Would You Walk 3500 Miles for a New Job? Charles Lummis Did.

September 12, 1884

Charles F. Lummis began an ambitious trip from Cincinnati to Los Angeles, using only his feet for a journey of 3,507 miles (5,644 kilometers). The 25-year-old Lummis had been working for several years as a reporter in Chillicothe, Ohio when he was offered a job with the Los Angeles Times as its first city editor. In order to get from Ohio to the west coast to begin the next stage of his career, Lummis elected to walk the whole way for the sake of exercise, adventure, and perhaps even a measure of fame.

His trek began in Cincinnati on the morning of September 12 at 9:00 a.m. and, during the next 143 days, he averaged 25 miles (40.2 kilometers) per day as he traveled steadily by foot towards his destination. Throughout his long walk, Lummis wrote up and then mailed to the Los Angeles Times reports of his experiences. The newspaper, in turn, published these dispatches in several installments. 

Lummis’s journey was highly eventful, and it included too-close-for-comfort encounters with various wild cats; a few attempted robberies by people he met en route; the opportunity to interview the notorious outlaw Frank James; a huge snowstorm in New Mexico’s mountains; the intense heat of the Mojave Desert; a sprained ankle in Colorado; and a broken arm (which he set himself) in Arizona. 

This trek also further broadened Lummis’s perspective and priorities in several profound, long-lasting ways. Lummis developed a great deal of respect for the Pueblo peoples he met while walking through New Mexico and Arizona, and — in marked contrast to the attitudes of many others across the United States at that time — he ultimately became a staunch and outspoken advocate for the cultures and civil rights of Native Americans.

Lummis finally arrived in Los Angeles in relatively good shape on February 1, 1885. He began his new job as city editor the following day. A few years later, Lummis wrote about his memorable hike in a book entitled “A Tramp Across the Continent.” As he recounted in the book, “The journey was often fatiguing, but never dull; full of hardship and spiced with frequent danger in its latter half, but always instructive, keenly interesting, and keenly enjoyed.” Lummis died in 1928 at the age of 69.

For more information about Charles F. Lummis, please check out http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/1706/charles-f-lummis-american-1859-1928/.

Lummis’s book “A Tramp Across the Continent” is available at https://archive.org/details/contitrampacross00lummrich.

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