During much of the Georgian era - 1760 to around 1820s - we find slight evidence of contact between English and overseas runners, just occasional references like those to the great Levi Whitehead winning the five Queen Anne's guineas from a field of ten including 'the famous Indian' and 'Long Joe' failing in an attempt on 10 miles in 58 minutes in 1794 after beating 'the famous Spaniard'. Certainly the end of the period saw a sudden influx of foreign gymnastic instructors - Clias, Voelker, Voarino, Tedeschi, etc. (see John Goulstone's 'The Gymnastic Society', Sports History, 6 (1985), pp. 11-16; and Trevor Hearl 'Fitness of the Nation', Physical and Health Education in the 19th and 20th Centuries (History of Education Society 1983), pp. 46-69) Yet their involvement with athletics proper seems to have been minimal. When Clias staged his sports at Sandhurst in 1823 the only suggestion of genuine 'track and field' was the award of 5 guineas to Cadet Fryers as 'the best runner'. And whereas Carl Voelker, a former pupil of Jahn in Berlin, claimed to teach running, high and long leaping both with and without a pole, javelin throwing and hopping, except for 'jumping with the pole', no athletic events, as opposed to gymnastic exercises, were reported at the festivals held under his auspices in 1827 and 1828. Nevertheless around the time of the first gymnastic craze we do begin to glimpse a growing international dimension to competitive athletics. It is this development, particularly through English pedestrianism's links with continental Europe and North America, which we here attempt to illustrate in the following survey covering the period 1826 to 1878.
1826. John Berry of Lancashire beat the German velocipedist, Maurice Rummel, over 10 miles on the Uxbridge road from the first milestone near Kensington Gardens to the sixth beyond Acton and back. Many foreigners attended and for the first three miles the roadside was packed with spectators, the Germans backing their man freely though in small amounts. Rummel took an early lead but Berry caught him at Acton and on the return stretch nearing Notting Hill bounded, away to win by 30 yards. 'All the spectators whether English or foreign, admitted a better contested match had never been witnessed'. Rummell, a very fine active youth - small, but symmetrical person', had previously won a wager for the Prince de Leon by covering 2½ French leagues (almost 7 miles) in 36 minutes (on his velocipede?).
1827. At Sunbury Rummel lost to Berry over 5 miles and to James Wantling over 250 yards. The last defeat is scarcely surprising since Wantling, at least by reputation, was the top sprinter of the pre-Victorian era. Later in, the year, principally because of the extreme heat, Rummel failed in his attempt to run 10 miles in one hour on the Lewes road.
1827. Robert Skipper, long-distance walker, beat 'the celebrated Frenchman' in Paris. For Skipper, see John Goulstone's monograph John Townsend, the Sussex Pedestrian (1999), note 1.
1828. George Hall from the Potteries won a hard-fought 350-yard, race by half a yard against Dufont for 2,000 a-side at St Germains near Paris, before 'a numerous attendance of the English residents'. Doubtless many of the latter were connected with the Paris Cricket Club (in 1829 called the Albion club and an English cricket club) whose membership in 1828 included '60 persons of the first families in the French capital' who attended in force its matches on the plains of Monceaux.
1828. The French velocipedist, John Joseph Grandserre, offered to run (ride a velocipe?) 19 times round the Inner Circle In Regents Park, an estimated 19 miles, in 2 hours. A few months later John Shepherd beat him with remarkable ease over a 10-mile course around a circle, a 'third of a mile round, staked out at Lord's'. At the end of the 20th lap Shepherd was half a mile in front and occasionally drew up to take some wine and water. Seeing this, Grandserre put in a terrific burst to go 50 yards ahead. Then Shepherd passed him with the rapidity of lightning, and at the end of his 10 miles went to the adjoining house for a nap. Those who had betted on 'the Frenchman' thereupon claimed he had run one lap short. When told about this, 'out of bed he jumped, ran out of the house, and proceeded round the circle for the thirty-first time, and before his opponent had completed his twenty-ninth round' (for further details see John Goulstone's 'John Shepherd, The Yorkshire Phenomenon', Sports History 9 (1986), pp. 7-9).
