1912 Olympics – Part I

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?

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