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tv   Pedestrianism in 19th Century  CSPAN  August 18, 2014 9:55am-10:58am EDT

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such as football and so forth, so i have a question for you. just in the end here. i really value your judgment on this. president o obama leading up to his first campaign famously went to the university of north carolina and played basketball. they had it all over the tv with the championship basketball team. he leading up to his second election, he famously channelled al green's i'm so in love with you. i mean, it became the number one phone ringer across the country after that. i have a question you. do you think you will have project projected the same cachet charisma and cool say he had been into bowling and had channelled glenn campbell's the
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wichita linemen? just as a guy who understands the entertainment part of this thing. >> everybody else would have been, too, if he would have stood up there and sung the wichita lineman. >> i don't know how to answer that. i almost don't know what you're talking about. >> all right. okay. >> well, we're down to the last 15 seconds. okay. >> i want to say something, please. lifetime best friends and a guy that i've known 50 years. i got a bid here. but i thought it was such an honor for me to be invited. because all i've ever tried to
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do in my adult life is to make my father proud of me. and we were, my father died a few years ago, but he was 75. he says to me, you know, i love you. it was the first time he had ever said that. and he says and i'm proud of you. that was the first time he ever said that. he said i'm proud that you're my son. and i'm proud just as proud that i'm your father. and that was my hero. you know, tell you a quick story.
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>> we got zeros on the clock. got to be quick. >> i got my first $100,000 contract and called my father and said, you don't have to work anymore. i make enough for both of us. and his reaction was i don't want your damn money. he -- i got my own money. and he's working the foundry. and i said that's a terrible job. why would you give it up? he says, listen, i've given these people 35 of the best years of my life. now, i'm going to give them a few of the bad ones. >> it has been a tremendous honor for me to share this stage with two of the greatest men.
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i won't say it basketball, football player, those are things you just happen to be the best in the world at doing, but two of the greatest men, two of the greatest citizens of this country that i've ever had the pleasure of being associated with. let me thank you, thank you very much. tonight, american history tv looks at the overland campaign in the civil war. a series of major virginia battles in may and june 1864 between grant and lee. at 8:00 p.m., historians and official frs the national parks service commemorate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the campaign. at 9:00 p.m., author gordon ray and just after 10:00, the national parks service marks the conclusion of that phase of fighting. here's a great read to add to your summer reading list.
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a collection of stories from some of the nation's most ?u%> i always knew there was a risk and i decided to take it because whether it's illusion or not, i don't think it is. it helped my concentration. it stopped me being bored. it would keep me awake. it would make me want to evening to go on longer, prolong the conversation. enhance the moment. if i was asked would i do it again, the answer's yes. i would have quit earlier possibly hoping to get waway wih the whole thing. not very nice for my children to hear, sounds irresponsible, to say i'd do it all again to you. the truth is, it would be hypocritical to say i would have never touched the stuff. everyone knows.
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>> the system in earn europe contains the seeds of construction. many of the problems beginning at the beginning. i spoke earlier at the attempt to control all institutions and control all parts of the economy and political life and social life. one of the problem is that when you do that, when you try to control everything. one artist says i don't want to paint that way. if you want it, the populous agrees that it's something we should subsidize, then put it on the balance sheet. everybody aware of how much it's costing. but when you deliver it through these third party enterprises,
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when you deliver the substance and executive can extract that subsidy for themselves, that is not a very good way of subsidizing home ownership. >> a few of the 41 engaging stories in cspan's sundays at eight. there was a time in u.s. history when walking was a competitive sport. he talks about his book, when watching people walk was america's favorite sport. it became popular in eastern cities in new york and philadelphia in the 1870s and 1880s. the new york public library hosted this hour long event. it's a pleasure and honor to be here at the new york public
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library and i thank them for the invitation. also, nice to have cspan here, who will be recording the event. i live in mongolia. anybody else from mongolia? a couple. i wrote most of this book while living in mongolia. just to dwif give you a little background and how the book came about, i went to college in philadelphia. i'm originally from philadelphia. i went to university of pennsylvania and middle-agajorm english. i've always preferred nonfiction, so since i didn't like to read it, i wouldn't read it, and i got a d in freshman english and decided maybe that's a sign i should try another
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field and so, i switched my major to folklore. any other folklore majors here today? it was great training for writing books. it really involves research and interviewing and paying attention basically, but when i graduated in 1988, may surprise you, but back then, there weren't as many folklore jobs as there are today. i moved to seattle and that's when i drifted into public radio. back then, it was more like a radio program for people with folklore degrees and it was very helpful as well in teaching me how to write and research and how to write clearly and concisely, so i bounced around a
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bunch of different public radio stations. i worked in minnesota, st. louis. met my wife there, we moved to maine and in 2003, i moved to work on business marketplace. 2003 was also the year that allison took the foreign service exam to attempt to become a fortune service officer and passed and so, she was put on a hiring list. it was almost two years that we were in los angeles saying if you'd like to join the foreign service, you need to move to washington in two weeks and so, we had a decision to make. rather quickly tat time.
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she would take the job and i wouldn't. this didn't bother me in the least and so, we took a vote and it was 1-1 about whether i should quick my job. eventual eventually, she came around and it enabled me to start writing these books. i tend to write books about very obscure events in american history. somebody told me you wrote the definitive books. i guess that's my niche. i write books about things that don't need to have definitive books written about them, but it's been a lot of fun. it's been extremely nonlucrative and has given me something to do
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as we've traveled about. usually, i'm able to do the research in washington. we're based in washington between our foreign assignments, so i can get all the research done at the library of congress and elsewhere. when we get to post, i can concentrate on writing the books. the first book i wrote, mali in west africa, a book called last team standing. it was about the 1943 merger of the steelers and eagles. during world war ii, the national football league was so short of players that they had to merge the steelers and eagles and they became the steegles. they were sort of a mismatched
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bunch. the receiver was blind in one eye, that sort of thing, yet they had a successful season. you can buy the book. it's in paperback and it was while i was researching the book that i went back and looked at the history of spectator sports in the united states. it's like the sports industrial complex today. multibillion dollar business. cities build million dollar stadiums just to keep these teams in town. i knew it hadn't always been like that and that was when i first learned about this peculiar sport which was very popular. it really was the most popular
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spectator sport in the united states for a very brief period of time in the 1870s and 1880s and it really began in 1860. there was a guy named ed ard westen in boston and he made a bet with a friend in 1860 on the outcome of that year's presidential election. westen bet lincoln would lose. spoiler alert. so, westen, to fulfill the terms of the bet, it was an unusual bet. the loser had to walk from boston to washington. in ten days and arrive in time to to see the inauguration. now, this was a really arduous undertaking in 1861.
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i'm sure it's no walk in the park today either. i wouldn't recommend taking the interstate. he walked from boston and of course, the roads were terrible. it was the middle of winter. you never really had a dirt path to tell you where to go. basically, when he got to a town, he would have to ask how do i get to the next town. this attempt really captured the public's imagination. it fascinated people and i think for a couple of reasons. one, winter of 1860, 1861, not a lot of good news in the papers. southern states were succeeding, war was imminent, and so, his walk was kind of a feel good
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human interest story. as he made his way, huge crowds would turn out to watch him walk through town. people would wait for hours in the cold to see westin on the horizon slowing making his way to town and bands would come out and play. he was a pretty shrewd business man, too. he made an agreement with a sewing machine company to hand out advertisers along the way and he got them to sponsor his trip. and so, he would hand out these fliers and go on his merry way. the unfortunate part, he didn't make it in time. he was four hours late, he had become very famous. he was kind of a schemer.
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he actually met lincoln and although he had bet on lincoln to lose, lincoln harbored no ill will and offered to pay his train fair back home to austin, but the civil war intervened and it wasn't until 1867 that westinattempted another walk and this time, it was a walk from portland, maine to chicago. he made a bet he could walk in less than 30 days. again, this was considered practice practically impossible. when he got to chicago, an estimated 25% of the population of the city was waiting to meet him.
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the name westin became synonymous with walking. he decided to take his act indoors. in the early 1870s, roller skating became a very popular sport. general sherman was a big fan. towns and cities began building roller rinks, places where you could go roller skate. he would attempt to walk 10 miles in 24 hours. he would pull into town, hire a band and do these walks and tows of people would come and pay ten
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cents apiece just to walk him walk in circles on the floor of these roller rinks. sometimes, the lap was so small, it was 50 laps to a mile. but he just walkeded continuously. he had amazing endurance and also, an ability to function with very little sleep. this proved very lucrative. daniel o leery had been a door to door book sales man until the great fire in chicago and that really reduced the demand for diversions of the bible or dictionaries and so, to make money, he had to walk great distances to try to sell books and developed quite a reputation for endurance himself. when he heard about what westinwwesti westin was doing, he thought, i could do that, so he walked 100
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miles in 23 hours and then zxpm hours so it became apparent these were the two leading pedestrians in the united states and it was time for a showdown. i call them really the ali and frazier of their age. westin liked to perform wearing ruffled shirts, played coronet when he walked. he understood the event was more about athletics, it was about entertainment. o'leary would have none of that. he just wore a traditional tight cotton pants and a cotton shirt and just looked straight down at the track. wouldn't even acknowledge the crowd. he was always focused, i guess they would say.
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it was decided we need to have a competition to determine the world's champion pedestrian. never mind it was between two americans but we still called ate a the world series. that's never stopped us from deciding we had the world champion. it took place in chicago. interesting venue. the chicago exposition building. the largest public venue in the united states at the time. ground covered five football fields. you could fit five football fields inside. since it was to big, it was decided this was the logical place to hold this great walking match and the rules were pretty simple.
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at the time, there were blue laws that prevented amusements on the sabbath. you couldn't walk competitively on saturday, so the races would begin after midnight sunday night, monday morning and they would continue pretty much non-stop right up until midnight the following saturday night. 144 hours. sometimes, they began a little late, but generally, it was six full days. in this match, o'leary won. westin was not gracious in defeat and complained o'leary had a home field advantage because the race took place in chicago, which is where o'leary was from. he said he had been threatened, threatened to shoot him, these
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sorts of things. none of these reports really panned out, but westin decided to take his act to london, where he started staging these walks against time again and the british just like the americans had were fascinated by westin the walker and would come out to watch him walk for hours or days at a time. it was formalized and there would be competitioned stages. the entry fee would be $10. later, it was raised to $100 to discourage speculators. people who thought they could walk 500 miles in six days, but really couldn't. again, the same rules after midnight sunday night monday morning, they would take off. and dirt track would be laid on
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the floor of the arena, about a seventh of a mile or an eighth of a mile. a team of judges would keep track of the laps. the rules were fairly strict that one part of the foot had to be on the ground at all times. this was walking. some of the most famous matches took place very close to here at the first madison square garden, which was located i think at 23rd and 4th. 23rd and 5th maybe. this was built by pt barnum in 1874. when he built it, he named in his typical low key way, the grand roman hipadrum. it was neither ground nor roman. hipadrum was kind of a word for stadium at the time and it was actually open air. there were about 10,000 seats total, but it wasn't covered and sometimes, barnum would cover it with one of the big tops from his circus.
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by about 1876, the arena was covered and it was in about 1877 i believe that one of the vanderbilts who own the property took it over and he decideded to name it after the nearby park, madison square. and hence we have madison square garden. this is the first madison square garden i'm talking about, of course. the current madison square garden which opened i think in '68 is the fourth, but they keep calling it madison square garden even though it keeps moving farther and farther away, which must confuse some tourists any way. the races in madison square garden were the most popular. six-day races and now, we're in the golden age of pedestrianism. really 1879, 1880, 1881. it seated about 10,000 people
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and would sell out every night. since the races were continuous, people would come and go throughout the day, so we don't really know how many people in total would watch one of these six-day races, but it's possible they might have had 20 or 30,000 people come through every day because people were constantly coming and going, and that was one of the appeals of the sport, actually. it was continuous. at the time, you had millions of people moving into the cities. industrialization, new factories, migration of people from the country side. immigrants, especially irish and german immigrants all pouringing into the city, especially new york, but there wasn't much for them to do. there was an entertainment deficit. in the united states. in the 1870s and 1880s. if you can imagine that. i would say we probably have an entertainment surplus now. but back then, there was a deficit. especially for working people. most entertainment was live
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entertainment, a musical performance or a play. that might cost a dollar or two and average working person was very lucky to make as much as a dollar a day. maybe 50 cents would be more likely. there wasn't a lot for working people to do. a ticket to one of the walking matches might cost 10 cents or a quarter and not only that, because it was continuous, if you worked a shift and got off at 11:00 p.m. or 7:00 a.m., you could stop by the great walking match, have a couple of beers and watch it for a couple of hours. there was no restriction. if you wanted to, you could buy a ticket on monday and stay all six days and a sandwich costs about 10 cents and so, basically, for a dollar, you would have a warm place to stay for a week and at least one meal a day. they also sold a lot of beer. walking match, too, everybody
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says it must have been so boring. must have been so boring just watching people walk. in circles for days at a time. the only thing i can think that would be more boring would be listening to somebody talk about people walking in circles for days at a time. but i will not talk for six days, i do assure you that. but these events and look, we have had some really boring super bowls. i think we can all agree on that. we have had some really boring super bowls, but everybody watches. you don't always watch for the footballs. you watch for the commercials. the you know, halftime show. and when something unusual will happen. that sort of thing and pedestrianism really pioneered this. there were brass bands at each end of the arena that would be playing songs.
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there were vendors selling everything from roasted chestnuts to pickled eggs. raw oysters. wouldn't recommend buying those, but you know, there was all kinds of things to do apart from just watching the guys walk. it was a spectacle. and for working people especially, it was a rare opportunity to take part in something that was this spectacular and that was this famous. that was on the front page of every newspaper the next day. there were other things to do at the great walking match. i went to a phillies game last week with my sister at the new stadium in philadelphia and it occurred to me that these new stadiums are really kind of designed to give you something to do besides watching the baseball game. they have like arcades for the kids and there's restaurants and bars and it's basically they've admitted it's a boring sport, but you're paying $28. we'll give you something to do. and that was a little bit the case with pedestrianism.
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it also had a lot of fans from the upper class. and you might see celebrities at a great walking match. james blaine attended walking matches. he was a big fan. chester arthur, huge fan. stop me if you recognize any of these names. tom thumb. was a big pedestrianism fan, not literally, but he enjoyed it a lot and i guess was fairly easy to spot in a crowd. i don't know how. but word would get around that tom thumb was in the arena and at one point, there were riots. people rioted to get in, so there was a great riot in new york in 1888. they oversold tickets to the match and people were still gathered outside trying to get in at midnight sunday night and they heard the roar of the crowd
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inside and began storming madison square garden and there was an infamous police captain, alexander williams, his anymore n nickname was clubber. so, you can deduce from that what you want, but clubber decided that he had to beat back these people who were trying to invade the garden and it turned into a riot and a lot of people say it was the worst riot in new york since the civil war draft riots about ten years before, so it enflamed passions deeply. the pedestrians themselves became the first celebrity athletes in the united states. their pictures appeared on the early trading cards. daniel o'leary, the irish immigrant from chicago, he was the spokesman for a brand of salt. don't know what the connection was, but apparently, he liked that salt. there were corporate sponsorships. i mentioned westin would sell ads as he walked.
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there were many, many pedestrians were sponsored by newspapers and would compete with the logo of the newspaper across their shirt. a tradition that i have to say so far major league baseball to its credit has resisted. though for how long, i don't know. it also had a struck a chord with people not just because there wasn't anything else to do. that was a big part of the appeal. there was so little entertainment, but the idea of walking to the average american in the 1870s and 1880s is very different than it is today. everybody walked. a good horse might cost 100 or $150. this is one of the things that surprised me. i just always imagined everybody had horses. nobody had horses.
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the 1% had horses. the 99% walked and walked everywhere. there was some public transportation, especially in new york and philadelphia. but by and large, people walked and people had had to walk long distances in the middle of the night to fetch a doctor or maybe on a snowy sunday morning to get to church, so i think people really related to the competitors, to the pedestrians. there was a kind of empathy. they were doing this ordinary active in a very extraordinary way. and also, they were admired for their endurance. in a typical race, pedestrian might be on the track walking for 21 out of 24 hours. they would sleep about three hours. usually in 15 to 30 minute increments. there would be small tents placed inside the track and there would be a cot in there. and that's where they would
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rest. a lot of them had trainers, but these trainers were really just there to make sure they didn't sleep too much and would throw cold water on them or even beat them with sticks to try to get them up and back on the track. a lot of times, the trainers were financed by gamblers who wanted to make sure their guy stayed on the track and so, it really was an exercise in sleep deprivation as well as athletics. i have a theory that i go into in the book, glorious and amu amusing detail about how sleep patterns affect athletes. all of us. most of us are -- sleepers, we just sleep once a day. six to eight hours. some are biphasic sleepers, who sleep four or five, then take a nap. when ever you hear somebody say i forget was it margaret thatcher, i only slept four hours a day, but yeah, then you
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took a two hour nap every afternoon. ñqq now are probably biphasic were probably poly phasic sleepers. you can actually train yourself to sleep in 45 minute increments thout the day and if you're able to fall into rem sleep quickly, you're as rested as if you were to have slept six to eight hours a night, so i think it was a physiological quirk that some of these guys had that they were able to function on very little sleep. every time you laid down to take a nap, everybody else on the track was making more laps. and either catching up with you or extending their lead, so, you didn't want to sleep very much. when you were in a six-day race. so, there were all kinds of strategies. it was interesting by the fifth
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or sixth day, that's when the attendance really got excited. because now, the guys are just sleep deprived. bedraggled. dirty. smelly. they did not have the advantage of modern sports medicine. the diet. generally consisted of mutton. which i've had a lot of in mongolia, now that i think about it and also, like raw beefsteak. one guy's favorite was greasy ill broth. i asked allison if she would try to make this and she said no. and also, they thought, they thought champagne was a stimulant that would help them, so, they were drunk and dehydrated. suffering from sleep deprivation. you'd get tunnel vision, actually. apparently, when you don't have enough sleep and so, later in the race, they would take a chalk, chalk dust, and mark a line along the middle of the
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track so everybody could just look at that line. stay on that line. don't go anywhere else and often, competitors would collapse. their bodies could not endure what they were asking their bodied to do. at the end of a race often and dan o'leary was won, he would be so utterly exhausted, he was unable to walk, that they would carry him back to his hotel. westin on the other hand, when he ended a race, he usually was in pretty good shape. in fact, the races would end saturday night and he usually went to church the next morning. it affected different racers in different ways. the sport also opened doors for women and african-americans in ways that had never been done before. african-americans could compete with the white competitors on an equal field.
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it was very democratic enterprise. whoever walked the farthest was the winner. rules were simple and if you were able to do it, you were given a chance to do it. frank hart was a very famous black pedestrian. won a major race in 1881 and for a time, was the most famous black athlete in the united states. women raced, too. there were six-day women's races. the women though, they had a special problem because the victorian guilded age conventions of the time demanded they wear a full length skirts or dresses usually of kind of a heavy velvet. you know, god forbid we see their shapely calves. the women's races were quite popular as well. they were at a disadvantage. let's just put it that way.
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in 1880, it looked like the history of pedestrian, that pe dis ranism would last forever. it really was de facto america's national past time. but several things happened that led to its demise. one, there were gambling scandals. as it became more popular with the public, pedestrianism also became more popular with gamblers. there were all kinds of ways to gamble on a match. who would be the first one to drop out. who would finish last. some of the lesser pedestrians would collude with gamblers and fix races. agree to be the first one to drop out. bo bo bookie takes the bets on it and then splits the winnings with the pedestrian. there were also drug scandals.
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performance enhancing drugs. you know, it's just so good that we've eradicated that. from modern sports. but in 1876, edward westin, the famous pedestrian, was caught chewing cocoa leaves while walking on the track as a stimulant to apparently keep him awake. he said only did it on his doctor's orders. which is a pretty standard excuse these days. i didn't know what i was taking. basically was excuse. but the biggest downfall, two things, really, contributed to the downfall of pedestrianism and one was in 1885, there was an englishman named john starly and he invented a machine he called the rover. which is the modern safety bicycle. before that, bicycles were the
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penny farthing with the jai nor mouse front wheel and that tiny little back wheel and these were not very nimble machines. they were hard to operate. weren't very fast, but the safety bicycle, which is the bicycle we have today with the two same sized wheels, these were fast and these were nimble and they were a lot more fun to watch race for six days than people walking. and it was almost instantaneous that bicycle racing replaced competitive walking as the most popular spectator sport. it also had the advantage of crashes. the bicycles, especially at the end of the six days, when they were all out of it, they'd be crashing into each other and this was very spectacular. a lot of fun. nobody goes to races to see crashes anymore either. so, a lot of this, a lot of these innovations were really kind of pioneered what we have now in modern sports, the corporate sponsorship, the
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spokes people. it was monotized almost instantly, as soon as people saw there was some interest in it, promoters jumped, owners of the venues jumped in and really turned it into a money making money. at its height, 1879, 1880, a pedestrian could win and usually, they got a percentage of the gate receipts. there was a guy named charles row who won $20,000 for winning race at madison square garden, which would be about $400,000 today. it was not bad for six days work. it was very lucrative for a very brief period of time. unfortunately, many of the pedestrians died pennyless. again, you don't see that anymore with professional athletes squandering their wealth, so, pedestrianism set a lot of standards, both good and bad. and really, by 1890,
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pedestrianism was all but dead. it was also killed by baseball. the national league was founded in 1876. it was rag tag operation. teams would quit the season halfway through if they knew they weren't going to win the pennant. so, in the 1880s, the baseball owners got together and decided we need to, we really need to organize this thing and so, the first thing they did in their infinite wisdom was impose a salary cap of $2500 a season and also, the reserve clause, that clause that bound him to his team, could never be a free agent, only traded or released. this persisted until about 1975, the reserve clause. it was a very controversial
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thing, but it really solidified baseball and by 1890, the national league had eight teams. and only one of those eight teams is not still with us. the cleveland spiders. unfortunately. would be nice to have the spiders, but the other teams and i have to write them down, braves, cubs, dodgers, pirates, phillies and reds, of course, many of those franchises have moved around a lot over the years, but they were all in the national league in 1890 and they're all still in the national league now. so, baseball really replaced pedestrianism as a popular spectator sport. big, new, wooden baseball stadiums were built and baseball suddenly became a fad and eventually, engraineded in the american consciousness as a national past time, as they like to call it. i talked a little bit about the empathy that people had with
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walkers. i did a little research. it was on the internet, so it has to be true. but recently, there was a study that the average american takes 5,117 steps a day. mostly i assume going to the coffee machine. that's about two and a half miles, about half what's recommended. it's recommended 10,000 steps a day, about five miles for good health and we really don't know how much steps the average american took in the 1870s or 1880s, but i did find one study that said in north carolina, a housewife would walk half a mile a day just fetching water. so, it gives you some idea about how much people walked and why they had to walk. walking was essential. it was the only way to get around and it was the only way to fulfill your basic needs. food and water and employment. and so, we're not a walking
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nation anymore. i doubt that competitive walking will make a grand comeback, although it still exists in the olympi olympics. we have race walking matches. 30,000, is it 30 -- 30 kilometers and 10 kilometer, i think. but it's funny. the modern race walking, the rule is that one foot must be in contact with the ground at all times. as observed by the human eye. so, just like the old walking matches of the 1870s, 1880s, they have a team of judges looking at everybody's feet, making sure that one of them is in quakt contact with the ground. if you do it in really slow motion, you can see that almost all of the best competitors actually have two feet off the ground for an instant. but the idea is to not be caught. and to not have it be visible to one of the judges. and so, in that way, it's very
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much like old pedestrianism was. i think competitive race walking was the, was in the very first modern olympics in 1896, was it? 1896. and it's one of the few sports, it may be the only sport, that has been in every single olympics since then. there has been race walking. and so, you really can see a direct line from the old time pedestrianism to modern race walking, but in a larger sense, you can see the direct line from the idea of sport as entertainment and sport as spectacle. to today. with the super bowl i mentioned and baseball. the idea that people attend a sporting event not just to watch the event, but to see the fire works and to watch the scoreboard and hear the you know, hear the music between plays. the music all the time, it is so loud. i don't know why it's so loud in stadiums today. you can't even talk.