1831. Augustus do Berenger (said to be Prussian-born) founded the Stadium at Chelsea. It was intended to cover foot racing and leaping. Also, 'leaping, jumping, &c' (a distinction left unexplained) were on the programme of its projected 'Olympic Festival' in 1832. But so far as one can tell, track and field never featured at his 'school of athletes' (see John Goulstone's pamphlet, The Chelsea Stadium or British National Arena, 1831-1843, 1999).
1837. Pedestrian Challenge from France issued by 'Bipedis' to Burn or Fuller to walk 10 miles at Boulogne for 2,000f - Burn evens, but Fuller 'I expect to give my man (at present in Paris) two minutes'.
1839. The German Henry Wolfe or Wolff challenged any man in Birmingham at one mile. He was accepted by, and lost to, William Sheppard, one of the great milers of the 1840s.
1842. A match staged between a Kentish runner and one from Calais at Tilmanstone, eight miles from Dover.
1843. Foot racing for the last nine months has been very fashionable in Paris, and a groom known as Flying Ben 'has often thrown down the gauntlet to all Paris'. Numerous tradesmen, mostly from Nottingham and Sheffield, 'towns standing high in reputation for pedestrianism', undertook to find a man from the gas-works to run the groom at 100 yards for 100f in the Bois de Boulogne. The 'Gasman', trained by a celebrated pedestrian then living in Paris won before a considerable number of French and English amateurs. 'The French were highly delighted with the sport, and have promised their support upon future occasions'. On Christmas Day, Flying Ben lost by 20 yards in the Bois de Boulogne, over one mile for 200f, to a lad under the superintendence of 'the Old London Pedestrian'.
1844. The 'sporting landlord', Bob Cowans, arranged a match in which the Rochechorcott Gas Man, beat 'Bob Logic' for 200f by 6 yards in 150 in the Bois de Boulogne on 7 January (Sunday, a favourite day for amusements in France).
1844. The 'perseverance and exertions with the nobility and, gentry in [sic] behalf of athletic sports' of 'an old London professor', now in Paris, succeeded in raising a prize of 200f to be run for (distance, one mile) by persons of all countries, who have resided at least six months within ten miles of Paris. Prizes were given by a sporting English lord and his friends, with a 10f sweepstakes, for a mile race in the Bois de Boulogne watched by several members of the Jockey Club 'and other patrons of athletic amusements' - won by an English lad in 5 minutes 50 seconds, with a Frenchman, considered the first runner in France, second and a groom third.
1844. A 2-mile race in the Bois de Boulogne announced for pedestrians resident at least 6 months in Paris for 100f plus a 20f sweepstakes payable to Mr Cootes, the second runner to have his money refunded.
1844. The proprietors offered a $1,000 purse, to be divided among the first four (those from outside the United States of America receiving an additional 10% to cover expenses), for a one hour race on the Beacon Course, Hoboken, New Jersey. In August John Barlow and Thomas Greenhalgh left Bolton for America and competed with Ambrose Jackson and others on October 16th before 25-30,000 spectators. John Gildersleeve of New York City finished first, Greenhalgh second, Barlow third. 'No sporting event of the kind within our knowledge has excited more general interest' reported one New York paper.
1844. On 19 November, 3 and 10-mile races at Hoboken attracted huge, crowds from New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and the river towns along the Hudson, including 400 from Albany making the 250-mile round trip by steamboat. The 3 miles for a $50 lot prize was won by Ambrose Jackson from three Americans, the 10 miles by Barlow with the Indian Steeprock second, Greenhalgh third. Under the headline The Fastest Ten Mile Race Ever Run In The World. - Old England Ahead. Ten Miles In 54:21, the Spirit of the Times hailed it as 'one of the most extraordinary performances of which we have record'. 'They won't believe this in England, even if you print it' Barlow remarked to its reporter. He returned after this race, enduring a perilous 29-day voyage before reaching Liverpool.
