Carl F. Burgwardt was a Western New York historian, collector and founder of the now-closed bicycle museum, Pedaling History. This private museum, opened in 1981 by Carl and his wife, Clary, gained an international reputation for the depth and breadth of his exhibits and knowledge. Visitors were often treated to tours personally by Carl or Clary who illuminated the tour with stories about individual bicycles.

The museum contained over 400 historic and rare bicycles along with thousands of pieces of bicycling memorabilia, ephemera and advertising, photographs, posters and original manufacturers' catalogs. Ninety-five percent of this collection was original American artifacts telling the beginning of the bicycle's development. Nearly twenty percent of the museum's collection was of Western New York and Buffalo origination.


Burgwardt posing at Pedaling History Museum, 2008. Image credit: Leslie Reissner

The Burgwardts were active in The Wheelmen, a national organization for antique bicycle owners. They hosted three annual meets, a history conference, and were beloved by members for their hospitality and friendship.


Carl and Clary at the 2001 Pan-American Centennial celebration at UB. He is wearing
a replica uniform of the Pan-American police force.

Carl and Clary's interests extended to all of Western New York history. They joined the Pan American Exposition Collectors Society as members #41 and #42 in 1997.

In the Spring 2007 issue of Western New York Heritage magazine, Carl co-authored a story on Buffalo's Liberty Pole. He had been contacted by a man who possessed a copper box of historical Liberty Pole memorabilia from the Buffalo's last Liberty Pole, demolished in 1939. The box, which had been buried at the installation in 1895, inspired Carl to call for the construction of a new Liberty Pole as part of the waterfront revitalization process. (Copies of this issue are for sale here.)

Carl Burgwardt pursued the dream of moving the museum to Buffalo's waterfront, constructing a distinctively designed structure (above) on the site of the former George N. Pierce Company's bicycle factory at 6-22 Hanover Street. This dream was not realized.

But he left a lasting contribution to Western New York's manufacturing history and to the nation's story of the revolution created by the bicycle. His 2001 book, "Buffalo's Bicycles," is an illustrated history of both the local manufacture of bicycles and the sport of cycling. It is and will remain a classic resource on this subject.

Pedaling History museum closed in 2009.

With special thanks to Leslie Reissner for permission to use his photo; visit his blog for more photos of the museum and description of his "wonderful afternoon listening to his stories about the bicycles."

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