Monday, July 16, 2012
On this date in 1923, a man by the name of Leonard Day was in Medora, waiting for the rain to end so he could continue on a hike … one that he began two years before!
Day was a lecturer and a writer from California, and he was travelling under a pseudonym. He had written a manuscript titled “The Unsolicited Generosity of the American People,” which his publishers rejected. They told him he didn’t know his subject.
So, on November 21, 1921, Day took up his new name, one of the characters’ names, and set out on a hiking tour around the edge of the United States to prove he did indeed know his subject. He would travel more than 10,000 miles on foot, and was able to ask only for water and matches. He relied on people around the country to support him with unsolicited food, clothes, room and board. If he was successful with his journey, and proved his boast about the American people to his publishers, he hoped he could sell his manuscript, and earn $6,500.
He was on his return lap when he passed through North Dakota with his only long-term companion, Radio King, his dog. He passed through Bismarck, and even spoke at the Bismarck Auditorium. He also banqueted with the fire department in New Salem.
When he set out from Belfield, he started off with a walking partner, a man representing the Yeast Foam corporation, who wanted to show off his “ability as a pedestrian.” However, the man began to lag, and Day soon had to flag down a car to take his partner the rest of the way to Medora.
When Day arrived in Medora, he was “dusty, his clothing soaked with perspiration (owing to the extreme heat), tired but happy.” He had walked approximately 8262 miles by the time he reached Medora.
The Billings County Pioneer reported that Day was “greatly impressed with the scenic beauties of the badlands.” He said he wanted to return in the future so that he could “roam at will,” but as soon as the rain let him, he kept to his schedule, and set off—hoping to arrive at Sentinel Butte that night.
It would take a few more months, but on Christmas Eve, he strode into Berkley, set to arrive at his destination of San Francisco on Christmas Day. He bore a cane “bedecked with fire department badges” given to him from all parts of the country, as well as a written account of what he had received, along with the signature of the donor, to show that everything had been unsolicited… and a success.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
The Bismarck Tribune, June 30, 1923, p.7
The Bismarck Tribune, June 27, 1923, p.2
The Bismarck Tribune, June 25, 1923, p.8
The Oakland Tribune, December 24, 1923, p13
The Oakland Tribune, December 26, 1923, p12
The Billings County Pioneer, July 20, 1923