Thursday, April 20, 2017

Charles "Mile-A-Minute" Murphy

On June 30, 1899, Charles Murphy would set a world record bicycle ride of one mile in 57. 8 seconds while being paced by a Long Island railroad train. Before he made his famous ride, he had asked railroad companies all over the country to let him ride his bicycle behind a train. Murphy rode behind a specially built railroad car with a wooden hood added to slow down the wind pressure. Planks were laid over the ties for a distance of three miles for the event. At the start of the ride, the engine shot off by mistake, causing Murphy to expend a tremendous amount of energy trying to catch up.

He covered the first quarter mile in 15.15 seconds, and passed the half-way mark in 29.25 seconds. The three-quarter post was passed in 43.45 seconds. When the ride was ended, the engineer turned off the steam for the train, forgetting that Murphy’s great speed would keep him from stopping. Fortunately, there were several men at the rare of the train to pull him onto the coach.

In his words, he said, “I was riding against hope, and expecting the worst. As I raised my head, I could see that the earlier feeling of despair and disappointment on the faces of the officials had given way to a feeling of confidence and success.”

A plaque was unveiled at the South Farmingdale train station on October 13, 1938. That day’s festivities included contests, a parade, football game, and a dance. Led by the high school band, the parade included an official car with Mr. Murphy, Acting Mayor Fred Murray, and Judge Willis Carman.

Charles Murphy died at Queens Hospital on February 17, 1950. In addition to his famous ride, Murphy held more than 1,000 prizes in other bicycle events.

“Mile-A-Minute Murphy, Famed Cyclist, Dies at Queens Hospital.” Farmingdale Post. February 24, 1950.
Murphy, Charles. “Mile-A Minute Day – Here Next Saturday, Murphy Tells of Ride.” Farmingdale Post. September 29, 1938.
Murphy, Charles M. “Murphy Tells of First Half of Bike Ride.” Farmingdale Post. September 14, 1938.

“Plaque is Erected in Honor of Charles Murphy Saturday.” Farmingdale Post. October 13, 1938

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Mineola Fair

The Mineola Fair is one of the oldest operated fairs in New York State. An act authorizing public markets and fairs was adopted by New York State in 1692. On November 11, 1817, a meeting was held to consider creating an organization devoted to farming and rural economy. The agricultural society was created on June 12, 1819 and began sponsoring yearly fairs until it dissolved in 1822. The New York State Agricultural Society was formally founded in 1832. On October 13, 1842, the first Queens County Agricultural Society held its first Fair and Cattle Show. These tents fairs were usually held in September or October. Due to the constant worry about bad weather and the insecurity of the tents, the society determined it needed a permanent fairground. On April 3, 1866, forty acres of land on the Hempstead Plains near Mineola was given to the Queens County Agricultural Society.

The Society was able to host its twenty-fifth fair at the new fairgrounds in 1866. For nearly 85 years, the fairgrounds served as the home of the Agricultural Society. In 1899, the year Nassau County was created from Queens County, Governor Theodore Roosevelt delivered an address there. The last time the fair was held in Mineola was 1952. The fair then moved to the Roosevelt Raceway until the end of the 1960s

 In 1961, the fair officially became the Long Island Fair. When the fair interfered with the racing schedule, the Fair was moved to its present home at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration. Since 1985, the fair has been held in a recreation of the original 1866 fairgrounds.


Hammond, Gary R. The Mineola Fair: Mirror of a Country’s Growth. Reprinted from The Nassau County Historical Society Journal, 1999.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Brief biography of Kate Mason Williams Hofstra

Kate Mason Williams was a born in 1859. She met William Hofstra in Leadville, Colorado and they married in New Orleans. Kate was seven years older than William, but had been married and widowed at an early age. They decided to build a home of their own and came to New York.
The Hofstras bought the land for their home in 1903 in Hempstead, New York. The estate was approximately fifteen acres and was bordered by Fulton Avenue, a tree-lined thoroughfare that took them to the heart of Hempstead. Large estates and farms lay north and south of the avenue. In addition to the main house, there was a barn, greenhouse, garages, caretaker's cottage, and a small steam-heated structure, which was built for Mrs. Hofstra's cats.

She was Vice President of the Bide-a-wee Home Association in New York City from 1903 until her death in 1933. Mrs. Hofstra was President of the Atlantic Cat Club and offered the Hofstra Challenge Cup at the Madison Square Garden cat shows. Her fondness for animals prompted Mrs. Hofstra to leave ten thousand dollars to Bide-a-wee in her will. In addition, she left enough money to care for those pets that survived her. This included twenty-five cats, four dogs, and three parrots. Her housekeeper was to be entrusted with the care of the pets, and was willed a stipend, as well as enough money to build her own home, for this purpose.

When Kate’s husband died in 1932, he left her most of his estate. Kate died sixteen months later. Her will designated the property to be a memorial to her husband “for public, charitable, benevolent, scientific, or research purposes.” Following a suggestion from former Hempstead superintendent Truesdel Peck Calkins, the executors of her will established an extension branch of New York University on the Hofstra property. The two year school opened in 1937 and became an independent four-year college two years later. The college received an endowment of $700,000 from her estate in 1940.


“Mr. & Mrs. Hofstra Founding a University.”

Naylor, Natalie A. Women in Long Island’s Past. History Press, 2012.