Sarg Cole’s Sleepless Marathon Drive in Omaha

In May 1925, Sarg Cole had what modern scholars might call a Bad Idea. He was going to drive around Omaha for 5 days straight with no sleep and nothing to drink but milk.

Man driving a truck, 1926.

Man (not Sarg Cole) driving a truck, 1926.

“Iron Man Will Race Time,” announced the Omaha World-Herald on May 2, 1925, as it introduced readers to an upcoming endurance contest that was also a colorful advertising stunt for the newspaper and other Omaha businesses. Sarg Cole, “the Canadian ‘iron man[,]’ will start Saturday from the World-Herald building, to drive a Hupmobile Eight auto five days and five nights, without rest. The only food he will take during his long grind will be [Alamito] milk.”

During his endurance test Cole will be handcuffed to the wheel of his car, and shackled to the seat. His journey will be made in Omaha and its suburbs. During the day his car [which a photo depicts covered with advertising slogans] will be seen by the crowds as he pursues his 120-hour trip. At night he will report at regular intervals to policemen on their beats, so that an accurate check can be kept of his performance.

The test will begin promptly at 12 o’clock noon on the Fifteenth street side of the World-Herald building. Sarg Cole will be handcuffed to the steering wheel by Chief of Police Van Deusen, who will use the strongest pair of steel bracelets to be had in Omaha. The only stops the Canadian will make will be necessary pauses for gasoline and oil, and for the milk that he will drink.

Cole was confident of his ability to complete the five days without sleep. He planned to have observers accompany him during portions of the trip and during the last two days, to have a trained nurse with him in the car “to guard against physical collapse.” He claimed to have performed similar feats in Denver, San Francisco, Atlanta, and other American cities.

The World-Herald reported Cole’s progress daily to readers. On May 5 his limbs and neck were swelling. He traveled to Fremont, Fort Crook, and Missouri Valley, telling a reporter, “‘Yes, I know they call me a nut for doing this,’ . . . ‘but I average about 12 thousand dollars a month for being nutty.'” By May 6 his lips and throat were swollen, and he complained of the glare of street lights during night driving. He also “gave his General tires a test . . . by driving up the east stairway to Central high school and then up the fifty-five degree grade from Twenty-fifth and Burt streets onto Creighton field.”

When Cole finally completed the five days of continuous driving on May 8, 1925, pulling up to the World-Herald Building at noon, he was given a hero’s reception. He was in such poor physical shape that the Omaha chief of police (who had handcuffed him to the steering wheel five days earlier) had to lift him from the Hupmobile and into a waiting ambulance. However, Cole remained upbeat and confided to a reporter that he might ignore his doctor’s warnings to give up endurance contests.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Marker Monday: The Savidge Brothers, Aviation Pioneers

Marker Monday: The Savidge Brothers, Aviation Pioneers

No Father’s Day for Nebraska in 1915

No Father’s Day for Nebraska in 1915

Sewing the Flag

Sewing the Flag

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.