Usually, we tell stories here of people who lived in the county or had some significant influence on the area. Every once in a while, however, we tell about those who just passed through here (for example: That Time Theodore Roosevelt was Assaulted in Elmira). Eddie Bald came to Elmira twice for very different reasons – to race a bicycle and to star in a play so bad that the author sued for injuries to her reputation.
|Eddie Bald was known as the “White Flyer” for his white
Eddie “Cannon” Bald was born in Buffalo in 1874 and made a name for himself in the 1890s as a professional short distance bicycle racer. He rode and promoted Colombia Bicycles and was considered one of the great racers of the 1890s. He came to Elmira in June 1897 to compete in a State Circuit cycling meet sponsored by the Elmira Athletic Club. The Club hosted Bald and the other cyclists at the Pine Cliff Club in Bohemia on the Chemung River. At the meet, Bald set a new track record for one mile in 2:16 3-5.
|Elmira Star-Gazette, June 16, 1897|
|Headline from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 4, 1898|
The play itself was described as a four act “pastoral cycle drama” with a plot that was said to be “pretty, romantic and pleasing.” The third act featured a bicycle race scene in which Bald and other riders would actually race bicycles with the help of patented machinery and a panorama. The play was reportedly written specially for Bald in order to display his dramatic ability but I’m not entirely sure of that. The lawsuit that I mentioned was brought by Mrs. Genevieve Haynes as the author of the play but in the early press it was reported that Rochester newspaperman Warren Forbes wrote the play for Bald. According to Bald himself, the story was heavily re-written upon his request so perhaps the original was by Haynes and the rewrite was done by Forbes.
|Buffalo Enquirer, July 11, 1898|
|Advertisement for A Twig of Laurel in the Scranton Tribune, November 8, 1898|
In December of 1898, the play’s purported author, Genevieve Haynes, filed suit against theatrical managers Luescher & Hefferon, who produced the play. She claimed that her reputation as a playwright had been damaged because of the casting of inferior actors. I wish I knew how the lawsuit was resolved but I could not find anything about it beyond that first report. I do know that Haynes went on to write other plays including Hearts Aflame and Once Upon a Time. Bald had contributed significant amounts of his own funds to finance the production and lost money for his efforts. After his unsuccessful turn on the stage, he returned to bicycle racing and never tried acting again.