The Pedestrian (aka “The Pedestrian’s Adventures”)
Edward Payson Weston’s account of his famous 1861 walk from Boston to Washington DC was published in 1862 in a pamphlet which he sold to help pay back debts he incurred and establish his reputation as “The Pedestrian”. The following is a chronological summary of his log for the walk taken from the pamphlet. This summary helps explain and discuss the daily events.
Friday, February 22, 1861
Weston appeared at the State House in Boston on February 22, 1861 before noon accompanied by a large crowd to cheer on the brave young man. Not all present were well-wishers though. A constable and lawyer each greeted him with claims that had been filed against him for money he owed others. After pleading his circumstances and arguing that the only hope for making payment was in completing the walk, he was able to convince them to let him continue. One hour behind now, he addressed the sympathetic crowd and began walking at a fast pace, with hundreds following him down Beacon Street.
How was Weston able to make progress and distribute his advertisements, when he chose a well-traveled route and fans and well-wishers appeared everywhere to greet him? From bands, parading soldiers, and assemblies, to gratuitous meals and rooms provided along the way, he was a very popular man indeed, wherever he went. This challenge required deft touch with the crowds and a persistence to keep going in spite of numerous obstacles.
Five hours after he had started, he managed to walk 21 miles to the Framington Hotel where he was kissed by a group of ladies who asked that he deliver the kiss to the President. After a short speech he headed down the road accompanied by many townspeople and drummers. This attention would be more the norm than the exception.
On his way to Worcester and back on schedule, he was greeted by another creditor who threatened to arrest him when he got to Worcester if he did not make payment. Again, he was able to talk his way out of the predictament by signing a promissory note, but only after losing two hours on the matter. Greatly upset at the turn of events, he was described as “behaving more like a madman” and decided to begin walking again at3:15 a.m. (Feb 23) toward his next destination, Leicester, six miles away in over a foot of fresh snow.
Saturday, February 23, 1861
In an exhausted state, and now with two feet of snow accumulating, he fell several times and questioned whether he should continue or turn back. Pulling together his strength, he recovered and made it to Leicester at daybreak where he took a break to bathe and enjoy fresh “fried doughnuts”. He then proceeded eight miles to East Brookfield where he slept for a couple hours and it was on to South Brookfield where there were large crowds and a band to greet him. Then it was on to West Warren and finally Palmer where he was provided a “splendid supper”, a bath and a “rubbing” before retiring at 8:30 p.m.
Sunday February 24, 1861
Arising at 2:00 a.m. after five hours sleep, Weston developed a pain in his left knee which caused him to limp for many miles. At 6:00 a.m. he arrived at Wilbraham as it began to rain. Fortunately, he was able to put on his “rubber suit” rain gear provided by his sponsor the “Rubber Clothing Co.” It would be his toughest day walking only time he would need weather protection. But he persisted and arrived at Hartford at noonwhere he stay most of the day in the company friends and sponsors before retiring for three hours sleep after which he headed out of Hartford toward New Haven at midnight, behind schedule.
Monday, February 25, 1861
A couple hours after leaving Hartford, a dog chased Weston. Fleeing caused him to sprain his ankle and experience “excruciating pain” until he rested in Meriden for an hour before heading to Wallingford for breakfast. He was then to arrive at New Haven at 2:00 p.m. George Whiting, his primary sponsor, greeted him and provided a new team of horses for his party and resupply him with advertising materials. In spite of being six hours late, a patient crowd cheered him loudly and “our every want was supplied by our obliging host.” Able to eat, and catch an hour and half sleep, he left New Haven at 5:30 followed by the largest crowd since he began. He next passed through Milford and then to Bridgeport at 11:00 p.m. where he was able to eat and retire to bed at midnight.
Tuesday, February 26, 1861
Leaving Bridgeport Weston and his party went through Fairfield and then on to Westport where he greets a great cheering crowd. Then its on to Norwalk at 11:00 a.m. where he had accepted an invitation to stay at J.C. Kelly’s Connecticut Hotel. Here, Weston entertained a large party that had gathered and a large breakfast table was set for the gathering. As Weston puts it, “Here, as before, money was of no use to us, and none seemed inclined to think we ought to pay for any thing.”
The great reception Weston received seemed to rejuvenate him and at 12 p.m. he made his way to Stamford at a brisk pace arriving before 3:00 p.m. A great crowd greeted him with cheers and the “…ever-glorious Stars and Stripes flung to the breeze.” After stopping for refeshments at the Stamford Hotel, he received three cheers for the “pedestrian” by the curious crowd.
Then it was Horseneck (Greenwich) where he is presented with a medal with the portraits of Lincoln and Hamlin (his V.P.) by a six year old boy named “Little Freddie”, who said he should keep the medal as a reminder of him.
Finally, he crossed over to New York at Port Chester at 6:20 p.m. to another cheering crowd that walked with him for a mile to a hotel where he briefly stopped before heading out to the Sibery Hotel in New Rochelle. He arrived at 10:30 p.m. to a group that did not believe he was Weston, having been previously conned that evening. Weston and company enjoyed a supper before retiring. Apparently, approached by a group of sympathetic young ladies, being tired at this point he could do no better than expressing that he was, “being very well and very sleepy.”
Wednesday, February 27, 1861 – New York City
Weston leaves New Rochelle at 5:00 a.m. and proceeds directly to New York City where he arrives at the Metropolitan Hotel at Broadway and Prince Street at 11:30 for breakfast. Afterwards, Weston was driven to the photography studio of J. Gurney & Sons where he was presented with three dozen carte de visite of himself (small photograph cards) and sat for a photograph for the occasion.
(A carte de visite was a small photograph affixed to a card which became enormously popular and were traded among friends and visitors. Their popularity led to the publication and collection of photographs of prominent persons. “Cardomania” spread throughout Europe and then quickly to America and became a common fixture in Victorian parlors.)
Afterwards, Weston was reunited with George Eddy, his friend that he originally placed his walking bet with. They visited several sponsors in the city and then took the ferry to Jersey City, NJ at 5:00 p.m. and walked briskly to Newark where he was met by a large unruly crowd that had to be restrained by the police. Here he arrived at the City Hotel for four hours sleep.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on 2/28/1861 Weston’s journey as having walked 285 miles to New York City, more than half-way in his journey, averaging 47 miles per day.
Thursday, February, 28, 1861
When Weston awoke after midnight, he, Eddy and a large group walked toward Elizabethtown (Elizabeth, NJ) where he arrived after 2:00 a.m.Weston continued on to Rahway through some rough muddy roads without Eddy. It was at this point that he faced his lowest physical point on the trip, complaining of chest pains, extreme fatigue, irritability and a need to sleep. Progress slowed and he nearly turned back before willing himself forward toward the house of Samuel Forbes who provided breakfast and kind relief.
Recovering his strength he arrives at the Williams Hotel in New Brunswick at 11:30 a.m. accompanied by a large crowd. Weston was provided a room where slept for a couple hours before eating and visiting the hotel proprietor. Here, he provided a lock of his hair to a lady that requested it as a memento of his visit. Weston decided to leave New Brunswick around 2:00 p.m. with the intention of making Trenton by the end of the day. But, he found the roads rough and the night very dark. His ankles bothered him walking the rough road and he feared he might severely sprain an ankle if he was not careful. Weston continued to Clarksville at 11:00 p.m., 7 miles outside of Trenton, and decided that it best he retire here for a well-needed rest.
Friday, March 1, 1861
After getting over six hours sleep, Weston appeared re-energized and more confident than ever that he would make his grand goal. After breakfast he headed to the American Hotel in Trenton for a reception where is honored and where he gives a short speech before crossing the Delaware and heading into Pennsylvania. He passed the estate of William Penn and commented on the beautiful road along the Delaware. His next stop was Bristol where a William Early had invited him to stop by in his travels for dinner. A brass band had waited for him the previous day to provide a glorious welcome. Apparently, Weston was about a day behind his schedule at this point. Finally, he arrives at the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia at 8:15 p.m. and met with a group of friends where he ate and then retired for the night.
Saturday March 2, 1861
After re-stocking their advertisements, the party left Philadelphia at 3:30 a.m. toward Baltimore along the old stage road. Weston commented that the road was quite hilly and his travel was further complicated by taking the wrong road for a while, losing more time. Eventually he made his way to Media where he was welcomed unexpectedly by a crowd and was able to sleep for an hour and eat some breakfast. By 6:30 he crossed the Brandywine River and arrived at the Washington Hotel in Hamerton where he slept until midnight.
Sunday, March 3, 1861
Shortly after midnight, Weston’s party headed for Port Deposit 40 miles ahead. He arrived at around 2:00 p.m., having complained about not being able to get water or drink along the way, missing a turn on the road, and arriving not dressed for the reception he was about to receive. But he appreciated the kindness of the proprietor of the Washington House who helped him get a ferry across the Susquehanna River, which proved to be a bit of a challenge on a Sunday.
So, Weston’s party was forced to wait until 4:00 p.m. until the ferry could be ready. The crowd chose to escort him on the boat across the river where he began walking to his next stop at Belair to eat and take a quick one hour nap.
Monday, March 4, 1861
Weston next describes his road being very dark, the sky with threatening clouds, numerous toll-gates, with challenging hills and bothersome dogs. “…it was a long and tedious journey to Baltimore; but we arrived…at 4:30 a.m.” His host, Robert Coleman, Esq. was anxious to for the pedestrian to reach Washington on time so he had substantial breakfast ready for his guest and Weston was able to leave Baltimore by 6:00 a.m.
Weston realized that time was running short and he began to walk faster, still confident that he could reach Washington on time for the Inauguration. After seven miles, one of the horses could not go on which forced the party to head two miles out of the way to see if he could get a horse to replace the lame one. But the effort proved unsuccessful. Weston was forced to abandon the rest of his support party and continue on his own with 30 miles to go to Washington. Weston took up the challenge and walked very fast. “He touched the back of the Capitol just as the clock struck 5:00 p.m….in ten consecutive days, four hours and twelve minutes.” Unfortunately, that was four hours late for the official Inauguration ceremony.
After being followed by a growing crowd he received some assistance and was able to recover somewhat after a brief nap; enough to briefly attend an Inaugural ball before he retired at 10:30 p.m. With his walk over, he was able to sleep until 11:00 a.m. the next day, and awoke fully refreshed and satisfied with his feat.