Source of Sweetcorn Misinformation

A July 1970 article about the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe’s alcohol program that was written by Homer Bigart for the New York Times News Service appears to be the source of much of the misinformation about Asa Sweetcorn that Sally Jenkins used in her book about Carlisle Indian School. One paragraph from this unsourced article is the major culprit:

The most illustrious member of the tribe was Asa Sweetcorn, an all-time football hero who played with Jim Thorpe at Carlisle. Asa was a giant who reputedly wore a size 21 collar and could ram his head through wooden doors.

A quick look through Carlisle Indian School newspapers uncovered no mention of Asa Sweetcorn in any year other than 1910. The Washington Post listed him as the starting left guard for the game against Virginia. This supports Gus Welch’s assertion that Sweetcorn was a “running guard.” School newspaper coverage of some other 1910 games mentioned his play. No mention of him being in a Carlisle game before or after 1910 was found. Steckbeck only lists him as being on the varsity squad in 1910. However, his rosters were often incomplete. Asa may have been on the varsity before 1910 but wasn’t a starter. But no evidence has been found to support that.

So, Sweetcorn was not a star on the 1910 team, or any other year. So, he definitely wasn’t “an all-time football hero.” He didn’t play on the varsity with Jim Thorpe, as Thorpe only played on the varsity in 1907, 1908, 1911 and 1912. He was not at Carlisle in 1910 when Sweetcorn played. So, the two didn’t play on the same team unless, when younger, they played on a shop team together.

Sweetcorn may have bulked up after leaving Carlisle, but Welch’s description of him and his photograph in uniform differ from that. He was anything but a giant when at Carlisle. It is possible that he gained so much weight later that he needed a size 21 collar, but he surely didn’t when he was at the Indian School.

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