Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport

Chicago Review. 2014. 272p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781613743973. $24.95. SPORTS
This book offers a fascinating take on what was once "America's favorite spectator sport." While the word pedestrian is today often taken to mean lacking in excitement, pedestrianism was anything but—this "walking for sport" became a sensation in late 19th-century America. Algeo's tales of this long-forgotten pastime begin with a wager between two gentlemen betting on the outcome of the 1860 presidential election. The loser of this bet, Edward Weston, predicted that Abraham Lincoln would not win. The terms of the bet were that the loser would have to walk from the State House in Boston to Washington in time to see Lincoln's inauguration. Weston took on the challenge and missed the mark by only a few hours. However, despite this defeat, Weston launched a career showcasing his ability to walk long distances. His efforts also saw the beginning of a captivating new American sport that was more wholesome than betting on "blood sports" and more enthralling than "posh pursuits," such as yachting. Weston's foray into walking for sport also attracted other famous competitors, including women. The enthusiasm of the American people for the sport led to more robust challenges, many of which Algeo has carefully researched and documented throughout.
VERDICT The overall writing style is captivating and treats its obscure subject matter with zest. Readers interested in lesser-known aspects of American history and tradition will be fascinated with the stories of the major players of this oft-forgotten pastime.
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