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Annie Londonderry and her “Extraordinary Ride”

Last year Peter Zheutlin, the author of the nonfiction book “Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride,” came to the Leach Library, here in Londonderry, New Hampshire,

to give an interesting lecture about his ancestor. Annie Kopchovsky, was “Annie Londonderry,” the first woman to go around the world on a bicycle. She was actually paid $100 by Londonderry Lithia Water, a very popular drink of the era, to carry their logo on her bicycle as she rode on her quest in the 1890s. Annie was a young mother, a wife, a Jewish immigrant, and a lone woman in a man’s world, which makes her story so very compelling.

I often imagine I’m a sleuth when I’m researching my genealogy. At his lecture Peter Zheutlin explained his detective skills for researching his own family tree. Annie’s ride was fascinating, but the whole story of how Zheutlin found out about his ancestress, and how the rest of the family actually hid her exploits was even more interesting. He had to dig through newspapers and magazines of the era to uncover his research for his book, since the rest of the family had hidden her story. In the 1890s, her adventure was their embarrassment! Any woman who would leave her husband and babies behind in Boston to go on such an adventure was not proper, and she had never ridden a bicycle before either!

Londonderry Lithia Water was bottled from a spring right near my backyard. The spring and its bottling plant have long ago disappeared, but around town antique ads can be seen on the walls at local restaurants such as “TJ’s” and “The Homestead.” Many people have Lithia water bottles on their windowsills, and I can find Londonderry Lithia Water postcards, ads and bottles for sale at local flea markets and on E-Bay. At the turn of the twentieth century, Londonderry Lithia Water was considered in vogue, and very medicinal. During prohibition it had a surge in popularity, until other bottled drinks such as Coca Cola and Pepsi became more popular. Imageability, a Londonderry company, sells reproductions of these amusing advertisements of Londonderry Lithia Water.

The town of Londonderry was also the base for Cohas Spring Water, produced by the Cohasaukee Corporation. The spring was on a large 100 acre parcel of land known as Cohas Park in the North West part of town, near today’s Manchester Airport.

Now, bottled water is again in vogue, and I’m sure that the aquifer my own well is served from is the same aquifer as the legendary Londonderry Lithia Water spring. Over 75% of Londonderry’s homes are served by well water, and it is quite tasty and refreshing. For years, the state of New Hampshire serviced a public water pump just off Route 102 near my neighborhood. Cars would be lined up on weekends as the public filled their water bottles and containers.
I just saw on the internet that Amanda Costa of ProSeries 24 acquired the rights to the book “Around the World on Two Wheels”, and she will write the screenplay titled “An Extraordinary Ride.” (see “Screenwriting Buzz” at November 21, 2009) I have previously blogged about the movie “Barbarian Princess,” and the story of Ka’iulani of Hawaii. Unfortunately this historical movie about the popular Princess Ka’iulani lacks funding to be shown in my area, and I may never see it. I hope that this film about Annie Londonderry receives the funding and advertising it deserves, so I won’t miss seeing it in local theaters!

For more information:
“Around the World on Two Wheels” by Peter Zheutlin, Citadel Publishers, 2007 – A history of Londonderry Lithia Water - the story of Peter Zheutlin’s book on his ancestress to buy reproductions of the Londonderry Lithia Water Ads the Story of Cohas Spring Water

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