Archive for July, 2008

1912 Olympics – Part I

July 31, 2008

Some think that 1912 was the year Native American broke onto the Olympic scene but, as shown in the last few blogs, they arrived much earlier. But 1912 was to be better for American Indians in the Olympics than the previous games. But it was not surprising.

As early as New Year’s Day 1912 and as far away as Fairbanks, Alaska, newspapers carried an article with a Carlisle, Pa. byline promoting Jim Thorpe for the upcoming Olympics. That article was surely generated by Pop Warner’s PR machine. An excerpt illustrates the exuberance in which he was promoted:

This youthful redskin hunts, plays lacrosse, tennis, indoor baseball, handball and hockey, all with equal skill, and can fill almost any position on a football team with credit. As halfback he probably is seen at his best, whirling, twisting, dashing and plunging, for one moment bewildering his opponents with lithe, panther like leaps, and the next crushing his way through the mass of would-be tacklers with the ferocity of a mad bull.


The piece ends with what may have been a preemptory defense against claims of professionalism:


Although busy with track work while here, he practiced baseball and played amateur baseball since leaving Carlisle, refusing numerous offers to play on minor league teams.


But Carlisle’s track team was not a one-man operation. Less than two weeks later papers gave Thorpe’s teammate some coverage:


Louis Tewanima of Carlisle Indian School will be a starter in this year’s Boston Athletic Association Marathon race and hopes to make the American Olympic Games team.


Pop Warner announced in early January that he expected Tewanima and Thorpe to make the Olympic team. On March 1st the commentator, who wrote the Diamond Gossip that was distributed widely, opined that the reason so many athletes were deciding against attending the Games was that Thorpe was going to Stockholm. Less than a week later, Warner’s PR machine announced that several other students wanted to make the Olympic team. Warner himself said that he thought five of his Carlisle trackmen might make the cut. He expected that Arquette would “make the foreigners scamper in the 10,000 meters,” but refused to identify the other two. “I don’t care to let any one know as yet who my two new phenoms are. One of them is one quarter-miler of exceptional ability. The other will be entered in the 400 and 500 meters races.”


I have read that Gus Welch made the team but was unable to compete due to injury. Could he have been one of Warner’s mystery men?

Henry Roberts Gets Married

July 28, 2008

While looking up information on Carlisle’s participation in the 1912 Olympics, I stumbled across an article from Carlisle in the Washington Post that had nothing to do with the Olympics. So, we’ll take a day off from our Olympic coverage for a little romance.




Hurt in Game Against Syracuse, First Thing He Remembers on Regaining Consciousness Is Face of Pretty Indian Maid—Football Eleven Gives Happy Couple Wedding Banquet.


Carlisle, Pa., Jan 17 —As the climax to a four months romance that began when the groom was Injured on the football field, and was nursed in the Carlisle Indian School Hospital here by the bride, Henry Roberts, 23 years old, of Pawnee, Okla and Miss Rose Denomie, 19 years old, of Ashland Wis, were married here at the home of M. Friedman, superintendent of the school, today.

Henry Roberts, Pawnee, played left end on the great Carlisle 1911 team and, before his injury, was Rose Denomie’s football hero. As she nursed him back to health he determined to win the Chippewa maiden’s hand. He studied for a civil service examination and passed with high marks for which he was rewarded with a $900 a year clerical job (not bad for any American in 1911) at Shoshone Indian School in Wyoming. Armed with a good-paying job and restored health, he proposed.


Because Rose was Catholic, they were married by Father Strock in Superintendent Moses Friedman’s residence and were feted by his teammates. Immediately after the celebration they caught a train for Wind River Agency, Wyoming. In November The Red Man reported that they were in Odanah, Wisconsin where he was employed by the government as a stenographer. Jack Newcombe described Roberts as the one who “epitomized the success story Carlisle cared to boast of: a business career with an oil firm in Oklahoma, a home on a hilltop in Pawnee not far from the reserve where he was born, a happy marriage with the girl he had met at Carlisle.” In a 1959 interview Roberts mentioned that before retiring he had helped build the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. From bows and arrows to atom bombs!


