L. P. Federmeyer, a Frenchman, who pushed his wheelbarrow across America in 1879. He was not the first as Lyman Potter did it previously in 1878! These two men decided to have a race and left San Francisco for New York in 1879 pushing their wheelbarrows. Federmeyer won.
Not all publicity stunts have been done this century.
One hundred and twenty-three years ago, L. P. Federmeyer left San Francisco for New York on December 8, 1878, pushing a wheelbarrow. He arrived in New York on July 23, 1879. He had walked 4,500 miles in 227 days, averaging a little under 20 miles a day.
There was a Guide and Referee, James T. Fuller, who reported another wheelbarrow walker, R. Lyman Potter, was a thousand miles back of Federmeyer. So this was a competition of skill and perseverance.
Was there a prize?
Leon Federmeyer and Lyman Potter were the competitors and held daily conditioning workouts before the race. These workouts were viewable to the public (perhaps for a fee) and were covered in the newspapers as "pre-race" coverage.
The prize was $2,000.00, given to the winner of the race. (I do not know if there was an amount given to the looser).
Each man had a referee to validate the weight and postmark at each station, however the referee did not walk all the way with each contestant. After his walker had left town, he would move ahead (by stage coach or train) to the next stopping point and wait for the walker to arrive, where he would validate the weight in the wheelbarrow.
Each man was to push a "wheelbarrow and contents not to weigh less than 100 pounds at all times".
As Leon Federmeyer passed through each town, he would give a lecture, sometimes charging as much as 10 cents admission, about the experiences he had. Word traveled fast, and I'm sure subscriptions increased as coverage of the walk was printed and attendance grew. Even the Indians knew about him as he passed their villages.
Leon took the $2000.00 prize money, settled in Chicago and opened a beauty salon on the famous "Loop". He married (a woman 30 years his junior and had 12 children.
Leon was not only famous for his "walk", but he had also won gold medals at the Paris Exposition for his "paintings" (for lack of a better word). I have seen the actual artwork and have good photos of the work. Being a barber, hairdresser and wigmaker, he had access to the hair pieces that were cut. He took this hair, and created portraits with it. They are so realistic I thought they were old sepia toned photographs of the day when I first saw them. And the amazing thing about these portraits is the hair was "glued onto the back side of glass". I know this is a little hard to visualize, but believe me it is amazing. No wonder he won 2 different gold medals for them.
I have been trying to get information about this famous walk, too.
I thought it would be a good start to contact the San Francisco paper to see if they had archives of the articles about the race. This would give me the towns they traveled through. I could then go to each town and research the stories that were printed and get the whole story of the race.