2-10-2018

Did You Know?

In 1815, George Wilson, a 50-year-old Englishman, set out to walk 1,000 miles in 20 days for £100 (~£7,000 today); for this, he would later be arrested. Wilson's walk around Blackheath Common was part of a larger trend known as pedestrianism which swept England in the wake of the Industrial Revolution - this pastime mostly consisted of watching people walk long distances, around and around. A common pedestrianist feat at the time was walking 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours, but Wilson's walk was that same distance in less than half that time, 480 hours, a pace made more impressive by his older age. When Wilson began walking, not much attention was paid to him, but as he continued, he garnered more and more interest - attracting even the prolific Times. Thousands came to see him; they brought alcohol, prostitution and gambling with - bettors against Wilson were so distraught when they realized that he might actually complete the feat that men with bayonets had to clear Wilson's path. The local magistrate was dissatisfied with the great ruckus that Wilson was causing, so they executed a warrant for his arrest on the 16th day, after an amazing 750 miles. Though the charges against him were eventually dismissed, the magistrate proved to be effective in dispelling the riotous crowd, who had all but evaporated by the time Wilson had been released. By that time, the 20 day window had all but passed, and thus Wilson's walk, and prize, were forfeited. Nevertheless, he was still able to claim the £100 from a collection which the London Stock Exchange held for him and, just one year later, he was able to complete 1,000 miles of walking in Hull. He would spend much of the rest of his life continuing as a pedestrian, living off of the money which audiences had, in good will, given up for him - this life of moving around and meager pay would prove to be questionable as he failed to provide for his wife and children, with whom he was estranged. Wilson died in 1839 at the age of 73, and is remembered today as the Blackheath Pedestrian.

Source 1, Source 2