The sport of “six day, go as you please” was a popular game during the late 1870s and early 1880s. The sport was about endurance racing and was popular in the United States as well as Great Britain. The participants in the events were called pedestrians and were free to run or walk around an indoor track for as long as they could stay on their feet. The pedestrians who were top in the game could last on four hours of sleep or less. They slept on cots inside the track’s oval. Fans followed the contest for six days of endurance just as if they were watching a basketball or football game. Gamblers would place bets on likely winners.
Frank Hart was on top of his game in 1880. He was given the name Fred Hichborn but changed during his professional career. On April 10, 1880, Hart won the prestigious O’Leary Belt competition and smashed the world record, after covering 565 miles in six days of racing. He earned about $17,000 in prize money, which was a small fortune in 1880.
Hart was born in Haiti in 1858 and immigrated to the United States in the 1870’s. Very little is known about his childhood. He began working in a grocery store in Boston Massachusetts. As the pedestrian craze swept the nation, he began competing in local events. While participating in a competition, he caught the eye of an Irish immigrant, Daniel O’ Leary, and a sports promoter who had once held the world record for the six-day racing.
O’ Leary later financed Hart during his career. Hart earned the nickname “Black Dan” from his association with O’Leary. In later years, he played professional baseball in a Chicago Negro league. Once people began to lose interest in six-day racing, Hart’s brilliant career was almost forgotten. Hart died in Chicago in 1908.