High Gear


In May 1892, the French newspaper La Petite Gironde sponsored a unique contest: The first man to travel on stilts the 302 miles from Bordeaux to Bayonne and Biarritz and back would win 1,000 francs.

Sometimes the stilts broke, although they were made of strong ash. The men would then halt for repairs and seize the opportunity of taking a meal–soup and fried eggs, perhaps, with coffee and white wine. … First arrivals at various control-posts were presented with bouquets, laurel wreaths, and more substantial tokens in the shape of free rations and money. Others frankly touted for contributions in the towns, and made a grand thing of it.

Of 69 starters, 32 covered the course in the allotted time of eight and a half days. The prize went to 31-year-old Pierre Deycard, who finished in 4 days 7 hours — after which he was treated to a banquet of 15 courses “and then made to parade the town with a bank note for 1,000 francs pinned on his chest.”

(From Strand, January 1898.)