Prison Treadmill of 1822
from Cradle Days of New York (1909)
…In 1822 Mayor Allen had the treadmill introduced into the prison, but it was abandoned after a few years’ trial.
The treadmill was a deterrent from committing future crimes, and was found highly salutary in its operation. It was in a two story stone house, sixty feet long, near the prison. In one part of the building were the wheel and in the other was the machinery for working it. The wheel was similar to a common water wheel, 25 feet long and 6 feet in diameter. On the external part of this wheel, on a level with the axle, the prisoners were obliged to tread, moving up together as the wheel went round, and at the same time edging off gradually to one end. Every two minutes a bell sounded, and one prisoner stepped off and was permitted to sit still for a few minutes while another took his place. In this manner the operation continued incessantly for several hours. As well as receiving punishment, the prisoners ground the corn or grain for the supply of food to the establishment. When the wheel was in operation each person ascended a distance equal to 2,500 feet in an hour.