Posts Tagged ‘Stockholm’

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,, supports the effort to have Jim Thorpe’s remains relocated to Oklahoma.

More about the exhibit can be found at

100th Anniversary of 1912 Olympics

May 10, 2012

This year is the 100th anniversary of the 1912 Olympic Games that were held in Stockholm, Sweden.  What makes that important to us is the participation of two Carlisle Indians: Jim Thorpe and Lewis Tewanima.  Writers across the country and even from England are working on articles about these games and the two men who starred in those games.  The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC is even opening an exhibit concerning American Indians’ participation in the Olympics on May 24.  As a result, experts such as Bob Wheeler are being interviewed by various reporters and other writers.  Even I am being asked to verify details.

The other day, I got a phone call from someone about a detail about which I had never given any thought: exactly when was the decathlon competed in the 1912 Olympics?  Fortunately, with the use of the Internet, the answer could readily be found.  The 1912 Decathlon was competed over three days.  On the first day, July 13, the 100 meters, long jump, and shot put were held.  The second day, July 14, hosted four events: 400 meters, high jump, discus throw, and 110 meter hurdles.  On the third day, July 15, were the pole vault, javelin throw, and 1,500 meters.

Something that I find interesting is that Jim Thorpe tied for third in the pole vault, an event for which his physique was not well suited.  Pole vaulters tend to be wiry, something that Thorpe wasn’t.  Yes, he had tremendous upper body strength, but that was offset by his overall body mass as muscle is heavy.  His great leg strength and running speed probably made up for his weight as he cleared 3.25 meters (10 feet 7.95 inches) in those pre-fiberglass pole days.

The decathlon was a battle of endurance as much as anything.  Of the 29 athletes who started the event on the first day, only 12 finished all 10 events. Among the non-finishers was Avery Brundage.  After finishing 10th in the pole vault, Brundage dropped out without competing in the javelin or 1,500 meters.  Even at that, he is listed as placing 16th in the decathlon.


Jim Thorpe 1912 Olympics Postcard

May 24, 2010

A postcard that Jim Thorpe sent to a childhood friend from the 1912 Stockholm Olympics is being offered for sale. Front and back views of the postcard are provided below.

Luther Hood, recipient of the card, was an Absentee Shawnee and a good friend of the Thorpe family. The families continue a strong friendship today. In tribal culture when a relative dies the family adopts someone to take that person’s place. It seems that Luther may have been an adopted brother to Jim Thorpe, who lost several very close family members, including his twin brother, when he was young. That is why he would have used the terms “Bud” and “Bro.”

The stamp on the card is from Sweden. Closer inspection is required to determine the postmark. The U. S. Olympic team, other than the distance runners and Thorpe, used the ship they traveled over on, the SS Finland, as their hotel during the Olympics. Perhaps the postcard was sent from the Finland.

Bob Wheeler is assisting the owner of what is surely an expensive item in selling it. If you are interested, contact Bob at


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?