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Pedestrianism in Amsterdam
Published on: 2014-09-20
Pedestrianism in Amsterdam
By Bob Cudmore, Focus on History, Daily Gazette, 09-20-14

Competitive walking was the rage over 100 years ago and one of America’s top marathon walkers visited Amsterdam several times.

Matthew Algeo is author of “Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport.”

Algeo documents the life of Edward Payson Weston, who started the American walking craze in 1861 when he trudged from Boston to Washington to fulfill a bet that he would do the tramp in ten days if Abraham Lincoln won the Presidential election. Weston’s walk took ten hours longer than ten days but he became famous for the feat, giving people a diversion in a very dark time.

After the Civil War, Weston organized six day competitive walking marathons, often held indoors in arenas, and went on a number of cross country trips.

The first reference to a walking match in Amsterdam was in April, 1887 when there was such an event at Turner Hall on Grove Street.

Weston the pedestrian, as he famously called himself, was reported in Amsterdam in October 1894 as part of a 500 mile walk around New York State.

Weston passed through Amsterdam again on his walk from Portland, Maine, to Chicago on November 7, 1907 at age 68. When he started out, Weston was doing 50 miles a day.

Weston went through Amsterdam on March 19, 1909 on his 4,000 mile walk from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, a journey that took 100 days. On the way back he stopped briefly in Amsterdam on April 26, 1910 at 9:05 p.m. He headed east again at 2:35 a.m. on April 27.

In December 1920 a world champion walker named George N. Brown came to Amsterdam to put on a comedy and novelty walking act at the Strand Theatre on East Main Street. The Strand was rebuilt several decades later as the Mohawk Theatre.

The year before, Brown had married Lurena Chapman at a Roman Catholic Church on 49th Street in Manhattan while he was appearing at the Riverside Theater in New York City. Brown was a native of Auburn, New York where the couple honeymooned on the shore of Owasco Lake.

During Brown’s performances in Amsterdam as “the champion walker of the world” with woman walker Marion Ardell of California, Walk Over Shoes at 24 Market Street sold footwear reportedly used by Brown, $6 to $16 per pair for men, $6 to $12 for women.

The last reference to pioneer walker Weston in Amsterdam came in 1922 when the aged pedestrian came through town September 23 on his way to New York City.

Weston was hit by a New York City taxi in 1927 and stopped walking. He died in 1929

PERTH AIRPORT MEMORIES

Reader Dave Noyes wrote that he learned to fly at Carpet City Airport located at the intersection of Midline Road and Route 107 near Perth. The local airport, which flourished in the late 1940s, was the subject of a recent column.

Noyes was in the Boy Scouts of America’s Air Scout program in 1947. The Air Scout curriculum officially included only pre-flight activities, but Noyes and his fellow Scouts actually flew planes with local World War II veterans as instructors. The leader of the group was a Navy veteran named Leon Smith from Hagaman.

The Scouts had powder blue uniforms and met in Amsterdam at the Blood Building on Market Street. The Air Scouts had World War II surplus gear at the airport—a fighter plane engine they learned how to take apart and put together, a flight simulator and a miniature jet engine.

“Firing it up was quite impressive,” Noyes said. “Pleasant memories, great learning experience.”

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