Working on an infographic for various HARM levels of trails, and the Trail of Tears is one I can trace and get a rough mortality rate for.

Right now, I’m going with a guestimate for average human body weight for 1838 down to 120. Assuming 50/50 men/woman, plus kids. I am guessing that the average man would probably be 150-160 at that time, avg woman about 100-110, then probably 2-4 kids of varying ages.

Also, well done, Andrew Jackson. Jerk.

, (or as a wild-guess callout @rvanheertum might have a decent guess here), how’s that fit your mathy eyeballs?


The list of things for this infographic will be 11 (10 journeys, one of which has a high and low estimate):

From least to most HARM:

  1. Crossing the street in SF – 0.00000473
  2. Glacier NP Belly River Trail – 0.00739
  3. Pacific Crest Trail – 0.204
  4. Continental Divide Trail – 0.492
  5. Appalachian Trail – 2.44
  6. Oregon Trail – 81.8
  7. Bataan Death March (low estimate) – 87.1
  8. Bataan Death March (high estimate) – 268
  9. Powell Expedition – 600
  10. Trail of Tears – 646
  11. Scott Expedition – 4529

The Bataan Death March needs two, because historians actually don’t know the death rate. They know how many people started (roughly) and how many finished, but some unknown number of POWs escaped along the way to blend with the civilian population (most of the POWs were Filipino, with some Americans). Estimates vary from 2600 total deaths to 10650, which (obviously) changes the HARM a lot.

For crossing the street, I used an estimated crosswalk length of 40ft (36ft is a standard 2-lane st) as the trip length. The City of San Francisco has run a study on the traffic volume at every street corner in the city, which is kind of insane. But useful for that estimate (there were 24 pedestrian deaths last year).


@rvanheertum forwarded me a good way to translate average height into weight (and height IS something that there’s at least some data for in the mid-19th century).

Rich’s forward with a table for conversion of height to average weight: Symonds, Brandreth. “The Influence of overweight and underweight on vitality.” International Journal of Epidemiology 39 (2010): 951-7. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyq090.

I found a well-researched working paper by a team at Emory University to estimate average height: Komlos, John and Leonard Carlson. “The Anthropometric History of Native Americans, c. 1820-1890.” Working paper published by Emory University.

From Komlos and Carlson’s study of Indian men employed as scouts by the US Army, the average of those born in the South (which was as close as I could get to Cherokee) was 67.2in (5ft 7.2in).
I’m going to take the boas sample (a number of tribes) for Indian women in the 1860s: 61.7in (5ft 1.7in).

Translating that into weight yields ~150lbs for men and ~125lbs for women. Assuming a roughly 50/50 split and dropping the average 10lbs to account for children of varying sizes, we get (150+125)/2 – 10 = 127.5lbs. So, a tick higher than my initial guess.

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