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Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sportby Matthew Algeo
Synopses & Reviews
Strange as it sounds, during the 1870s and 1880s, Americas most popular spectator sport wasnt baseball, boxing, or horseracing—it was competitive walking. Inside sold-out arenas, competitors walked around dirt tracks almost nonstop for six straight days (never on Sunday), risking their health and sanity to see who could walk the farthest—500 miles, then 520 miles, and 565 miles! These walking matches were as talked about as the weather, the details reported from coast to coast.
This long-forgotten sport, known as pedestrianism, spawned Americas first celebrity athletes and opened doors for immigrants, African Americans, and women. The top pedestrians earned a fortune in prize money and endorsement deals. But along with the excitement came the inevitable scandals, charges of doping—coca leaves!—and insider gambling. It even spawned a riot in 1879 when too many fans showed up at New Yorks Gilmores Garden, later renamed Madison Square Garden, and were denied entry to a widely publicized showdown.
Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was Americas Favorite Spectator Sport chronicles competitive walkings peculiar appeal and popularity, its rapid demise, and its enduring influence, and how pedestrianism marked the beginning of modern spectator sports in the United States.
In early 1861, as he prepared to leave his home in Springfield, Illinois, to move into the White House, Abraham Lincoln faced many momentous tasks, but none he dreaded more than telling his two youngest sons, Willie and Tad, that the family's beloved pet dog, Fido, would not be accompanying them to Washington. Lincoln, who had adopted Fido about five years earlier, was afraid the skittish dog wouldn't survive the long rail journey, so he decided to leave the mutt behind with friends in Springfield. Abe & Fido tells the story of two friends, an unlikely tandem who each became famous and died prematurely. It also explores the everyday life of Springfield in the years leading up to the Civil War, as well as Lincoln's sometimes radical views on animal welfare, and how they shaped his life and his presidency. It's the story of a master and his dog, living through historic, tumultuous times.
About the Author
Matthew Algeo is the author of Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure, The President Is a Sick Man, Pedestrianism, and Last Team Standing. An award-winning journalist, he has reported from three continents for public radio's All Things Considered, Marketplace, and Morning Edition.
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History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century