JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 362
The title for this rather unwieldy idea of a competition (from the Scientific American, Supplement for 7 July 1894) , "A Race
Between Pedestrians, Stiltsmern and Horses" begs the question, "Why?"–or at the very least, the title of the article really should have had a
question mark at the end, rather than being a declaration. (This is one of those wonderful serendipitous finds–I was looking for an article deeper in this issue on the magneto for the Bell telephone; but it was this extraordinary story that wound up on the front page, under the pretty banner of the magazine.)
As it turns out, this was an exceptionally serious race, as it was 250 miles in length–I have no idea why it should've been so terrifically long, but it was. The officials were deluged with applicants; so many, in fact, that who ever was in charge decided to go with only three representative for each category. I can imagine in my happiest state what it would have looked like trying to administer a race like this where there were hundreds of stiltsmen/runners/horse teams strung out along a 250-mile long course.
After several preliminary reports, we read that after 141 miles that all of the pedestrian competitors had dropped away, leaving two horse teams and all of the stiltsmen. At the 180-mile mark we learn that all were about neck-and-neck, with one of the stiltsmen completing the distance in 44 hours and 44 minutes (or about 4.5 mph).
What happens next in the announcenment of the victor is that there is
no announcenment. In the pernicious denouement, the article states:
"let us say in conclusion" which was hardly so, "that the horsemen and
stiltsmen were in perfect condition, a fact which, a priori seems
extraordinary". We do learn, however, about the pulse and respiration
of the contestants (?), though we are not told if the numbers were for
active or resting, sitting or standing etc. positions–hardly a
satisfactory ending, especially after having to read the word
"stiltsmen" so many times.