Founding the Unione and Racing to Prominence
The USI name translates as the Italian Sporting Union. As the name implies the club was not just about cycling. Cycling was one division and before long became the main activity of the club, but it originally provided members a home to pursue their interests in boxing, rowing, running, basketball, etc, as well as cycling.
Within the ﬁrst ten years the cycling division grew to be well known and quite competitive among the best amateur cyclists in the New York Metropolitan area. Circa 1915, the USI maintained a space located at 410 8th Avenue at 37th Street in Manhattan.
The ﬁrst club cycling champion is Louis Rabbino who won the title in 1915. There are no records for what results determined the championship winner, but racers of the time competed in a variety of cycling contests from distances of 50 yards to 50 miles on public roads, indoors at armories, on hard packed tracks, cinder tracks, horse race tracks, and on board lined banked velodromes.
Although we do not have the names of the founders, it is acknowledged that they were primarily new Italian immigrants and Italian-Americans. There were other similar clubs with nationality connections like the German Club, the French Sporting Club, and the Belgian Club as well as clubs that were less speciﬁc such as the Acme Wheelmen who ﬂourished on Long Island and the Century Road Cycling Association based in Manhattan.
The USI naturally attracted men of Italian origin, but from these early days it also welcomed anyone who could pedal. The USI’s second club champion was Nelson Johnson who took the prize three years running from 1916 to 1918. The ﬁrst USI Cycling Club Champion Louis Rabbino who won the award in 1915 is third from the left and Nelson Johnson, Club Champion from 1916•1918 is the cylist in the USI jersey in the center of photo.
A highlight of the 1916 and 1917 seasons was the USI’s winning of the Goodrich Trophy. The trophy was presented by the Goodrich Tire and Rubber Company for excellence in sport in a given area over the course of a season of competition. The value of the all silver cup at the time was estimated at $400. The winning USI team included members Arthur Nieminsky, Elmer Mullen, Louis Benazzato, Anthony Attardi, George Harvey, and Tom La Rossa.
In 1918 the USI led by a team including Edward C “Teddy” Bendi captured the Italian Gold Cup at the Italian War Beneﬁt Meeting. Teddy Bendi was very important to the development of the USI and his involvement covered the next 50+ years of the club.
By the end of its ﬁrst ten years the USI had become a recognized power in amateur cycling that attract talented riders.