A century ago, John S. Johnson of Minneapolis generated excitement nationwide for setting every world record in standing and flying starts from 100 yards to 5 miles.
He achieved fame as the first cyclist to break two minutes for the mile. In 1892 in Independence, Iowa, Johnson paced behind a horse pulling a sulky around a dirt horse track. His mile time of 1:56.6 marked the first time anyone ”on two wheels or four" had broken two minutes.
Johnson also distinguished himself for holding concurrent world records in cycling and speed skating, and winning world championship medals in both sports. At the inaugural world cycling championships in 1893 in Chicago, Johnson finished second in the 1-mile and third in the 10-kilometer.
Johnson is best remembered as a pioneer pro sprinter who won thse League of American Wheelmen national pro titles in 1893 and 1894, critical years when the LAW only reluctantly acknowledged pros.
His fame drew invitations to compete overseas for the 1896 season in Italy, France, Germany, Holland, and England. While racing in London, Johnson paced behind a relay of tandems to cover the mile in 1:57, a feat that earned him an invitation to dine with the Prince of Wales, later King Edward. He retired in 1900.