1844. Four and 12-mile races were staged on the Beacon Course on 16 December, the first won 'by Jackson in 22 minutes 10 seconds after starting favourite', the second by Greenhalgh, beating Gildersleeve 'by about a quarter of a mile.' Thus runners from the Bolton-Manchester area won four out of the five great International races in America and in 'the other' finished second and third. Greenhalgh arrived back in Bolton with his trainer, William Harrison, in February when he acknowledged the gentlemanly manner in which they were treated in the United States and 'the very kind support' extended to them.
1844-45. After his races against Sheppard at Gannick Corner William Howitt received a business offer to tour America where interest in running was said to have been excited by the visit of Barlow and Greenhalgh. He ran in Canada, at Hoboken, near Albany and in Baltimore, New Orleans, Savannah and Philadelphia, defeating Gildersleeve at least five times. From Philadelphia he challenged any American to race over 20 miles giving 300 yards and other distances with shorter starts down to 2 miles events. Howitt returned via Boston and, arrived in Birmingham in October 1846. The publicity generated by the three English runners probably accounts for the enthusiasm for the sport in New York reported in 1848 'pedestrianism has become all over the State one of the most popular of our rural sports, and with the manly game of cricket, is fast taking the place of wrestling, ball playing, &c'.
1846. English foot races, in the Champs d'Elysees and Bois de Boulogne, 'created a great deal of interest among the French and English residents'.
1846. In Washington, Bannister, an Englishman who 'is in some way was incorporated into the family of Mr Packenham, the British Minister', lost to G.W. Morgan, reportedly from 'the West', over 100 yards for $500. It is unclear whether the loser, said to be aged 23, was the Henry Bannister of Audenshaw running in Lancashire in 1840. Soon afterwards Morgan was beaten by Seward over the same distance.
1847. Paris is rapidly becoming 'a perfect new market in sporting affairs among the working Englishman, in foot racing, horse racing, cricketing, &c.'
1849-51. Howitt undertook a second American tour with races at Saratoga, Buffalo, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Nashville, St Louis etc (cf. Sports Quarterly Magazine 8 (1978) pp. 21-24). His principal rivals were 'native' Americans. At this period all the outstanding distance runners tended to be either English or Indian. At Buffalo he ran against 10 or 12 'of the Indians of the Four Nation, some from Alleghany, and others from Canada' and was said to have been idolised by several Indian tribes.
1850. For a 5-mile hurdle race won by Howitt (giving 200 yards start) in New Orleans at least half the eight entries came from England: Howitt himself, Joseph Windrow of Liverpool, William Williams of Manchester and R. Lee of London (who on the day was unable to run through illness). 'Mickey Free', of Ireland who finished third was actually one Robert Harriot. His real nationality is uncertain but later in the year, immediately after completing pedestrian match in Liverpool, he made news by being arrested by the police for shooting his wife. According to J. Cumming (Runners & Walkers: a nineteenth century sports chronicle, Chicago, 1981, pp. 48-9) Mrs Free/Harriott, as well as her husband, appeared as a pedestrian in America.
1852. Miss Kate Irvine from America undertook to walk 500 miles in 500 consecutive hours at the Albert Grounds, Golden Cross, near Birmingham. She returned to the United States of America but was back in Birmingham in 1853 to walk 580 [sic] miles in successive hours at the same ground (see P. Lovesey, Nineteenth Century Women Walkers, pp. 5-6).
1852. International match for $200 held on Toronto cricket ground as the result of a challenge from the United States to Canada - Lefevre (pseudonym) of America beating Lieut. Sayer of the 23rd Regiment by a yard in 160. Frederic[k] Sayer, who received severe wounds at the Battle of Alma in the Crimea, while a half-pay captain served as police magistrate for Gibraltar.
