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1904 Summer Olympics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Games of the III Olympiad
Advertisement for the 1904 Summer Olympics and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition
Host citySt. Louis, Missouri, United States
Athletes651 (645 men, 6 women)
Events95 in 16 sports (17 disciplines)
OpeningJuly 1
ClosingNovember 23
Opened by
StadiumFrancis Field
Paris 1900 London 1908

The 1904 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the III Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in St. Louis, Missouri, United States from August 29 until September 3, 1904, as part of an extended sports program lasting from July 1 to November 23, 1904, at what is now known as Francis Field on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. It was the first time that the Olympic Games were held outside Europe.[2]

Tensions caused by the Russo–Japanese War and the difficulty of getting to St. Louis in 1904 may have contributed to the fact that very few top ranked athletes from outside the US and Canada took part in these Games. Only 62 of the 651 athletes who competed came from outside North America, and only 12–15 nations were represented in all. Some events combined the U.S. national championship with the Olympic championship.[3]

The current three-medal (gold, silver and bronze for first, second and third places) format was introduced at the 1904 Olympics.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ The Trials and Tribulations of 1904 Olympic Marathon Runners
  • ✪ Games of the III Olympiad
  • ✪ Thomas Trueblood and the Ridiculous Marathon: Citation Needed 2x01
  • ✪ Bob Costas on our 1904 Olympic legacy | Washington University
  • ✪ USC's Olympic History