Next time it will be back to the Olympics – if nothing interferes.


 Henry Roberts shortly before his wedding

Native Americans in the 1908 Olympics

July 24, 2008

The 1908 Olympic Games were held in London, something that required Carlisle Indian School track stars Frank Mt. Pleasant and Lewis Tewanima to cross the Atlantic with the bulk of the U.S. contingent on the steamer Philadelphia. Neither arrived in the best condition. Mt. Pleasant had an injured ligament in his knee and Tewanima was suffering from sore feet and bad knees. The Hopi’s ninth place finish in the marathon was a great performance for a person who, a year prior to this, had not before worn a running shoe. He finished ahead of all the great British runners and Tom Longboat of Canada. Longboat, an Onondaga from the Six Nations reservation near Brantford, Ontario, was leading the race when he fell ill and withdrew from the race. The year before he had established himself as a world-class marathoner by winning the Boston Marathon in record time.

Frank Mt. Pleasant, Tuscarora, also competed as best he could given his condition and finished sixth in both the broad jump and triple jump. Later that summer in Paris, he and Tewanima got a chance to show their stuff in a competition with some other Olympians. Mt. Pleasant won the broad jump by defeating both Frank Irons, the Olympic champion, and Edwin Cook of Cornell, the American intercollegiate champion. Lewis Tewanima came in second in the 3-mile race.

Upon their return to the U. S. Mt. Pleasant and Tewanima visited President Roosevelt and, in New York, were presented with medals in addition to the ones they won in Europe. New Yorkers paid $3,100 for the medals they gave to the members of the Olympic team.

Frank Pierce did not compete in the 1908 Olympics because he died of pneumonia earlier in the year.

Next time we take a look at the later Olympics.

Lewis Tewanima, Hopi distance runner

Lewis Tewanima, Hopi distance runner

Native Americans in 1904 Olympics – Part III

July 21, 2008

The 1904 Olympics were not the first games to feature football. The 1900 Paris games included two football events neither of which were American football. Soccer and rugby were both played that year but in 1904 American football appeared in the Olympics for the first time. Football (soccer) was a demonstration sport in which three teams played a round-robin tournament between two American teams and a Canadian club. The Canadians won the gold. Several college football games were played on Francis Field at the fair. Washington University and St. Louis University each played a number of their games on the Olympic field. Missouri and Purdue even played there. Prior to the Fair, Washington U’s teams were known as the Purities but due to playing at the Fair were renamed the Pikers in 1905 as a comment on their association with the infamous world fair’s Pike. However, the most important college football game played at the 1904 Olympics wasn’t played by colleges.

President Theodore Roosevelt was to visit the Fair over Thanksgiving weekend making it an ideal time for a major football event (read moneymaker). The Fair organizers’ first choice was to have West Point and Annapolis relocate their annual contest to the fairgrounds but that didn’t happen. Haskell Institute’s Fightin’ Indians were tearing up the Midwest at that time and Carlisle was a top ten program. So, the first ever football game between the two government Indian schools was arranged for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Carlisle already had a Thanksgiving Day game scheduled against Ohio State in Columbus. Major Mercer, the new Carlisle superintendent, very likely saw the opportunities such a high profile game would create for him and his school and added the game to the schedule. Playing two games in three days may have been taxing for Carlisle’s players, so Head Coach Ed Rogers (Pop Warner was back at Cornell for the 1904-6 seasons) drubbed the Buckeyes with his second team 23-0. Ohio State supporters were unhappy to miss seeing the Carlisle stars they had read so much about.

