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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.
On June 19, 1953, Harry Truman got up early, packed the trunk of his Chrysler New Yorker, and did something no other former president has done before or since: he hit the road. No Secret Service protection. No traveling press. Just Harry and his childhood sweetheart Bess, off to visit old friends, take in a Broadway play, celebrate their wedding anniversary in the Big Apple, and blow a bit of the money hed just received to write his memoirs. Hopefully incognito.
In this lively history, author Matthew Algeo meticulously details how Trumans plan to blend in went wonderfully awry. Fellow diners, bellhops, cabbies, squealing teenagers at a Future Homemakers of America convention, and one very by-the-book Pennsylvania state trooper all unknowingly conspired to blow his cover. Algeo revisits the Trumans route, staying at the same hotels and eating at the same diners, and takes readers on brief detours into topics such as the postwar American auto industry, McCarthyism, the nations highway system, and the decline of Main Street America. By the end of the 2,500-mile journey, you will have a new and heartfelt appreciation for Americas last citizen-president.
An extraordinary yet almost unknown chapter in American history is revealed in this extensively researched exposé. On July 1, 1893, President Grover Cleveland boarded a friends yacht and was not heard from for five days. During that time, a team of doctors removed a cancerous tumor from the presidents palate along with much of his upper jaw. When an enterprising reporter named E. J. Edwards exposed the secret operation, Cleveland denied it and Edwards was consequently dismissed as a disgrace to journalism. Twenty-four years later, one of the presidents doctors finally revealed the incredible truth, but many Americans simply would not believe it. After all, Grover Clevelands political career was built upon honesty—his most memorable quote was “Tell the truth”—so it was nearly impossible to believe he was involved in such a brazen cover-up. This is the first full account of the disappearance of Grover Cleveland during that summer more than a century ago.
About the Author
Matthew Algeo is an award-winning journalist who has reported from three continents for public radios All Things Considered, Marketplace, and Morning Edition. He is the author of The President Is a Sick Man and Last Team Standing.
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History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century