Thursday, March 08, 2018

Pythagoras Pod

Imagine yourself in a New York City pub in 1896. Two men are eagerly engaged in conversation about the forthcoming presidential elections. The younger, Robertson Pitcher Woodward, a reporter for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and his companion Benjamin Lillard, a well-known publisher. Both men disagreed on who was likely to win the election and took out wager. Unfortunately for Woodward he chose William Jennings Bryan whom, as history would confirm, lost to William McKinely. The forfeit Woodward required to make was to cross North America from New York to San Francisco without a dollar in his pocket. He had to complete his journey within a year earning his keep by honest means.

To start the journey, he was required to parade himself through Manhattan wearing top hat and tails, with glasses and riding on donkey. He left New York on November 27th travelled 4,096 miles in 340 days and 2 hours arriving in San Francisco with only 22 hours to spare. During the trip Woodward kept a diary and regularly submitted humorous stories of his adventures. The column was called "The Picturesque Pilgrimage of Pythagoras Pod (and his donkey Mac A'Rony)”. Eventually it was syndicated and a summary of his journey was later published in the Strand Magazine.

Later the journals of Pythagoras Pod were compiled into a book entitled “On a donkey’s hurricane deck.” On his journey he met governors and mayors, ex-presidents and their wives. His amusing journals became compulsive reading at the time and he became quite a celebrity along the way.

The journey was not without its challenges and Pythagoras Pod was shot at, threatened and had to deal with all sort or weather extremes. Yet despite this he made the journal in one piece and saved himself $5,000, which was his forfeit if he did not complete the journey. He had eleven donkeys on the journey. He used five when he crossed the Salt Desert. Despite the rigours of the long marathon, thanks to the generosity of many people he met on the way he arrived at his destination with more than 99c in his pocket and had put on weight.


Ben Woodward said...

How do you know about Pythagorus Pod? He was my grandfather!

Richard said...

Good book to bad he isnt more famous and my book would be worth some money interesting guy. He signed this book I have called On A Donkey's Hurricane Deck. Heres what he wrote: To Louis (cant make out the last name) conjuntion compliments some big c word of the author Richard Woodward Dec 31 06 (1906) Happy new year. very fancy not to readable hande writing maybe he was drunk after all it was signed on the new years eve. And in the back it has a newspaper cliping of the death of his wife with some poems he wrote for her so must have been kind of famous back in the day. Poem is called A Prayer To Alta

Brian Russell said...

And he's my great-grandfather! For some photos and lots more information, you can visit a site my brother Scott put together several years ago - it's at: