A snapshot biography of Frank Hart

Frank Hart

For about a decade around 1880, the national pastime in the U.S. was a sport called pedestrianism. Pedestrians, the term for athletes who competed in the sport, would walk around a track, some to accomplish a specific distance goal, others in competition with one another to see who could go the farthest distance over a specified time. Thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of spectators, would come to watch.

One of the best pedestrians of the time was Frank Hart. Frank, an immigrant to the U.S. from Haiti, endured many challenges competing in the sport. Some athletes refused to shake his hand, people yelled at him, one spectator threw pepper spray at Frank mid competition, and there were rumors that someone once tried to poison him. But he continued to compete.

He won his first race in 1879. And on April 10th, 1880, in front of a crowd of about twenty thousand on the final day of a six day competition, Frank set a world record, finishing the race having walked a total of 565 miles. Not including bets on himself, Frank received approximately $18,000 for the win. At the time, a good salary in the U.S. was about $600 for a year.

Sources: http://www.runningpast.com/frank_hart.htm / https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/frank-hart-pedestrianism / NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION