On this day in Paducah history, April 9, 1910 “Colonial Jack” Krohn arrived in Paducah having just walked from Mayfield. Most of us would consider that a pretty long journey to tackle on foot , but it was just a few paltry miles for “Colonial Jack” who had started his walk from Los Angeles in October of 1909 with the goal of reaching Boston. However, this journey that brought him to Paducah in 1910 was only a preliminary trek, a leisurely stroll, to map out the route he would take the following year when he planned to break the cross-continental walking record previously established by another famed pedestrian, Edward Weston.
“Colonial Jack” Krohn, legally known as John Albert Krohn, began his walking career several years before on a dare, and ultimately found it was a pretty decent way to earn a living and garner a little fame. Donned in colonial garb (hence the nickname), he pushed his self-crafted, pyramid-shaped wheelbarrow, which he nicknamed the Sphinx, across the country selling his stories and trinkets of his journey along the way. Sometimes his wife would travel ahead of him to a particular destination to put up posters heralding his imminent arrival. And folks bought loved him for it; his gimmick was well-received and word has it that he hardly ever had to pay for anything out of his own pocket for the townspeople along the way were always willing to provide him a warm meal and warm bed.
The Paducah Evening Sun reported that “Colonial Jack” arrived on Saturday afternoon, April 9, and would also “spend Sunday in Paducah as he never walks on that day.” On the following Monday, “Colonial Jack” was scheduled to leave Paducah and head toward Louisville following the railroad tracks. He did leave, but the route of his journey becomes a little fuzzy after that. It’s unclear as to whether he ever got to Boston, and it’s fairly certain that he never tried the following year to break the record.
But don’t cry for the failure of “Colonial Jack.” This attempted cross-continental trek of 4000 miles was hardly his first and hardly his most impressive walking stunt. In 1908, also under the name “Colonial Jack,” he walked the perimeter of the United States, a journey of 9000 miles (with his trusty Sphinx), starting in Portland, Maine; walking along the northern border of the U.S. to Portland, Oregon; down the Pacific coastline; along the southern border of the U.S.; and then up the eastern coastline back to Portland, Maine. The trip took him 357 days, and he published a book about it called “The Walk of Colonial Jack.”
But if you think a 9000 mile walking journey is impressive, how about the walk he undertook in 1903? Under the name “Sailor Jean” (with a barrel-shaped wheelbarrow), John Albert Krohn started in Olympia, Washington, and walked to every state capital, zig-zagging all across the United States in a pedestrian voyage that he claimed totaled 22,000 miles.
Right around 1910/11, not far from the time he left Paducah, it appears as if “Colonial Jack” gave up the walking gig. Ultimately, he settled on a farm in Salisbury, Massachusetts where he grew strawberries and other produce.
To learn more about stuntmen who stopover in Paducah, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.