Rumors of Haskell bringing in ringers, some of them white, were rampant. To balance the scales, Ed Rogers suited up for the game as did Assistant Coach Bemus Pierce and his brother, another former Carlisle and pro star, Hawley Pierce. They needn’t have bothered. Carlisle obliterated Haskell 38 to 4. Seeing the superiority of the Carlisle program, eight Haskell players transferred to the eastern school where many became stars. If there was an Olympic gold medal to have been won Carlisle would have won it, but none was. However, the Carlisle Indians were the closest thing to an Olympic football champion that we’ve had – if you ignore the 1920 and 1924 U.S. rugby teams. But that’s a story for another time.

The Native American game of lacrosse was played at the 1904 Olympics but mostly by non-natives. Three teams, two from Canada and one from the U.S., vied for the championship. The Canadian Shamrocks won the gold, the St. Louis Amateur Athletic Association won silver, and, in a bit of irony, the Mohawk Indians from Canada got the bronze.

Next time we take a look at the 1908 games.

1904 Carlisle-Haskell game program cover

1904 Carlisle-Haskell game program cover




Native Americans in 1904 Olympics – Part II

July 18, 2008

Jerry, Frank and Tom Pierce were Senecas who lived, at least part of the time, in Irving, NY around the turn of the last century and ran distance races, often in the U. S. In those days athletes often trained and competed under the auspices of athletic clubs. They were the younger brothers of Bemus and Hawley Pierce, the famous Carlisle Indian School football players. The boys also claimed to be grandsons of Deerfoot, aka Lewis Bennett, the world champion Seneca runner of the mid-19th century, who ran races in England while clothed in a wolfskin and feathered headband for effect. The Pierce brothers were affiliated with the Pastime Athletic Club out of Syracuse, New York. In 1901 Jerry Pierce led Pastime A C to the national AAU Junior Championship at a meet held in Buffalo by running his opponents off their feet in the five-mile run. The next day he was winded after the four-mile mark in the senior meet and did not win that race. On July 28 Jerry’s teammates carried him on their shoulders after he fought out a victory in the 3-mile run at the Metropolitan Association of the AAU meet which was also held in Buffalo. On Labor Day, he won the 3-mile run by 40 yards at the Knickerbocker Athletic Club meet held in Bayonne, NJ. Later that year he won the national cross country championship.

Jerry’s success continued in 1902. In late August, his younger brother, Frank, paced him in the Metropolitan Association meet held this time at Celtic Park. Jerry won easily, but Frank, exhausted from setting a fast pace in the 3-mile race, finished fourth. Jerry was suspended by the AAU in September for having accepted a suit of clothing for winning a race. He was soon reinstated but his appetite for racing was waning. His brothers’ weren’t though. Frank was improving and some observers thought Tom, the youngest, was the fastest of the lot. Commentators attributed their success to unorthodox training methods. The Pierce brothers reputedly got in shape by hunting moose and deer on their reservation in Canada.

In 1904 Frank qualified to run in the marathon at the Olympics to be held at the St. Louis World’s Fair that year. In the days before the race, he was listed as one of the favorites. On the day of the race, the temperature was in the 90s in the shade, of which there was none, the humidity was high and the race course ran along a dusty road over which race officials drove automobiles immediately ahead of the runners. The runners had nothing but dust to breathe. Frank was forced to drop out of the race before the 20-mile mark as were several others. Thomas Hicks, the eventual winner was given a concoction of strychnine and brandy by his trainer to give him the energy to finish the race. He almost died after finishing the race.

We’re not done with Native American participation in the 1904 Olympics yet. Next time we’ll look at lacrosse and football.

Native Americans in 1904 Olympics – Part I

July 16, 2008

News outlets are now getting interested in Native Americans’ participation in past Olympics, so I should share a little of that history in case the media should overlook important contributions. Everyone knows about the incomparable Jim Thorpe’s triumphs in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, but Native Americans were involved much earlier than that. There was too much earlier involvement to cover in one message, so I’ll break this topic into installments beginning with the 1904 games held in St. Louis as part of the World’s Fair (more properly called the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition). Pairing the Olympic Games with a world’s fair was not unusual at the time because the 1900 games were co-located with the Paris World’s Fair. Including events that we moderns wouldn’t consider appropriate as Olympic events wasn’t unusual either.

