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Heritage Center offers stories of pedestrianism
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · November 30th, 2017

While the Heritage Center's current exhibit is about transportation - bicycles, cars, etc. - the program to be presented on Sunday afternoon offers a story about a lady who took up racing against others, and was a virtual powerhouse as well as a really smart lady.

Heritage Center Director Lynette Brenzel has asked her husband David to give the presentation on Sunday, December 3, at 2 p.m. He will be assisted by Hilda von Flamme and Madeline de la Tour.

Men as well as women took up pedestrianism, and a recent post on the Heritage Center Facebook page told of Thomas Croghan, Jr., a 31-year-old Cedar Rapids fireman and former policeman. Mrs. Brenzel allowed us to tell about him here.

Croghan began his career as a professional pedestrian on November 27, 1878, at 9 p.m.

The contest in which he participated was set to be 100 miles long or last 25 hours. It occurred at a place in downtown Cedar Rapids called Hart & Wetzel's hall. This was originally intended to be a benefit race for Croghan's Fire Company No. 1.

His opponent was 22-year-old William E. Watts, a coal and wood merchant and also a member of the department.

Fire Company No. 1 had a reputation for being one of the "liveliest companies in Iowa." Their balls and socials were highlights in the late 1800s, and similar events were held in Marion at that time, too. This was their first attempt at holding a pedestrian fundraiser.

A large crowd came to watch and support the Fire Department. Watts began fast, but he collapsed after 30 miles, his feet swollen and blistered. Croghan finished the 100 miles in just 24 hours and 3 minutes.

An accompanying drawing in the paper shows the men in union suits, with some wearing boxer-type shorts. (Remember, it was November.) One has striped leggings covered with shorts which are star-spangled.

If you liked this story, check out the Facebook page - it includes lots of fun stories and some serious ones. Thanks to the Brenzels for finding these jewels and making them available to the community.
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