On March 4, 1928, 199 men lined up in Los Angeles, California, to participate in a 3,400-mile transcontinental footrace to New York City. The Bunion Derby, as the press dubbed the event, was the brainchild of sports promoter Charles C. Pyle. He promised a $25,000 grand prize and claimed the competition would immortalize US Route 66, a 2,400-mile road, mostly unpaved, that subjected the runners to mountains, deserts, mud, and sandstorms, from Los Angeles to Chicago.
The runners represented all walks of American life, from immigrants to millionaires, with a peppering of star international athletes, included by Pyle for publicity purposes. For 84 days, the men participated in this part-footrace, part-Hollywood production, which incorporated a road show featuring football legend Red Grange, food concessions, vaudeville acts, sideshows, a portable radio station, and the world's largest coffeepot, sponsored by Maxwell House, serving 90 gallons of coffee a day.
Drawn by hopes for a better future and dreams of fame, fortune, and glory, the bunioneers embarked on an exhaustive and grueling journey that would challenge their physical and psychological endurance to the fullest, while Pyle struggled to keep his cross-country road show afloat.
The book is published by University of New Mexico Press.
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