish line by 20 meters.
Arthur toured the world, drawing huge crowds wherever he appeared. He cut back on his racing schedule after 1895, but continued to rake in money for endorsements and appearance fees. Arthur opened his own cycling business in Freehold before retiring from racing at the age of 36. He moved to Point Pleasant, where he ran a tourist hotel through the 1920s. Arthritis eventually drove him Arthur to a warmer climate. He passed away in Atlanta at the age of 69.