I send your pedometer. To the loop at the bottom of it, you must sew a tape, and at the other end of the tape, a small hook … cut a little hole in the bottom of your left watch pocket, pass the hook and tape through it, and down between the breeches and drawers, and fix the hook on the edge of your knee band, an inch from the knee buckle; then hook the instrument itself by its swivel hook, on the upper edge of the watch pocket. Your tape being well adjusted in length, your double steps will be exactly counted by the instrument, the shortest hand pointing out the thousands, the flat hand the hundreds, and the long hand the tens and units …”
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, May 3, 1788
Padover’s The Complete Jefferson, P. 969-970
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thomas Jefferson loved to measure things! Here he told his good friend how to rig a pedometer.
A dial-type counter (imagine a watch with hour, minute and second hands) could be adapted to this cause. Each tug on the counter’s mechanism caused “the long hand” to advance by one. The counter was secured to the inside top of a man’s watch pocket. A hook was attached near the bottom of a man’s knee pants. A tape (or string), threaded completely inside one’s clothes, connected the two. Once adjusted for the proper tension, the counter would advance by one each time that leg took a step. Multiply that by two gave the number of steps. Multiply that by the length of one’s stride (yet another thing to measure!) gave the distance covered.
Jefferson was 6′ 2 1/2″ tall, Madison only 5′ 4″. Obviously, one size tape did not fit all!
Jefferson extolled the virtues of walking. (“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far,” he wrote to his nephew Peter Carr in 1785. Foley, 2830)
With a pedometer, he could know just how far he’d gone.
Thomas Jefferson has practical observations for you!
Invite him to speak. Call Patrick Lee at 574-657-2739.