Posts Tagged ‘Kate Buford’

Did Carlisle Play Albright College in 1907?

April 5, 2015

I awoke this morning to find a question from Johnny Dunn in my email inbox:

I was just wondering if Carlisle played Albright in 1907. In Kate Buford’s Native American Son, Kate wrote “During the early, lopsided victories over Albright, Lebanon Valley, Villanova, and Susquehanna”. In other books I read like Fabulous Redmen, they did not mention a game vs Albright. I did a little research and it looks like they may have scheduled the game, but it may have never actually happened.

A few minutes research uncovered the schedule for 1907 published in the September 20, 1907 edition of Carlisle’s weekly school newspaper, The Arrow:

September 21 1907 schedule

The next week’s edition, the September 27 issue, included, without explanation, a revised schedule:

September 27 1907 schedule

Carlisle played, and defeated Lebanon Valley College on the Saturday originally scheduled for the Albright College game. The end of the article covering the team’s shellacking of LVC 40-0 (the article about the game contained a slightly different score than in the schedule) in a heavy rain ended with the following statement:

September 27 1907 schedule is open

No explanation of why the game with Albright wasn’t played and why the LVC game was advanced from the 25th to the 21st wasn’t mentioned. However, a piece in the September 18, 1908 edition of The Carlisle Arrow suggests a possible reason for the cancellation of the 1907 Albright College game:

September 18 1908 Albright cancelled

Perhaps, Albright was unable to field a team in 1907 as in 1908. The reason the 1908 game with Conway Hall was listed as a practice game is because Conway Hall was the Dickinson College prep school. Games with Conway Hall were generally played by Carlisle’s second team, not the varsity.

I can’t explain Kate Buford’s error. Perhaps, she didn’t read Carlisle’s school newspaper articles for each week of the football season, only read the pre-season edition, or, as Lars Anderson did, had someone else conduct her research.

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Best in the World

May 29, 2012

Thursday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the kick off reception at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC for their new exhibit, “Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics.”  This special exhibit, which runs through September 3, is timed to honor the 100th anniversary of the performance of two Carlisle Indians in the 1912 Stockholm Games but doesn’t limit itself to just their performances.  In fact, the first thing one sees upon entering the exhibit is a blown-up photograph of Frank Mt. Pleasant broad jumping while wearing his Dickinson College jersey.  He competed in the 1908 games in London.  The exhibit also includes a photo of Frank Pierce, younger brother of Carlisle football stars Bemus and Hawley, competing in the marathon in the 1904 Games held in conjunction with the St. Louis World’s Fair.  He is believed to have been the first Native American to compete for the United States in the Olympics.  Enough about the exhibit, you can see that for yourself.

At the beginning of the reception, the dignities present were introduced.  There is no mistaking Bill Thorpe due to his strong resemblance to his father.  Bill is lending the use of his father’s Olympic medals to the NMAI for this event.  Lewis Tewanima’s grandson was also present.  He took the time to explain the importance of the kiva to Hopi culture.  It was quite enlightening.  Billy Mills, who broke Lewis Tewanima’s record for the 10,000 meters and won the gold medal in the 1964 Olympics spoke and was taped by a cameraman as he walked from exhibit to exhibit.

Some writers were also in attendance.  Robert W. Wheeler, who wrote the definitive biography of Jim Thorpe, and his wife, Florence Ridlon, whose discovery of the 1912 Olympics Rule Book behind a Library of Congress stack made the restoration of Thorpe’s medals possible, was also present as was Kate Buford, the author of a recent Thorpe book.  The apple didn’t fall far from the Wheeler-Ridlon tree as their son, Rob, whose website, http://www.jimthorperestinpeace.com, supports the effort to have Jim Thorpe’s remains relocated to Oklahoma.

More about the exhibit can be found at http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/504/

Amateurism in the 1912 Olympics

July 13, 2010

As part of the run up for her book, Kate Buford wrote an article for The Gilder Kehrman Institute of American History that is posted on its History Now web site. “Amateurism and Jim Thorpe at the Fifth Olympiad” includes the following statements:

A French baron, Pierre Frédy de Coubertin, founded the modern Olympic movement in part as a way to inject the authentic ancient Greek ideal of a sound mind in a sound body into modern nations in danger, he believed, of becoming physically unfit and thus morally soft. By 1912, for the Fifth modern Olympiad in Stockholm, each competitor had to sign an entry form affirming that he or she was an amateur—“one who has never” competed for money or prize, competed against a professional, taught in any branch of athletics for payment (i.e., been a coach) or “sold, pawned, hired out, or exhibited for payment” any prize.

After reading this, I conclude that very few American athletes would have been considered to be amateurs by these standards. Never having competed for money or prize would have eliminated most of them. Winners of events at major track meets were often awarded prizes in those days. Gold watches were one of the more common prizes. Silver loving cups were probably more common, and medals were likely the most common prize. Gold watches, silver cups and medals sound like things of value to me.

If memory serves (my research sources aren’t available to me right now), the Penn Relay Carnival awarded prizes to winning relay teams. Also, I think there is a famous photograph of the great distance runner from Carlisle Indian School, Lewis Tewanima, standing next to a table loaded with prizes he won in races. No complaints were filed about his, or other athletes’, having competed for such prizes.

New Jim Thorpe Biography

July 10, 2010

Yet another biography of Jim Thorpe is to be released soon. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. has announced that Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe by Kate Buford will be released in October. Ms. Buford is the author of Burt Lancaster: An American Life. Buford’s reputation and history suggest that her book will be better than the other recent attempts at chronicling the great athlete’s life. Was she able to gain access to Jim Thorpe’s scrapbooks? It is believed that Robert W. Wheeler was the last Thorpe biographer to have them available for his research. They are now in the hands of a well-known collector of sports artifacts who doesn’t generally allow researchers to see them.

One thing that is sure is that the Kate Buford didn’t have access to the vast majority of the people Wheeler interviewed due to their demise during the intervening years. However, Wheeler taped his interviews on a bulky tape recorder that he lugged as he hitchhiked across the country to interview anyone he could find who had a relationship with Thorpe. He has made the recording of his interview with former West Point cadet Dwight David Eisenhower available to others, but even that hasn’t stopped other authors from writing inaccuracies about the 1912 Carlisle-Army game.

I am curious to learn more about Big Jim’s eye disease. Recently, I learned that he had eye surgery while at Carlisle. About all I have uncovered so far is that he was hospitalized for three days. Nothing was stated about the reason for the surgery. The medical records from his student file are long gone. Perhaps the person who took them or his descendants will return them or at least make their contents public. There are still things to learn about Jim Thorpe. This fall, we will see if this new biography shares any of them.

Premier at Carlisle Theatre

December 8, 2008

On Friday Antonio Banderas conducted the U.S. premier of his film, El Camino de los Ingleses (The English Road), titled Summer Rain in the U.S., at Carlisle Theatre. This was not the first movie to be premiered at this 1939 Art Deco picture palace. In August of 1951, Jim Thorpe returned to Carlisle to premier his film biography, Jim Thorpe: All American, in which he was portrayed by a young actor by the name of Burt Lancaster. Unfortunately, that film is now dated and needs to be remade, or better yet, an entirely new film needs to be made. Perhaps that will happen.

It seems that a filmmaker interested in shooting a film about Jim Thorpe, Pop Warner or the Carlisle Indian School breezes through town every couple of months gathering information for his or her next production. The most notable, perhaps, of those in recent years was announced in 2004 John Sayles was writing the script for Carlisle School for Walden Media. Nothing further has been seen about that film and that may be for the better. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Carlisle School, “follows a ragtag group of young Native Americans who achieve prolific victories on the football field that lead them to national prominence. The players, among them future sports legend Thorpe, attended the boarding school in Pennsylvania that, from 1879-1918, housed Native Americans from childhood through college.”

Anyone who knows anything at all about Carlisle Indian School is well aware that its teams were anything but ragtag. To the contrary, Carlisle was frequently criticized for being just the opposite. The recent books about Thorpe and Carlisle have not been the most accurate either. But better things may be in the offing. Kate Buford’s biography of Jim Thorpe is to be released in 2008 and there aren’t many days left in the year. Bob Wheeler is finishing up his audiobook on Jim Thorpe. This is something to look forward to. Thorpe’s Boswell is not just reading his landmark book on Thorpe, he is also including clips from the interviews he made decades ago of people, many of whom are now long dead. It will be great to hear Ike talk about playing against Thorpe in his own voice. I can’t wait.