Harry Elkes — Much ado about race

Maury Thompson
2 min readFeb 26, 2024

It was one of the most talked about races between champions that never took place.

“Saratoga’s champion W. J. Totten has challenged Harry D. Elkes of Glens Falls to a race of five or seven miles for a $50 trophy, the race to take place not later than October 8, and Saturday October 8 being preferred. Totten is willing to race either at Saratoga or Glens Falls,” The Morning Star of Glens Falls reported on Sept. 28, 1894.

“The details of the proposed seven-mile bicycle race between W.J. Totten of Saratoga and Harry D. Elkes of Glens Falls have not yet been set. The hitch, it is said, is in the distance,” The Morning Star reported on Oct. 1.

Elkes agreed to a seven-mile race to be held Oct. 12 at the Washington County Fair Grounds, The Morning Star reported on Oct. 2.

Totten responded that he was not available to race on Oct. 12, but could race on either Oct. 11 or Oct. 13, The Morning Star reported on Oct. 3.

The two cyclists agreed to race on Oct. 11, The Morning Star reported on Oct. 4.

But that would not be the end of the story.

The race was postponed to Oct. 18, and then postponed again to Nov. 2, and again to Nov. 3, because of poor weather.

The men were still committed to race.

“Totten was in Glens Falls last night. He says that he is in first-rate fettle, and will make it the race of his life,” The Morning Star reported on Oct. 29.

“Both Totten and Elkes have been training hard for the seven-mile bicycle race to be run tomorrow at Washington Park,” The Morning Star reported on Nov. 2. “It is reported in Saratoga that Totten rode seven miles the other day in nineteen minutes. If this is true, Elkes will have to do some fast riding to beat the little giant from Saratoga.”

Expectations were high.

“A big crowd is expected at Washington Park to see the seven-mile race between Elkes and Totten. It will be a lively contest and there will be no loafing,” The Morning Star reported on Nov. 3.

“The bicycle races to be run at the Washington Park Saturday afternoon were postponed owning to a muddy track. They will be run this afternoon at two o’clock, weather permitting,” The Morning Star reported on Nov. 5.

Weather did not permit, and with the start of winter weather it was decided there would be no race.

“Next spring, if we are all alive, I will accommodate Mr. Elkes at Woodlawn Oval in Saratoga Spring,” Totten said, according to a Nov. 10 report in The Morning Star.

Click here to read the most recent previous Harry Elkes post.

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Maury Thompson

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY