America's Most Famous Walker Edward Payson Weston Part 1

About America's most famous walker Edward Payson Weston who in the nineteenth century made numerous walks around and across the country.


Edward Payson Weston, America's greatest and most durable walker, 1st came into prominence as the result of an election bet made with a friend. The terms were that the loser would walk from Boston to Washington in 10 consecutive days, arriving in time to see the Inauguration of the new President on March 4, 1861. Weston, who had bet against Lincoln, began his payoff trek at Boston's State House at one o'clock, February 22, which gave him 10 days to hike the 478 mi. to the Capitol. Accompanied by a cortege of buggies, the 22-year-old pedestrian, who stood 5'7" and weighed 130 lbs., walked the 1st 5 mi. in 47 minutes and then settled down to a steady 3 1/4-mph pace.

At every town throngs waited for him and cheered him on. In one village he was kissed by a bevy of ladies who requested that the kisses be relayed to the President. A more serious delay took place outside of Leicester, Mass., where he encountered foot-deep snows and fell down several times. But he kept plodding on, through Worcester, Hartford, New Haven, and arrived in New York the morning of February 27.

Weston followed no set routine. Sometimes, after a catnap on a kitchen table in a farmhouse, he would start his walking day at midnight. Often he snatched sleep alongside the road. His longest snooze, in a Trenton tavern, was less than 6 hours. Once a day he managed to sit down to a solid meal but most of the time he ate on the walk, munching sandwiches and doughnuts offered by villagers as he trudged by. Always a purist, Weston refused to ride on the new steam elevator to his upstairs room in the Continental Hotel, Philadelphia. "I will not alter my mode of travel," said Weston and walked to his room. Two days later, after an all-night walk, he reached Baltimore, ate breakfast, and then started out in a driving rain over muddy roads on the final lap. He made the Capitol on March 4 just as the clock struck 5, too late to see Lincoln sworn in but not too late for the Inauguration Ball, which he had enough strength to attend that night.

Weston literally walked for peanuts on that 1st trip. In accordance with the terms of the bet, all he got--besides fame--was a bag of peanuts for his pains.

He never again walked for peanuts. He walked for money, competing against professionals in 6-day, go-as-you-please tests (walk or run at any time) and in cross-country walks against time with prize money at stake. He was not unbeatable on the indoor track, where he was limited to a mere 6 days, but in 1879 he won the Astley Belt, emblematic of world supremacy, by besting "Blower" Brown, the pride of Britain, on a London track. In that match the American covered 550 mi. in the 6 days and won a $2,500 side bet from Sir John Astley himself, donor of the belt.

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