When the United States hosted the Olympics for the first time in 1904, the games had yet to reach the high level of competition and popularity we know today. Although athletes from countries around the world were invited to participate, the games were less about the world’s best athletes competing for medals and more about (actual) amateur athletes competing against each other. The ultimate decision to host the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, Missouri, created a huge obstacle for international athletes in that travel to the innermost parts of the States was difficult and costly. The only way to travel between continents was by a long and expensive ocean voyage, after which the athletes needed to take about a 1,000-mile train trip. As a result, many countries decided not to participate. Out of the 630 athletes from 12 nations that competed that year, 523 were American, which explains why the United States won so many medals that year (239, with the closest runner up being Germany who won 13). Perhaps one of the most surprising athletes to compete for his country was Félix de la Caridad Carvajal y Soto, known as Andarín Carvajal or Felix Carvajal, from Cuba. With no formal training and a running technique that left much to be desired, this mailman raised his own money to travel to St. Louis to represent his country in the Olympic marathon race. Despite his work as a mailman, Felix lived his life in poverty and was denied financial assistance from his local government to cover expenses he would incur on his journey to the Olympics. He spent days running around town square and begging people for money to help him on his pursuit. His efforts paid off, and he raised enough money for a trip to New Orleans, then promptly lost his remaining funds on a game of dice… Not to be deterred, he hitchhiked the remaining 650 or so miles to his destination. Due to his jovial nature, he befriended the men on the American weightlifters team who gave him room and board as he prepared for the marathon. The 1904 marathon for the Olympics started around 3:00 pm in the afternoon in August, with temperatures above 90 degrees. Anyone who knows about summer weather in St. Louis knows that the oppressive heat and humidity are not friends to anyone, certainly not to the 32 men representing four different countries running a 24.85 mile marathon. To make the situation worse, the only access runners had to water on the course was at miles six and twelve. For some, especially those who didn’t have a support vehicle or support staff to aid them, that made for a very long and torturous race. Felix_CarvajalCarvajal showed up to the starting line wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and boots. Considering other runners were in shorts and tank tops, we can only assume these were the only clothes he had with him. (Legendary athlete Jim Thorpe once did something similar at the Olympics, wearing different sized shoes, neither of which fit him, that he’d scrounged out of a garbage bin shortly before a race.) As for Carvajal, seconds before the start of the race, an American discus thrower found a pair of scissors and made a mock pair of shorts out of Carvajal’s pants for more athletic attire. The start of the race required runners to complete five laps around the stadium before heading off into St. Louis County. The course was not shy on delivering obstacles for the athletes. Through the streets of St. Louis, in order to stay on the course, runners had to dodge cars, delivery wagons, railroad trains, trolley cars, and people walking their dogs. In places, the roads were covered with cracked stone that the runners had to pick their way through. If all that wasn’t enough, there was the seven 100-300 foot hills, noxious exhaust fumes from the early automobiles (including support vehicles and others following the runners along as they went), and the extreme amounts of dust kicked into the air by these vehicles and horses. marathon-mapoCar fumes and dust, coupled with the heat and humidity, soon took its toll on the runners. One of the first ones to drop out of the race was John Lordon of Massachusetts. In 1903 Lordon won the Boston Marathon, but he only made it ten miles in this Olympic marathon before he started vomiting and pulled out of the race. The winner of the 1904 Boston Marathon, Michael Spring of New York, started out the Olympic marathon strong, leading the pack, but when ascending of one of the steep hills, he collapsed from exhaustion and couldn’t continue. William Garcia from San Francisco almost became the first death in the Olympic Games when he was found lying unconscious in a ditch on the course and was raced to the hospital. Fortunately, despite the extreme amount of dust he had inhaled doing a major number on his esophagus and lungs, he eventually recovered and was able to race again. len-taunyane-jan-mashianiAnother notable feature of this particular marathon was that it saw the first two black Africans competing in the Olympics. However, neither Len Taunyane nor Jan Mashiani were seasoned marathon runners, but both had served as dispatch runners in the South African Boer War. They were in town as part of the Boer War exhibit at the World’s Fair and decided to enter the race on a whim. Both finished, placing ninth and twelfth respectively. It was reported that Tau probably would’ve placed higher if he hadn’t been chased over a mile off the course by a wild dog. American Frederick Lorz was a contender for one of the top spots early on in the race, but he suffered from severe cramps and at nine miles was unable to continue. He decided to hitch a ride in one of the cars back to the stadium, but the car broke down before arriving at its destination. Feeling refreshed, Lorz started running again. When he entered the stadium three hours after the start of the race, the crowd erupted in applause for the “winner.” Unable to resist the crowd, Lorz went along with the facade, racing toward the finish line and basking in the limelight. Perhaps he really was trying to take the credit for the win, or perhaps he was in it for the fun and games like he later claimed. Either way, when it was quickly noted by certain spectators that Lorz had been seen riding in a car during the race, the officials saw no humor in his prank and banned Lorz for life from participating in amateur races. However, less than a year later, the ban was lifted after Lorz apologized for his stunt; he went on to take first in the 1905 Boston marathon. When another leading runner, Thomas Hicks from the United States learned of Lorz’s supposed win, he begged his two assistants to let him drop out because he was in so much pain. They refused to let him quit. Like many other runners, Hicks’s health took a plunge early in the race and continuously declined as he ran. For some bizarre reason, his handlers refused to give him water to drink during the race, and instead sponged out his mouth using warm distilled water and then proceeded to feed him egg whites and strychnine. (Yes, strychnine.) At the time, strychnine was used in small doses as a performance enhancing drug. Anything but small doses would, of course, kill the athlete via asphyxiation due to paralysis of the respiratory muscles. However, in small doses, strychnine was believed to provide a performance boost via the muscle spasms it relatively quickly induces. Unfortunately for Hicks, besides refusing him water to drink, his handlers didn’t stop with one dose of the poison. In total, during the race he was given approximately 2-3 mg of strychnine, plus accompanied raw eggs and brandy each dose. Unsurprisingly, with the extreme heat, humidity, dust clouds, dehydration, and being fed rat poison, Hicks’ condition continually grew worse and he ultimately became delusional. Nevertheless, he continued to put one foot in front of the other and soldiered on. Thomas-hicks-1904Entering the stadium for the last stretch of the race, Hicks required physical assistance from his handlers who had to practically carry him over the finish line. Of course, this would result in a disqualification in today’s Olympics, but in 1904 the act was completely legal. Hicks was unable to initially receive his gold medal given that he fell unconscious at the finish line and it took doctors about an hour to revive him. Close to death, fortunately, he eventually recovered, though retired from competing in marathons. With a time of 3:28:53, Hicks’s feat is the slowest time for a men’s Olympic marathon in history. The United States claimed the silver and bronze medals in the marathon as well when Albert Corey crossed the finish line six minutes after Hicks, soon followed by Arthur Newton with a time of 3:47:33. Although both runners struggled with the heat and dust and slowed to a walk during certain parts of the race, neither seemed to have it worse than Hicks. Meanwhile, Felix Carvajal ran at a comfortable pace. Unable to resist charming the spectators who lined up along the way, Felix often stopped to chat with them in his broken English and crack jokes. With his upbeat and good spirited attitude, he won the hearts of many along the course. When he begged for peaches from the occupants of an accompanying car and was refused, he teasingly snatched a couple from them anyway and kept on running, eating the peaches as he ran. Most accounts of the marathon say Carvajal needed a bit more sustenance, so he snuck into an apple orchard and plucked two of the juicy fruits from the boughs. Supposedly the apples didn’t sit well with him and he suffered from cramps, which forced him to rest and purportedly take a cat-nap before continuing the race. However, it should be noted that there is no contemporary evidence that the apple/nap part of this story ever took place, with the first account of it popping up in William Henry’s 1948, An Approved History of the Olympics. Regardless, the contemporary accounts of Carvajal’s approach to the race seem to describe an individual having a blast, while many other racers struggled to overcome bodily limitations. Felix Carvajal crossed the line in fourth place, though what his time was is unknown today. Compared to the other racers, he was described as seeming to float across the finish line. Aside from probably being a bit tired and hungry, the heat and humidity didn’t seem to have too much of an effect on the Cuban. While it’s not known how far behind third place he was, accounts of the day indicate if it wasn’t for his numerous stops to chat with people during the race, Carvajal may well have won. Whatever the case, the 1904 Olympics ended up being the only international competitive race Carvajal would compete in. In the end, only 14 of the original 32 racers managed to finish the race. hicks-goldAs for the victor, although the “assistance” Hicks received mostly proved to be detrimental, he was able to finish the race thanks to being carried along near the end- a fact that resulted in some feeling like he should have been disqualified. After the race, a complaint towards this end was filed by Everett Brown, the chairman for the Chicago Athletic Association. However, the Olympic Games director refused to consider the matter and Hicks remained the winner. In the 1500s most Roman Catholic countries & Scotland adopted the Gregorian Calendar (established by Pope Gregory XIII to compensate for the errors in time that had built up over centuries) over the Julian Calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC). A lot of protestant countries, however, ignored this new calendar for another 200 or so years. England stuck to the Julian Calendar until 1751 before finally making the switch. Orthodox countries took even longer to accept the change. Russia, for one, did not convert to the Gregorian calendar until after the Russian Revolution in 1917. What does this have to do with the Olympics? In 1908, the Russian Olympic team arrived 12 days late to the London Olympics because of this.