1853. Howitt vs 'Black Hawk' who retired after four laps. It was later asserted that the Hawk, a reputed Tonawanda Indian, was really a native of Calcutta or Bengal (information: P. Lovesey).
1854. Londoner John Devonport 'carried off the championship of all the Colonies', by beating Thomas Parnell over 125 yards on Homebush Pace Course outside Sydney. Devonport first came to prominence as a swimmer, winning silver medals at Holborn Baths in 1845 (as a boy) and 1851, before running at the Old Cope in 1851-52. He was later shot dead in Australia.
1856. George Frost the 'Suffolk Stag' beat Antonio Genaro 'the celebrated Spanish pedestrian', at the New Surrey Pedestrian Ground, Wandsworth - a 4-hour race which partook somewhat of a national character, the nimble-footed son of Hispania having been warmly taken by the hand, and spiritedly patronised, by some of his fellow-countrymen residing in the metropolis. Genaro arrived in a cloak and a blue cap, embroidered Genaro Andarin Espanol (Genaro the Spanish Runner) and surmounted by the crown of Spain. 'The peculiarity of his gait, unusual to an English eye, struck everyone; he did not lift his feet more than 2 or 3 inches and let them descend quite flatly upon the ground' in short rapid steps. He gave up after the 14th mile in 1 hour 38 minutes 2 seconds, with Frost 11 laps ahead. For full details see Sports Quarterly Magazine 19 (1981), pp. 19-21.
1858. Miss Lucy Reynolds of Liverpool named as one of the women to race in Jackson Square, New Orleans (information: Dr D. Shaulis, University of Nevada). Through 'King Cotton' the town had close links with Lancashire, which perhaps helps explain why runners from both Liverpool and Manchester were competing in New Orleans in 1850 (see above). The event might therefore be viewed as an extension of smock racing, the English rural custom which found another late survival in the female race advertised for Manchester's Olympic Games of 1864.
1861. John Nevin, Charles Mower and John White competed in a U.S.A. tour organised by George Martin 'the wizard of pedestrianism'. The first two won races over 440 yards and 1 mile while more notably White beat Deerfoot over 10 miles on the Fashion Course near New York. In this race he and Mower were matched against two Indians when 'the difference between the gaits of the white and red men was very marked, the former going with an easy cat-like step, and the latter with that peculiar "lope" and side-swing of shoulders and head that any prairie traveller has remarked among the runners of the western tribes' (information: P. Lovesey; also Sports Quarterly Magazine 6 (1978), pp. 12-14).
1861. Deerfoot, after making his English debut against Teddy Mills in September, ran with tremendous success, setting several records, before returning to America in May 1863 (see P. Lovesey, The Kings of Distance, 1968).
1861. Capt. William Henry Patten Saunders matched against M. Gambiere of France for 2,500f a-side in 'the Great Running Match for the Championship of France' near Paris. Gambiere forfeited when he heard of Saunders' trial time. The Captain was styled the undefeated European Champion, having contended victoriously for 'the sash' in Russia, Spain, Austria, Prussia and England. His Russian race was against 'the Tartar Chief', believed invincible in the eastern Russian Empire. When brought to Moscow, however, Saunders 'astonished the Muscovites' by winning over 2 miles with ease in 9 minutes 18 seconds. For his career as an athlete, steeplechase jockey, swimmer, swordsman, big-game hunter, yachtsman, bull-fighter, political theorist and statistician, poet, novelist and claimed 'master of Coptic lore' see Sports History 2 (1982), pp. 18-22.
1862. International athletics meeting on Bonn cricket ground held under the auspices of the English residents. The competitors, mostly students at Bonn University, came from France, Germany, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Greece and North and South America as well as from Britain (cf. Sports Quarterly Magazine 18 (1981), pp. 5-6).
1862. Moorex 'the Italian giant' began a 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours walk at Warren House, Lindley Moor (information: P. Lovesey).
