The Cock of the Walk

Thomas B. Worth American
Publisher Currier & Ives American

Not on view

Thomas Worth, among America’s prolific nineteenth-century illustrators, excelled at drawing horses and other comic subjects, many of which were made into lithographs published by Currier & Ives. This print humorously commemorates Edward Payson Weston as the American winner of a competitive race-walking event in England. Featured to right of the image's center, a lanky man (Weston) strides towards the shore as he holds aloft the winner's trophy (identified as the "Astley Belt") in his right hand, while supporting (on his left shoulder) the United States flag waving from its pole. In the right background, a ship flies a banner with the words "First Ship for the U.S." At the lower right, there is an overturned, opened and empty cash box inscribed "J.Bull." A crowd trails behind Weston (filling the left half of the image): there are three crippled men (one on crutches), followed by disgruntled, bewhiskered gentlemen--each wearing a bowler or top hat, At the lower left, a small bull dog pants with his tongue hanging out. In the left background, the London Agricultural Hall flies the British Union Jack flag at half mast.

E. P. Weston (1839 –1929) was a noted long distance endurance walker, who helped to popularize the footrace sport in the 1860s and 1870s. In 1879 he defeated the British champion "Blower" Brown, in a record-breaking 550-mile (890 km) walking match in 141 hours 44 minutes (just under six days), thereby winning the prestigious Astley Belt. This trophy was named for Sir John Dugdale Astley, a British Member of Parliament, who inaugurated a series of 6-day races to determine the "Long distance Champion of The World." The champion was awarded a cash prize, in addition to the gold-and-silver "Astley Belt." The championship race, held in the Agricultural Hall in London, was a grueling spectator sport, which some regarded as too wretched to watch. This print was published to proclaim Weston's 1879 victory of the fourth Astley Belt race.

Nathaniel Currier (1813–1888), who established a successful New York-based lithography firm in 1835, produced thousands of hand-colored prints in various sizes that together create a vivid panorama of mid-to-late nineteenth century America. In 1857, James Merritt Ives (1824–1895), the accounting-savvy brother-in-law of Nathaniel's brother Charles, was made a business partner. People eagerly acquired Currier & Ives lithographs, such as those featuring spectacular American landscapes, rural and city views, hunting and fishing scenes, race winners, domestic life and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments.

No image available

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.