George Wilson the Pedestrian
London: Published by Thos. Palser at his Print Warehouse, Lambeth. Sept. 25th, 1815. Engraving. Printed on wove paper. In good condition with the exception of a light circular stain across the image, hardly noticeable. Image has been printed off center on the sheet so that the top left corner of the platemark was printed off the edge of the sheet. Image size: 9 9/16 x 7 ¼ inches. Sheet size: 14 3/8 x 8 5/8 inches.
A handsome portrait of George Wilson, the famous long distance walker.
George Wilson was known as the Blackheath Pedestrian and became one of the most notorious and best-known long distance walkers in England. He began his life working in his mother's pawnshop, but soon entered into a career as a tax collector. He greatly enjoyed his job since it allowed him to indulge his passion for walking. George would typically walk 50-60 miles a day, and once, for a dare, walked from London to Newcastle in just four days. His penchant for walking soon became legendary and he left his job and went to work for a publisher who was compiling "An Itinerary of Great Britain". He was employed to verify, by foot, the distance between various points and routes listed in the book. Following an unfortunate business partnership, Wilson was left penniless and thrown into debtor's prison. As a means of reducing his debt Wilson spent his time betting other prisoners that he could walk set distances in a set number of hours. To settle a wager he once walked fifty miles in a prison yard measuring thirty three by twenty five and a half feet. He soon earned enough in wagers to settle his debts and he was released from prison. Captain Barclay, who walked 1000 miles in 1000 hours, set the world record in long distance walking in 1809. To mark his 40th birthday Wilson proposed to cover the distance in just twenty day, less than half the time it took Barclay. The bet was agreed and on September 11, 1815 Wilson set out from the Billet pub in Blackheath. The wager soon became common knowledge and a fair opened on the heath, with rides and other amusements. Droves of spectators flooded to the heath to watch Wilson in his amazing feat. The crowds soon became unruly and Wilson, with just 250 miles to go to break the record, was placed under house arrest for disturbing the peace. A public appeal was launched and within a week it raised over £1000 for the disappointed Wilson, who was forced to abandon his record.