“Counting a Million in a Month”

The London Post says a wager came off, the terms of which were as follows. I will bet any man one hundred pounds, that he cannot make a million strokes, with pen and ink, within a month. They were not to be mere dots or scratches, but fair down strokes, such as form the child’s first lesson in writing. A gentleman accepted the challenge. The month allowed was the lunar month of only twenty-eight days; so that for the completion of the undertaking, an average of thirty-six thousand strokes a day was required. This, at sixty a minute, or three thousand six hundred an hour–and neither the human intellect nor the human hand can be expected to do more–would call for ten hours’ labor in every four and twenty. With a proper feeling of the respect due to the Sabbath, he determined to abstain from his work on the Sundays. By this determination he diminished by four days the period allowed him, and at the same time, by so doing, he increased the daily average of his strokes to upwards of forty-one thousand. On the first day he executed about fifty thousand strokes; on the second, nearly as many. But at length, after many days, the hand became stiff and weary, the wrist swollen, and it required the almost constant attendance of some assiduous relation or friend, to besprinkle it, without interrupting its progress over the paper, with a lotion calculated to relieve and invigorate it. On the twenty-third day, the million strokes, and some thousands over, were accomplished; and the piles of paper that exhibited them testified, that to the courageous heart, the willing hand and the energetic mind, hardly anything is impossible.

— Francis Channing Woodworth, American Miscellany of Entertaining Knowledge, 1852