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but that's just my thing. but you really do see kind of a direct line between pedestrianism and modern professional sports and most of the pedestrians tried to switch to bicycles, but they weren't very good at it. but two of the pedestrians, edward westin and daniel o'leary continued staging walking exhibitions well into their 80s. edward walked from new york to san francisco in about 1907. and again, sold one of these pamphlets along the way. did another walk from new york to minneapolis and sold a pamphlet, the major sponsor was the packard car company. which said you could go 300 miles in a day. i guess he was desperate for ads because he did not like cars. westin did not like cars just because he thought they made
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people walk less. ironically, westin in 1927, was crossing a street in manhattan and was hit by a car and was left crippled and never walked again and died two years later at the age of 90. o'leary faired a little better. he would stage walking exhibitions before major league baseball games. he would go out and challenge the fastest runner on the team to run around the bases twice while he walked around once and more often than not, he won and then he would pass the hat. literally, pass a hat through the stands collecting nickels and dimes and this is basically how he funded his retirement n. the book, i have a scene where i imagine, he performed before a game in chicago between the white sox and a's in 1927 and i imagine the players in the
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dugout were all born well, well after the golden age, they r pedestrianism and they must have been bemusiced by by the sight of this old man, but would have been blown away to realize that 50 years earlier, heñr had made more in six days than any of them would make in the entire season. of 1927. so, it was a sport that flashed very brightly for a very short time. and then disappeared almost as quickly as it came on the scene. and i have written the definitive history of it. that's all i have to say if anybody has any questions, be happy to take them.
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i don't know if we have microphone. no microphone. we'll just -- speak loudly. >> name of your book? >> what is is name of my book. you're plant, aren't you? you'll get your $20 afterwards. pedestrianism, when watching people walk was america's favorite spectator sport. would you look at that. it's on sale right over there. what a coincidence. what are the odds? yes, right there. >> two questions. did the women walk against other women or against other men and also, did any of the walkers suffer bad in health? >> the questions were did the women ever compete against men. and as far as i know, they did not. womens races were usually held like at madison square garden, there would be six-day women's
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races, but as far as i know, women did not participate in any of the major men's races. now, having said that, there would be club races. it was, i mean the sport was so popular, clubs were organized all over the country. there was a department store league in new york. t that the department stores competed against each other and this would be a team affair, where you know, there might be four or five people in the cumulative mileage would be the score for the team. and i do suspect that women participated in those kinds of events, but generally not the major six-day races. the other question you asked was about the long-term health effects and i have to say that westin and o'leary, who lived to be 87 and 90, were really the exception. you hear many stories of guys who died very young in their 50s. frank hart, very famous african-american, as i mentioned, probably the most
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famous black athlete in america. after he won his major six-day race, 1880, 1881, he suffered a complete collapse. really don't know what happened. actually, sent you know, what i could get from the papers to a couple of who do you call the doctors who diagnose you? pathologi pathologist. and their consensus was he had contracted -- or suffereded a stroke, so it took a huge toll. you would think walking can make you healthy, but for six days straight and toward the end, they were walking 600 miles in six days, that, i wouldn't recommend as a health regiment. yeah. >> special shoes? >> did they use special shoes? early on, no. many would walk just in their work boots.
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and there are many stories of toenails falling off after two or three days. and serious, serious injuries to their feet and legs. as it became more famous and more lucrative and as the competitors could afford it, they would go to in fact there were several competitions in london and apparently, they went to the most famous shoe maker in london that actually specialized in making shoes for pedestrians, which were really kind of soft leather that was bound very tightly to their feet. but this definitely improved, but the equipment they worked with was pretty rudimentary. i think the clothing was very comfortable. lot of wool shirts, bad boots. the conditions weren't great, they did not have any of the advantages. of modern endurance athletes in that regard. no nike.
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>> i was wondering about the inspiration behind that -- >> this gentleman how he thought my book "harry truman's excellent adventure" what did you say, was the greatest book ever written? greatest book. i'm writing that down for a blurb. harry truman's excellent adventure is the story of harry and bess in 1963 six months after they left the white house. they took a road trip. they lived in independence, missouri. just outside kansas city. harry had to give a speech in washington. their daughter lived in new york. they decided to just drive their chrysler from missouri to the east coast and back again. i think it took about 2 1/2 weeks. at the time, ex-presidents had no secret service protection.
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they had to pensions. harry was not a wealthy guy by any means. a lot of the expenses of the white house were paid directly out of his salary. when he, actually when he left the white house in early '53, he had to take a loan out from a bank in washington to help make ends meet. he also refused to commercialize the presidency. he would not take lucrative speaking fees. he would not sit on corporate boards, that sort of thing. i'm glad the presidents still don't do that. anyway, he was kind of a poor guy. he was the last president to become a regular citizen again, in a way. so on this trip they stayed at hotels and ate at roadside diners. they crashed with friends in indianapolis one night. it's kind of the story of this trip and also how being an ex-president has changed.
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they came to new york. they actually stayed at the waldorf in new york for four nights. i was curious how they could afford that. harry saved all his correspondence. at the truman library i found a letter, i hear you are coming to new york, we would be happy to have you as our guest." harry wrote back and he said that would be all right. he wasn't adverse to taking a few perks here and there. they did the trip on the cheap. i recreated it and was able to find people who encountered him. he got pulled over on the pennsylvania turnpike for driving in the left lane. i don't know what it is in new york but in pennsylvania you have to drive right, keep right only drive left to pass. harry just liked to get in the left lane and keep going. he got pulled over by a cop. the cop actually, state trooper,
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still alive, manly stampler. he's retired in arizona. there were reports he just pulled truman over to get his autograph. i asked manly about this. he said, no, i didn't. i wish i had. might be worth something today, but he never got his autograph. >> american indians rise in pedestrian? >> question was about american indians participating in pedestrian matches. i did not come across much of that. i will say most of the major matches took place in the east coast. new york, boston, philadelphia, and some in london. also many of the pedestrians were very poor. they were working guys. they had sponsors. they had to find somebody to put up the $100 entry fee for them. obviously, that person was hoping they would win.
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so i would imagine it was difficult for some people even to find someone willing to help them pay the $100 entrance fee. yes? >> i think you mentioned the pedestrians, there were trading cards. >> yes. >> did you find any of those? >> i was able to find -- the question was about pedestrians on trading cards. yes. i was able to find a reproduced one. the originals are quite expensive. they can be $200, $300. as i said, my books don't generate -- that's a tough one to get past the wife. mind if i buy a $300 trading card of a pedestrian? it's not like it's going to be honus wagner and worth $1 million some day. there are companies that reproduce vintage trading cards. i was able to get one from them.
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it's in the book, which is on sale there. yes? [ question inaudible ] >> the cross country walks and the difficulty therein, yeah, there were no marked roads. a lot of westin's walks cross country, east coast to west coast, he also did a walk to los angeles, were done along railroad beds. a lot of the walking he did, which is even more difficult, i think in some ways than walking on bad roads. as i said, there were no reliable road maps. he would often find himself offcourse. one of the problems with the walk from boston to washington that he attempted to do in ten days and was four hours late, he got to philadelphia and took a wrong turn.
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it wasn't until you reached the next town 10, 15 miles down the line you realize, oh, i took the wrong road. you just had to circle back and get back on track. it was very difficult. >> what were the prizes people got for winning? >> yeah. the prizes. as i said, most of the six-day races, you would win a percentage of the gate. you might win for a big race $20,000. often the long distance races were done for gambling. so there would be wagers made. westin would find a backer, somebody willing to put up $10,000 and was confident that he could finish the race, finish the walk from portland, maine, to chicago in less than 30 days. that was that, and find another gambler willing to put up $10,000 to say he couldn't. it was interesting because in races like that, it wasn't really a race.
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you are racing against time. in walking feats like that, there was a lot of fear that someone might try to sabotage him so he wouldn't make it. he actually brought a food taster along with him when he did the walk from portland, maine, to chicago to make sure nobody tried to poison him. even if you made him sick for two days, it might be enough for his schedule to be off. westin was meticulous about his schedule. he scheduled every minute. every race, a six-day race or a walk from new york to los angeles. he had everything scheduled out. when he would sleep, when he would eat, those sorts of things. if he was taken off that schedule, he would be in trouble. >> no question, but a couple of comments. it seems that the speed you referred to seems


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