1862. The Illustrated Sporting News published a portrait of William Birks as 'Champion Pedestrian of France'. He followed an early running career in Nottinghamshire (with a win over Seward at Trent Bridge in 1847), then lived in Calais (by 1851), Radford, Nottingham and Oxford before becoming landlord of the Nottingham Castle, Calais, by 1862.
1864. Margaret Douglas 'the great Australian Pedestrienne', attempted to walk 1,000 miles in as many consecutive hours on a 176-yard indoor circuit at London's Alhambra - every mile 'carefully watched and recorded, and properly vouched for by the umpires'. She apparently failed, but from early August to the beginning of September must have completed at least 850 miles (P. Lovesey, Nineteenth Century Women Walkers, pp. 8-9).
1868. William Lang, record-holder for the mile sailed to America intending to challenge William Harding. In December he exhibited his running trophies at Jimmy Smith's cricketing headquarters on Broadway and in January 1869 received a benefit at Hodgkins's Hall, Boonetown, New Jersey. His challenges were refused so he came back to England the following month without finding an opponent.
1869. Topley, Frank Hewitt and A.E. 'Alf' Bird departed for Australia on a 100-day engagement by the theatrical manager George Choppin. Albert Bird travelled to Newcastle (New South Wales), was married there in December 1870 and then moved to Tasmania in 1873 where he set several long distance running records/feats over the next couple of years. Topley returned in 1870 but Hewitt, who is said to have created the biggest sensation since Stephenson's cricket team of 1861-62, stayed on and in 1870 ran a 9.75 100 yards in Melbourne cricket ground (in 1874 it was stated that only he and Seward had definitely run under 10 seconds). In 1871 he broke Nuttall's record with a 1 minute 54.75 seconds half mile at Lyttleton, New Zealand, though on a straight road.
1869. James Smith walked 50 miles in 9 minutes 47 seconds at Trenton, New Jersey. In 1874-75 he toured with Barnum's Circus billed as the greatest walker on earth, with a standing offer that he could beat anyone at walking for a $10,000 bet, before resuming his track career in 1878-79 with wins against O'Leary, etc. (Information: P. Lovesey).
1869. William Richards beaten by Deerfoot over 5 miles in Cleveland. Though born in Glamorgan he had been a pedestrian in England for over ten years and held the mile record jointly with Lang. Prior to sailing for America in 1868 he kept the Black Noree Inn at Miles Platting.
1870. Daillebout or Dibeaux (alias Red Head), an Iroquois Indian from the Montreal area, competed successfully in England over middle distances against Golder, Mills, Lang, etc. (Information: P. Lovesey).
1876. Weston visited England for the first time and walked 109 miles 832 yards in a 24-hour match against Perkins (Information: P. Lovesey).
1876. The Irish American O'Leary covered 502 miles in 6 days at Toxteth Park, Liverpool, the first of several appearances in England (Information: P. Lovesey).
1877. George Hazael beat the Italian Achille Bargozzi, a native of Forlì and self-styled champion runner of France and Italy, who claimed to have run 50 miles in 6 hours. 'The International Running Match' over 30 miles for £50 was held at Lillie Bridge with Bargozzi retiring within 50 yards of his 15th mile, five laps behind Hazael who completed 20 miles - in the then record 1 hour, 57 minutes, 27 seconds - before being declared the winner. It was actually Hazael who at Islington's Agricultural Hall in 1879, first broke 6 hours for 50 miles. He afterwards ran in America where in Madison Square Garden in 1882 he also became the first to complete 600 miles in 6 days. In 1885 he installed a running track behind his hotel in Brooklyn.
1878. 'Madame' Ada Anderson arrived from London in America where until retiring in 1880 her performances as a walker sparked a craze for female pedestrianism across the United States (P. Lovesey, Nineteenth Century Women Walkers, pp. 16-22; D. Shaulis, Pedestriennes, Newsworthy but Controversial Women in Sporting Entertainment, 1998).
Run The Planet thanks John Goulstone for the permission to reprint his article "The pioneering years of international athletics".