The city of Chicago, Illinois won the bid to host the 1904 Summer Olympics,[4] but the organizers of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis would not accept another international event in the same time frame.

The exposition organization began to plan for its own sports activities, informing the Chicago OCOG that its own international sports events intended to eclipse the Olympic Games unless they were moved to St. Louis. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, stepped in and awarded the Games to St. Louis.

The Games

The St. Louis organizers treated the Games in a manner similar to the 1900 Summer Olympics, with competitions reduced to a side-show of the World's Fair and overshadowed by other, more popular cultural exhibits. David R. Francis, the President of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, declined to invite anybody else to open the Games and on July 1 did so himself in a short, disorganized and poorly attended ceremony.

Officially, the games lasted for four and a half months, with James Edward Sullivan attempting to hold a sporting event every day for the duration of the fair. The Olympic-calibre events were mixed with other sporting events that Sullivan also called "Olympic", with the IOC declaring that 94 or 95 of these events were Olympic. The actual athletics events that formed the bulk of the recognized Olympic sports were held from Monday, August 29 to Saturday, September 3.


An Ainu man competing in an archery contest during "Anthropology Days"
An Ainu man competing in an archery contest during "Anthropology Days"

Boxing, dumbbells, freestyle wrestling and the decathlon made their debuts. The swimming events were held in a temporary pond near Skinker and Wydown Boulevards, where "lifesaving demonstrations" of unsinkable lifeboats for ocean liners took place. The organizers of the World's Fair held "Anthropology Days" on August 12 and 13.

One of the most remarkable athletes was the American gymnast George Eyser, who won six medals even though his left leg was made of wood, and Frank Kugler won four medals in freestyle wrestling, weightlifting and tug of war, making him the only competitor to win a medal in three different sports at the same Olympic Games.

A tug of war competition at the 1904 Summer Olympics
A tug of war competition at the 1904 Summer Olympics

Chicago runner James Lightbody won the steeplechase and the 800 m and then set a world record in the 1500 m. Harry Hillman won both the 200 m and 400 m hurdles and also the flat 400 m. Sprinter Archie Hahn was champion in the 60 m, 100 m and 200 m. In this last race, he set an Olympic record in 21.6, a record that stood for 28 years. In the discus, after American Martin Sheridan had thrown exactly the same distance as his compatriot, Ralph Rose (39.28 m), the judges gave them both an extra throw to decide the winner. Sheridan won the decider and claimed the gold medal. Ray Ewry again won all three standing jumps.

The team representing Great Britain was awarded a total of two medals, both won by Irish athletes. The top non-USA athlete was Emil Rausch of Germany, who won three swimming events. Zoltan Halmay of Hungary and Charles Daniels of the United States each won two swimming gold medals. Galt Football Club from Canada won the gold medal in football.


94 events[5] in 17 disciplines, comprising 16 sports, were part of the Olympic program in 1904. Swimming and diving are considered two disciplines of the same sport, aquatics. The number of events in each discipline is noted in parentheses.

Demonstration sports

Basketball, hurling, American football and baseball were featured as demonstration sports. Gaelic football was also an unofficial demonstration sport at the 1904 Olympics.

Water polo is also mentioned in the games reports for the 1904 Summer Olympics. However, it was not considered at the time to be a demonstration sport and, even though it has since been classified as such, it has not been included retrospectively in the IOC's official medal database.


Map of St. Louis with Olympic venues marked. Creve Coeur Lake is located further west.

Five sports venues were used for the 1904 Summer Olympics. The venues included the first golf course constructed west of the Mississippi River. Three of the sports venues were on the site for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition which was being held concurrently with the Olympics. Glen Echo Country Club became the first golf course west of the Mississippi River when it opened in 1901.[6] It is still in use as of 2017. Forest Park was where the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition took place, and it hosted the diving, swimming, and water polo events on the Life Saving Exhibition Lake.[7][8][9] During the water polo events, several of the cattle from a World's Fair livestock exhibit were allowed to enter the lake, on the opposite side from the swimming and water polo events. Within one year, four of those athletes died of typhus.[10]

Creve Coeur Lake became the first park of St. Louis County in 1945.[11] The Lake has hosted rowing regattas since 1882 and still hosts them as of 2010.[12][13] Francis Field and Gymnasium are still in use on the Washington University in St. Louis campus as of 2018.[14][15] An ornamental gate commemorating the 1904 Games was constructed outside the stadium immediately after the Exposition.[14] A swimming pool was added to the gymnasium in 1985.[15] Forest Park, constructed in 1876, is still in use as of 2018 and attracts over 12 million visitors annually.[16] Glen Echo Country Club remains in use as a golf course today as of 2018.[6]

Venue Sports Capacity Ref.
Creve Coeur Lake Rowing Not listed. [17]
Francis Field Archery, Athletics, Cycling, Football, Gymnastics, Lacrosse, Roque, Tennis, Tug of war, Weightlifting, Wrestling 19,000 [18]
Francis Gymnasium Boxing, Fencing Not listed. [19]
Forest Park Diving, Swimming, Water Polo Not listed. [20]
Glen Echo Country Club Golf Not listed. [6]

Participating nations

Participants. Blue = Participating for the first time Green = Have previously participated. Yellow square is host city (St Louis)
Blue = Participating for the first time
Green = Have previously participated.
Yellow square is host city (St Louis)
Number of athletes from each country
Number of athletes from each country

Athletes from twelve nations competed in St. Louis. Numbers in parentheses indicate the number of known competitors for each nation.[21] Due to the difficulty of getting to St. Louis in 1904, and European tensions caused by the Russo-Japanese War, only 62 athletes from outside North America came to the Olympics.

Participating National Olympic Committees


Some sources also list athletes from the following nations as having competed at these Games.

Number of athletes by National Olympic Committees

Medal count

These are the top ten nations to win medals at the 1904 Games.

The Silver Medal of the games for the 800m run
The Silver Medal of the games for the 800m run
1 United States*788279239
2 Germany44513
3 Cuba4239
4 Canada4116
5 Hungary2114
6 Great Britain1102
 Mixed team1102
8 Greece1012
10 Austria0011
Totals (10 nations)969292280

The nationalities of some medalists are disputed, as many American competitors were recent immigrants to the United States who had not yet been granted US citizenship.

In 2009, historians from the International Society of Olympic Historians discovered that cyclist Frank Bizzoni, formerly thought to be an American, was still an Italian citizen when he competed in 1904, being granted US citizenship in 1917.[25]

The International Olympic Committee considers Norwegian-American wrestlers Charles Ericksen and Bernhoff Hansen to have competed for the United States; each man won a gold medal. In 2012, Norwegian historians however found documentation showing that Ericksen did not receive American citizenship until March 22, 1905, and that Hansen probably never received American citizenship. The historians have therefore petitioned the IOC to have the athletes registered as Norwegians.[26][27] In May 2013, it was reported that the Norwegian Olympic Committee had filed a formal application for changing the nationality of the wrestlers in the IOC's medal database;[28] as of April 2019, no decision has yet been made.

Francis Gailey competed in 1904 as an Australian, and immigrated to America in 1906, sailing to San Francisco in the SS Sonoma. He worked as a banker in California, lived for a time in Ontario, Canada, where he married Mary Adams, and finally settled in 1918 in southern California, managing orange-grove plantations.[29]

Multi-medalist Frank Kugler of Germany was a member of the St. Louis Southwest Turnverein team, being granted US citizenship in 1913.[30]

Gustav Thiefenthaler was born in Switzerland, but the family moved to the United States when he was young. He represented the South Broadway AC in St. Louis. At the Olympics, Tiefenthaler wrestled one bout and lost, but earned a bronze medal for his efforts.[31]

The IOC also lists French-American Albert Corey as a United States competitor for his marathon silver medal, but (together with four undisputed Americans) as part of a mixed team for the team race silver medal.

The IOC counts one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals won by the American fencer Van Zo Post for Cuba instead of the United States. The IOC also shows Charles Tatham as Cuban for individual fencing events and American for the team event, but he was an American.

See also


  1. ^ "Factsheet - Opening Ceremony of the Games f the Olympiad" (PDF) (Press release). International Olympic Committee. September 13, 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  2. ^ Christen, Barbara S.; Steven Flanders (November 2001). Cass Gilbert, Life and Work: Architect of the Public Domain. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-393-73065-4. Retrieved June 8, 2008.
  3. ^ "The Olympic Summer Games Factsheet" (PDF). International Olympic Committee. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  4. ^ Stead, W. T. (1901). The Americanization of the World. Horace Markley. p. 341.
  5. ^ The IOC site for the 1904 Olympic Games gives the figure of 91 events, while the IOC database lists 94. Probably this discrepancy in IOC data is consequence that the figure 91 just derived from the "1904 Olympic Games — Analysis and Summaries" publication of Bill Mallon, who used his own determination of which sports and events should be considered as Olympic.
  6. ^ a b c Healey, Jim. "Glen Echo County Club". Accessed November 23, 2018.
  7. ^ 1904 Summer Olympics men's springboard diving results. – Accessed November 23, 2018
  8. ^ 1904 Summer Olympics swimming results. – Accessed November 23, 2018.
  9. ^ 1904 Summer Olympics water polo results. Accessed November 23, 2018.
  10. ^
  11. ^ St. Louis County, Missouri 2002 Department of Parks and Recreation report. Archived June 25, 2006, at the Wayback Machine p. 103. Accessed October 4, 2010.
  12. ^ "CONTESTS AT THE OARS; THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY REGATTA—ROWING AT PAWTUCKET" (PDF). The New York Times. June 25, 1882. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  13. ^ "SPORTING AFFAIRS". Chicago Daily Tribune. May 11, 1885. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  14. ^ a b Washington University in St. Louis profile of Francis Field. – accessed November 23, 2018.
  15. ^ a b Washington University in St. Louis profile of Francis Gymnasium. – accessed November 23, 2018.
  16. ^ St. Louis, Missouri city profile of Forest Park. – accessed November 23, 2018.
  17. ^ Spalding's report of the 1904 Summer Olympics. Archived August 29, 2011, at the Wayback Machine p. 213. Accessed October 4, 2010.
  18. ^ Spalding's report of the 1904 Summer Olympics. Archived August 29, 2011, at the Wayback Machine pp. 222–9, 233–47. Accessed October 4, 2010.
  19. ^ Spalding's report of the 1904 Summer Olympics. Archived August 29, 2011, at the Wayback Machine pp. 231, 245. Accessed November 23, 2018.
  20. ^ Spalding's report of the 1904 Summer Olympics. Archived August 29, 2011, at the Wayback Machine pp. 229, 231. Accessed October 4, 2010.
  21. ^ Mallon, Bill (1998). "1904 Olympic Games – Analysis and Summaries" (PDF). LA84 Foundation. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  22. ^ "Italy at the 1904 St. Louis Summer Games". Sports Reference.
  23. ^ "Norway at the 1904 St. Louis Summer Games". Sports Reference.
  24. ^ "Newfoundland at the 1904 St. Louis Summer Games". Sports Reference.
  25. ^ Historical Dictionary of the Olympic Movement – Italy. Retrieved July 31, 2014.
  26. ^ "Her er beviset som endrer norsk idrettshistorie". NRK. August 14, 2012.
  27. ^ "USA-guld 1904 var Norges". Svenska Dagbladet. August 14, 2012.
  28. ^ "Norges OL-historie skrives på nytt". Nettavisen. May 3, 2013.
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^

External links

Preceded by
Summer Olympic Games
St. Louis

III Olympiad (1904)
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 9 May 2019, at 16:04
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