The experiences of sprinter James “Cuckoo” Collins provide a frontline view into the history and popular perception of professional foot racing in late nineteenth-century America. Collins’s colorful career embodies both the openness and the excesses of this freewheeling chapter in track and field history and coincides with the final years of professional running as it transitioned to the more regulated and narrowed focus of amateurism. The convergent trajectory of an individual career and a once flourishing sport emerges through an examination of newspapers and other contemporary accounts, along with current scholarship on the rise and fall of pedestrianism.

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