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The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 6, February 5, 2012, Article 10

COLONIAL JACK'S LONG WALK

Regarding the 9,000-mile walk of John Albert Krohn, I quoted an Internet source saying:

"He set out from Portland on June 1, 1908, walked across the northern border to Seattle; went South to southern California; and then walked east across the deserts, Texas, and the deep South, before finally turning north around Pensacola, Florida. He returned home on July 21, 1908."

Mike Packard writes:

Long walk -- Did he really walk 9,000 miles in 52 days (about 175 miles per day) ? I suspect he either started in 1907 or finished in 1909.

I'd lifted the text from an eBay lot I was thinking of bidding on. I ended up bidding on and winning a new book for my library - a book written by Krohn himself, privately published in Newburyport, MA in 1910. It's a week-by-week account of his journey. He indeed started on June 1, 1908. The end date was a typo - it was July 19, 1909.

Walk of Colonial Jack

Here are some excerpts, one mentioning the numismatic connection, the tokens he produced.

From the Preface:

"Why did I push a wheelbarrow around the border of the United states? To make money selling my story."

"I wore out eleven pairs of shoes on the trip. They were purchased enroute, having had only two pair of the same make. I append the miles each pair of shoes carried me."

The longest-lasting pair took Krohn 1,728 miles; one pair only lasted 300. During his trip he visited 1,209 places, getting a post office stamp in a book he kept for the purpose of proving his story. This guy took notes on everything - "During the trip I wore out 121 pairs of stockings." He walked an average of 25 miles per day. His average expense per week was $22.80.

"In order to make both ends meet I sold souvenirs of myself, gave short talks of my trip in moving picture houses, advertising, etc.

colonial jack token Regarding the sale of his souvenir tokens, he writes:

I heard many queer excuses for not buying a souvenir. Some of them are: "Haven't time to;" "I don't live in the town;" "I have got house full of souvenirs; "I am too old, let the young fellows buy them;" "I can't read;"

We numismatists can be grateful to those who did buy Krohn's tokens and set them aside for collectors of today. His trip diary is a wonderful account of his travels, the places he saw and the people he met. I think historians will find it a useful slide-of-life account from the early 20th century.

It was no walk in the park - Krohn had to deal with bad weather, illness, scorpions, policemen and railroad people. He had gotten written permission to be allowed to walk across railroad bridges. One time he slipped and got his ankle stuck. He lost several dollars in silver that fell from his pocket, and he feared for his life, but luckily he managed to extricate his swollen ankle before the next train came by.

What a great adventure - one that few people would ever be brave enough or foolish enough to try. A find like this is all part of the fun of numismatic research - you never quite know where it will lead you.

To read the complete eBay listing with several pictures, see: 1910 RARE 9000-MILE WALK of COLONIAL JACK Book AROUND UNITED STATES 1st PHOTOS (www.ebay.com/itm/330674422031)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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