A snapshot biography of Frank Hart

Frank Hart, dressed in a sports shirt, pants and a sports cap with his arms crossed.
Frank Hart


For about a decade, around 1880, the U.S. national pastime 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, while others in a competition 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 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 at Frank mid-competition, and there were rumors that someone once tried to poison him. But he continued to compete.

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 565 miles. Frank received approximately $18,000 for the win, not including bets on himself. At the time, a good salary in the U.S. was about $600 a year.


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Click here to read a snapshot biography of another athlete, Satchel Paige.