The 1904 Olympics
I drafted a story about the 1904 Olympics with the intention of publishing it. I was denied the resources (per Washington University in Saint Louis) needed to accurately research the topic. For this reason, the story has been abandoned. The draft is still interesting despite it’s unclear organization and overall ‘roughness.’
1904 was the year of one of the most bizarre Olympic games. The Olympics were originally supposed to be held in Chicago. Due to the juxtaposition of both time and location to the World’s Fair, Missouri governor David Francis staged a coup. Francis argued that the World’s Fair was a more attractive event and that no one would attend the Olympics in Chicago. Francis won.
Saint Louis introduced basketball, American football, Gaelic football, International Tug of War, hurling, motor cycling, and water polo to the Olympics, but only as demonstration sports, so no medals were awarded. Most peculiar was the integration of Indian club swinging, which certainly looks like a circus sport with contestants flailing their arms with bowling pins in hand. Unfortunately for the enthusiastic new Olympians, four of the water polo players died from typhus because of contaminated water.
Only 62 of 650 athletes were from outside of North America, claiming that the midwest was too far to travel.
Weirder yet, there were “Anthropology Days.” On August 12th and 13th, indigenous people, refered to as ‘savages’, were paid to compete in European-style sporting events under the supervision of scientists collecting data. One of these events was climbing a greased pole. The common belief was that certain gene lines were more advanced physically according to darwinist theory.
That isn’t even the most peculiar event of the 1904 Olympics. The marathon proved to be truly bizarre. Only fourteen of the thirty-two competitors would finish the race. The atmosphere was scorchingly hot and dry the day of the marathon. The course was muddy, and consisted of eight large hills. Organizers chose to have the race in the afternoon with temperatures above ninety degrees fahrenheit. There was no water until the eleventh mile because organizer James Sullivan was interested in what would happen when athletes were purposely dehydrated.
There should be a memorial to the bravest, and maybe most insane Olympians, the runners of the 1904 Olympic Marathon.
The first person to nearly die in an Olympic event was Oakland native, William Garcia. Alas, he did not share the fate of the water polo players. As he ran the marathon, he inhaled an incredible amount of dust, which caused his esophagus to dry out and his stomach to hemorrhage. He dropped out, giving fourth place to Albert Corey. Garcia spent several days in critical condition at a nearby hospital.
The first person to cross the finish line was Frederick Lorz. Lorz actually dropped out after the ninth mile due to cramps and dehydration. Lorz was riding to the finish in an automobile, but when his car broke down at the nineteenth mile, he decided to continue running. He passed Thomas Hicks, who, at this point, was struggling to stay alive. After three hours and fourteen minutes from the start of the race, Lorz crossed the finish. Lorz pretended to have won, for which he was banned by the AAU for life. Lorz was almost presented with a wreath from Alice Roosevelt before officials realized his bluff. Lorz was later unbanned from the AAU and proceeded to win the Boston Marathon the next year in 1905. Lorz died of pneumonia just nine years later.
Thomas Hicks is considered to be the first person to have legally finished. Hicks, however, had received several doses of a common rat poison mixed with brandy and warm raw egg whites for the last seven miles. He was also carried by his handlers near the finish. Hicks lost eight pounds during the course of the race. Along with the weight loss, Hicks suffered severe hallucinations in the last two miles of the race. At three hours and twenty-eight minutes, Hicks crossed the finish line and set the record for the longest finishing time in Olympic Marathon history. After being told he was the winner, Hicks collapsed. It took four doctors to resuscitate Hicks. Hicks was immediately treated by more doctors after the race, but came close to dying in the stadium. He would have certainly died if he had anymore rat poison dosed to him. This would be the last marathon Hicks ever ran. Hicks likely returned to his profession as a clown.
Opposite of Hicks, Arthur Corey was a professional strike-breaker. Frenchman Corey finished the race six minutes after Hicks. Unfortunately for Corey, he brought the wrong papers, so his medal was awarded as if he were an American.
Felix Carbajal, a five-foot tall postman from Cuba, hitchhiked his way from New Orleans to Saint Louis to run in the marathon. He was late to the race, so he had to run in regular clothes that he cut to make look like shorts . His fantastic running shoes were none other than a pair of brown leather oxfords. Carbajal casually stopped Americans to hold conversations with them. At one point, he even stole two peaches from a car. Carbajal stopped in an Orchard to eat some apples in the middle of the race. The apples turned out to be rotten, causing Carbajal to lie down and take a nap. After waking up with painful stomach cramps, Carbajal finished fourth.
Len Taunyane and Jan Mashiani were in Saint Louis for the World’s Fair, posing as part of a Boer War exhibition. Mashiani came in twelfth, Taunyane in ninth. Many were disappointed with Taunyane’s position because he had been chased an extra mile off-course by aggressive dogs.
David Kneeland, the sixth place winner, hustled coal in Boston.
Sidney Hatch was the eighth person to finish the marathon. This Chicago athlete also led his team to second place in the 4-mile race in 1904, for which there were only two teams.
John Furla from Greece emigrated to Chicago in 1893, and moved to Saint Louis in 1904, looking for business. He finished the 1904 marathon in thirteenth. He helped found the Greek Orthodox Church in Saint Louis and his family later donated the trophy for the winner of the Spirit of Saint Louis Marathon.
Frank Pierce was the first Native American to compete for the United States in the Olympics. He did not finish and received no mention in Saint Louis newspapers.
Sammy Mellor was one of the best marathon runners in the world between 1901 and 1909. He finished top ten in the Boston Marathon six times during this period, including a first, second, and third place win. Mellor had a significant lead, but thought he had taken a wrong turn. He backtracked, only to realize that he had went the right way. After running a significant amount extra, he had to forfeit from fatigue. Mellor established the second oldest still-running marathon in the US, the Yonkers Marathon.
Mike Spring won the Boston Marathon in 1904, but could neither complete the 1904 nor the 1906 Olympic marathon.
John Lordan was an Irish immigrant who placed in fifth, third and first in the Boston Marathon. He only trained at night due to his factory job, but he was unable to complete the 1904 Olympic marathon.
Bob Fowler was a Canadian who found himself in Boston in 1898. He had a surprising amount of formal education from the school at St. Bonaventure’s Collegiate in St. John’s. Fowler ran the Boston Marathon starting in 1901. Boston newspapers nicknamed him “The Ancient Marathoner” after a decade of successful races. Fowler set the current standing record for the Yonker’s Marathon on New Years Day, 1909. It was a frigid zero degrees fahrenheit when he set the record. It was also a world record at the time, but that only lasted forty-one days. Fowler later coached at Williams College and coached Brazilian Navy athletes before working as an electrician.