“…in the 1870s and 1880s there was another sports craze sweeping the nation: competitive walking. “Watching people walk was America’s favorite spectator sport,” Matthew Algeo says in his new book, Pedestrianism.”

“Champagne was considered a stimulant. And a lot of trainers — these guys had trainers — advised their pedestrians to drink a lot of champagne during the race. … The problem was a lot of these guys would drink it by the bottle. That definitely was not a stimulant to say the least.”— Matthew Algeo

hear the audio interview: wnyc: in-the-1870s-and-80s-being-a-pedestrian-was-anything-but


“In 1885, an Englishman named John Starley invented what is called the safety bicycle. Before the safety bicycle, bicycles were the penny farthings — with the ginormous front wheel and the tiny little back wheel. And the penny farthings weren’t very nimble or fast, but the safety bicycle, which is the bicycle we know today, these were much more nimble, much faster and they were much more interesting to watch race around a track for six days than the pedestrians just walking.

Safety_bicycle_1887It sort of went from a NASCAR at superslow motion to a NASCAR at slow motion. And the other advantage of the bicycle races is that especially at the end, when the competitors were completely sleep deprived, there would be spectacular crashes, and of course the crowd enjoyed that a lot.”


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