The 1904 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the III Olympiad, conducted what must have been the most bizarre athletic contest ever. Some 3,000 native people from around the globe were brought to the fair for the Anthropology Exhibit. These people lived on the fair’s ground in traditional dwellings and wore traditional attire. Finding appropriate food for them presented a bit of a problem. Legend has it that the neighborhood known as Dogtown got its name as being the place Igorots captured a favorite meat. Included in the Anthropology Exhibit were a number of Native Americans who represented several tribes. Adjacent to their tipis was the Model Government Indian School which was populated by Chilocco Indian School students and faculty. Having all these different “primitive” ethnic groups at their disposal was just too tempting for Fair and Olympic organizers.

On August 12 and 13 Ethnology Days were held. The Indian School Journal, which was printed in the Model School, had this to say about those games:

Our Indians Easy Winners

 The athletic games held yesterday for members of the various races in the Anthropology Exhibit furnished one of the most unique entertainments imaginable. A remarkable collection of peoples were gathered together in the Stadium to vie with one another in contests of speed and endurance. There were wild-eyed Ainus, heavy-bearded and gorgeously clad; great, tall lumbering Patagonians; stockily built Moros; slender, tawny-skinned Syrians; long-haired Cocopas, wild and savage of aspect; and last but by no means least, pupils of the Indian School, clad in the conventional athletic habiliments of the white man.

And the winners were:

100-yd dash – 1. George Mentz (Sioux)

120-yd low hurdles – 1. Leon Poitre (Chippewa), 2. George mentz

High jump – 1. George Ments, 2. Black Whitebear

440-yd run – 1. George Mentz, 2. Simon Marques (Pueblo)

Mile run – 1. Black Whitebear

Baseball throw – 2. Frank Moore (Pawnee)

Lone Star Dietz qualified for the finals in the shot put, but apparently did not win the event.

Prizes of $50 or more were given to the winners. Apparently, the Indians did not participate in the mud-throwing and pole climbing events. From the results of these events, AAU Secretary James E. Sullivan, concluded that the results “prove conclusively that the savage is not the natural athlete we have been led to believe.”

The distance-running Pierce brothers and the 1904 Olympics next time.

Ainu at 1904 St. Louis World's Fair

Ainu at 1904 St. Louis World's Fair


Masai-Carlisle parallels

July 11, 2008

On my first visit to Tanzania I met someone who knew Lone Star Dietz as those who read the introduction to my first book know. This trip I had a quite different experience. Last week Wednesday we visited a rural elementary school that serves the Masai children who live in the area.

Tanzania now has compulsory education but the Masai are very traditional people, nomadic herdsmen whose shrinking range once included the Serengeti plains. Few of the children actually attend school and those that do are often considered weaker or in some other way less desirable by their parents than the ones they don’t send. The Masai have their own religion and language but are taught Swahili and English in school. Both sexes are circumcised as part of a rite of passage into adulthood.

Very few girls attend school because, due to the practice of polygamy, there is a constant demand for brides. Many girls are promised in marriage before they are born and livestock would have to be returned if the girl does not eventually marry the man. Masai don’t want their children going to school and having contact with children of the 119 other tribes in Tanzania because, in part, due to the possibility that children might leave the tribe or girls wouldn’t follow through with the marriage contract. Apparently, some mothers encourage their daughters to get pregnant so that they can get married sooner and receive the remainder of the dowry.

Some Masai children go three days without water due to the area being arid and their homes being distant from the wells. To encourage attendance, teachers provide students with food and water when it is available. The school catches rainwater in a cistern for drinking water, but in the dry months there is little or no rain. As there are no buses students walk long distances to school, up to four hours I’m told.

As the teacher described the situation, I noticed some parallels to the issues Pratt attempted to deal with at Carlisle Indian School. Due to being confined on reservations, the Indians’ range was shrunk dramatically and was often the least desirable land. American Indians had their own languages and religions but were forced to learn English and attend Christian churches at school. Polygamy was practiced by some tribes and girls were sent to school with less frequency than were boys because they had value as brides.

In spite of all that, one of the Masai girls completed school and became a doctor as did some Carlisle students.

Goldsmith 67 Leather Helmet

July 9, 2008

We returned from Tanzania (more on that later) to an email asking me if I knew anything about a black and white leather football helmet claimed to have been from Carlisle Indian School that is currently up for sale on eBay:

I don’t know anything about the helmet but thought I had seen something like it in some old photos of Lone Star Dietz’s teams later on, possibly in the 1920s. So, I did some quick searches and found a similar helmet in a different color scheme listed on another site:

That site identifies the Goldsmith model 67 as a government-issue helmet used during WWII. Was it used for football? I think so. Was it also used in army tanks? Probably. Was it used by the Carlisle Indians? Probably not. Was it used by an army unit assigned later to Carlisle Barracks? Possibly. What is it worth? Something, surely, but I don’t have a clue to how much.

I’d like to hear from some sports equipment specialists to learn more.


We Are the Ramblers

July 4, 2008

In 2006 while making a documentary on the single-wing formation I had the pleasure of visiting with the Windber Area High School football team because they are now running the single-wing – again. During the course of events I was made aware of a few parts of Windber’s storied history and, just before leaving town, met Carl Mayer who was then working on a history of Windber football. Last week I learned that his work is now available in book form and, while acquiring my copy, asked Carl for a physical description of the book because I haven’t seen it yet. In his words:

“The front and back covers of this soft cover book are in color, all photographs on the inside are black and white, just as you assumed. It is an 8.5 X 11 inch book with 304 pages. This book covers the history of Windber High School football from its beginning up to the 2007 season. Included are numerous stories pertaining to venues played and the role Camp Hamilton has played in its history. Team photographs are included from 1914 thru 2007 (Except for 1914, 1915, 1916, 1918, 1919, they could not be found) with these team photographs are records for that football year and starting line-ups. Also included are drawings and caricatures from the late 1950’s, each of which tell a story.”

If you are interested in knowing more about We Are the Ramblers, click on the book link at the right. BTW, Windber was the home of Johnny Weismiller but I don’t think he played football. Carl can set you straight if I’m wrong.  He can be reached at


Nicholas Longfeather

July 1, 2008

Often while researching one topic I unexpectedly discover information about another. This happened again when I stumbled across a 1912 article that said a Carlisle Indian School alumnus was granted a patent and was the first American Indian to hold a patent. Nicholas Longfeather, Apache, studied forestry at Syracuse University after leaving Carlisle. The patent was said to cover “a preparation for doctoring trees.” The article also said that Nick was profitably engaged in his profession of forestry in a large southern city.

            This discovery whetted my appetite for more information about Mr. Longfeather. A couple of quick searches located some more information about him. A 1911 Atlanta Georgian article announced that the firm of Longfeather & Shepard, experts in forestry and landscape, as well as doctors of diseased trees, was opening an office in the Argyle Bldg at 345 Peachtree St. He was working on a project at the Adair estate and liked Atlanta so well that he was going to live there. The article also said that he was born in a  wigwam and had a most interesting history but did not share that history.

            The Adair estate meant Forrest Adair’s 15,082 sq ft mansion, 2,800 sq ft carriage house and swimming pool (the second one in Atlanta) on 15 acres of gardens and lawns in the new Druid Hills subdivision, the last one designed by Frederick Olmstead before his death in 1903. A February 1911 Syracuse Herald ad for Longfeather & Shepard described themselves as “CARLISLE AND YALE, EXPERTS IN forestry, landscape architecture” located at Syracuse University.

            According to Ford R. Bynum in Clara: Mrs. Henry Ford, Nick was brought up to analyze the condition of the trees at the Ford home, Fair Lane, in Dearborn, MI. Someone – a student perhaps – looking for an interesting project might want to research Nicholas Longfeather’s life.