- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Professional pedestrianism, i.e., walking for pay, did not offer a very promising career for women—respectable women, that is—until December 16, 1878. It was on that date that an English music hall performer calling herself Madame Anderson began an attempt to walk 3,000 quarter miles in 3,000 quarter hours in Mozart's Hall, Brooklyn, New York.
Few Brooklynites or New Yorkers (the two were separate cities then) cared to risk the 25� it cost to see Madame Anderson during the first days of her performance, and the whole enterprise seemed doomed. Less than a month later, however, the demand for admission was so great that the management doubled the price, and by January 13 an estimated 2,000 spectators were paying a dollar apiece for standing room at the Hall and two dollars for a reserved seat.
Professional walking had long been a popular sport for men in both England and the United States. Talk of "the peds," as they called the walkers, was on every tongue, and in 1878 Sir John Astley, a prominent amateur sportsman and member of Parliament, brought pedestrianism riches and dignity by offering a �500 purse and a �100 belt to the winner of a six-day go-as-you-please walk marathon in London. The event drew huge crowds, and the first Astley Belt was won by one Daniel O'Leary of Chicago.
While sportsmen on both sides of the Atlantic were still discussing O'Leary's remarkable triumph, Madame Anderson, accompanied by her husband, arrived in New York City with her plan to extend the professional walk to women. After securing the use of Mozart's Hall on a share-the-profit basis, they erected a tent inside the walking track and equipped it with a bed, stove and cooking utensils.
The madame's schedule called for her to walk the announced quarter mile in a fraction of the 15-minute period, then rest until the next quarter hour began. Once the judge signaled the beginning of the first session by ringing a bell, the English pedestrienne was to leave the track only for these brief rest stops.
The great walk was a lackluster affair until Madame Anderson had completed more than three-fourths of her self-imposed ordeal. During this period the 35-year-old former singer, actress, musician, circus clown and proprietress of concert halls amused the few curious viewers by interrupting her walk long enough to sing to her own piano accompaniment and to black the faces of sleeping customers with grease paint. It was comparatively tame entertainment, but by appearing in costumes "revealing shapely and superbly developed limbs, that are visible to the knee" she managed to keep the venture alive. Finally the public began to sense the dramatic-value of the situation: the brave agony of this solitary figure whose face, now pale and emotionless, revealed the utter exhaustion of her entire body.
Madame Anderson became a symbol of heroic, independent womanhood and as such was encouraged throughout the last days of her walk by hundreds of shrieking, handkerchief-waving females. Proper New Yorkers made it "quite the correct thing...to drop into Mozart's Hall and watch Anderson for an hour or so." Emotionally uninvolved gamblers and bookmakers, and those who were attracted by the tidal wave of public sentiment and curiosity, added to the diversity of social elements present for the finish of the walk.
During the last climactic days the show was an extravaganza worthy of Ziegfeld or Barnum. The management had employed a band and draped bunting in brilliant colors from the ceiling and railings. Cloth folds enveloped the British ensign that hung over the doorway. When Madame Anderson entered her tent the crowd anxiously awaited reports from a physician and trainer in constant attendance. The press reported in detail her progress, physical condition and consumption of food and drink. The hysteria reached such proportions that it was necessary to protect her from well-wishers and enemies alike. Her admirers pushed onto the walkway to touch her or present her with bouquets of flowers, and rumors circulated that gamblers planned to prevent her from finishing the walk. As a precaution, escorts walked with her, and guards were stationed every few yards around the track.
On the final night, as police restrained more than 2,000 persons outside the hall, the ever increasing cheers of those inside drowned out the bravest efforts of the band. The pulsating excitement reached a pitch as Madame Anderson completed the last lap of her next-to-last quarter and was helped to the stage where she asked for quiet. She thanked the tension-gripped audience for helping her achieve a lifelong goal; that of doing something no one else had accomplished. Then, in a strained voice, she sang for them three verses of Nil Desperundum. Following this, she rested in her tent until the bell summoned her to the track for the last time. Two minutes and 37� seconds later it was all over and Madame Anderson was carried from the building, a national celebrity.
Her plan to achieve economic independence in one year was a little less than $10,000 closer to realization. This represented one-third of approximately $32,000 in gate receipts. Of greater importance, her performance had inspired other promoters to recognize the possibilities of female pedestrianism, and she was promptly invited to walk in Pittsburgh and Chicago.