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Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport Hardcover – April 1, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1613743971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1613743973
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #597,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Matthew Algeo’s ‘Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport’ (Chicago Review) is one of those books which open up a forgotten world so fully that at first the reader wonders, just a little, if his leg is being pulled.” —The New Yorker

“Algeo brings to life an inspiring and fascinating account of human endurance from athletes centuries ahead of their time.” —Rory Coleman, International Performance Coach, ULTRA-marathoner and Guinness World Record holder

"An entertaining biography, step by step, of a diversion in the earliest days of today’s sports industry." —Kirkus Reviews

“This book offers a fascinating take on what was once ‘America’s favorite spectator sport’...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.” —Library Journal

“Algeo’s mastery of the time period and his approachable writing style turn an obscure pocket of sports history into an interesting weekend read.” —Chicago Book Review

About the Author

Matthew Algeo is the author of Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure, The President Is a Sick Man, and Last Team Standing. An award-winning journalist, Algeo has reported from three continents for public radio’s All Things Considered, Marketplace, and Morning Edition.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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If you enjoy nonfiction, this book is for you.
R. Penn
Pedestrianism – When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport is a fascinating read about a little known part of 19th century American history.
John Petersen
This was a enjoyable read that was well researched and well written.
Joe Hohmann

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Petersen on March 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Pedestrianism – When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport is a fascinating read about a little known part of 19th century American history. It’s hard to believe that before baseball, bicycle racing, or boxing gained prominence, the most popular spectator sport in America, and to a lesser degree England, was watching people walk on a circular track for days on end (usually six as the Sabbath was more strictly observed in those days). This book is excellent recounting of this oddity in American history.

Algeo documents well the staggering toll the races took on the participants. The winners of the six day matches would walk as much as 600+ miles. Many of the people in attendance at these events were there to watch the pedestrians suffer, more than to enjoy a sporting event.

The author is adept at drawing out the parallels with today’s modern celebrity sports culture. The stars of the sport were known nationwide and received front page coverage from the newspapers. Pedestrianism had its version of a drug scandal involving the chewing of coca leaves rather than today’s taking of PEDs. And as the sport was a favorite of gamblers, it had its fair share of race fixing scandals.

There are several larger than life characters that the author is excellent at bringing to life and exploring their significance. Daniel O’Leary was an Irish immigrant and his successes made him a hero of the immigrant communities across the nation. Likewise, Frank Hart, an African American, was a hero to his community as well.

One other aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the historical background provided by the author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joe Hohmann on May 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
For a activity once rated as "America's most popular", I never heard of this one! This was a enjoyable read that was well researched and well written. It contains interesting side trips into the histories of electric lights, Madison Square Garden, and other sports.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Penn on June 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you enjoy nonfiction, this book is for you. It reads like a dissertation, but is full of really interesting and quirky facts relating to the sport of competitive walking. I had no idea walking was such a huge draw before the sports we now take for granted became popular. This book tells the history of competitive walking and the characters who participated. It's a worthwhile way to spend reading time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on June 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
One of the problems with many history books that cover a limited area is that the author makes them well too long with lots of irrelevant tangents or tedious details. Mr. Algeo avoids both of these pitfalls. He adds tangential information, but that adds the flavor of the times and perspective.

The book itself covers the craze of walking between the Civil War and the turn of the century. This is not the race-walking we know of that is still in the Olympics (and few other places). This was marathon walking and six days racing, some of which was "anything goes" which included running when the competitor was willing and able. There were two stars who were pioneers and stars that dominate the book, but their stories dominated the sport. Better, their individual stories were captivating.

This is a very enjoyable book about a sport hardly remembered at all. Better, the sport captured the flavors of the times and the author tracks why it had its downfall as the society changed with the Industrial Age.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I'm a walker, but nothing like the people in this book. It's an excellent history of a forgotten sport. It's well-written and researched.
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More About the Author

When he's not writing his own biography in the third person, Matthew Algeo writes about unusual and interesting events in American history.

His latest book, Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport, is now on sale.

Algeo is also a journalist. He has reported from four continents, and his stories have appeared on some of the most popular public radio programs in the United States.

In addition to reporting and writing, Algeo has held jobs as a convenience store clerk, a gas station attendant, a Halloween costume salesman, and a proofreader. He also worked in a traveling circus (as a hot dog vendor; no acrobatics involved).

His wife Allyson is a U.S. Foreign Service officer. They live near Washington with their daughter Zaya.