Posts Tagged ‘Theodore Roosevelt’

Roosevelt May Have Threatened to Ban Football in 1905

March 7, 2011

While searching for the names of football players killed in 1905, I came across some news articles that brought to mind one of Ron Smith’s criticisms of the article in the January edition of The Football Historian which was mentioned in earlier blogs. Smith stated, “President Theodore Roosevelt never threatened to ban football.  In fact, T.R. chided Harvard president Charles W. Eliot (President from 1869-1909) for wanting to ban it. (The TR myth often mentioned by writers is simply not true)”

John Watterson, who Smith referenced as a source to back up his position, discusses Roosevelt’s intervention: “He started a campaign for reform in football….Unfortunately for the president, football did not lend itself to mediation as readily as diplomacy or politics.” Watterson mentions that some historians concluded that the survival of college football was not threatened by the protests against its violence. He then points out that, even if later historians didn’t take the threats seriously, those tasked with reforming the game did at the time. That Columbia and Union College had abolished the game demonstrated to them that it was possible.

In early December 1905, Dr. J. William White, professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, in a statement authorized by the president, released Theodore Roosevelt’s five-point reform platform that the authorities of the leading colleges must accept as a “gentlemen’s agreement” to reform football. His initiatives probably weren’t controversial, however, what came later may have been. The last paragraph stated: “It would be a real misfortune to lose so manly and vigorous a game as football, and to avert such a possibility the college authorities in each college should see to it that the game in that college is clean.” If you or I said that, it would mean little, but when President Theodore Roosevelt says it, I take it as a thinly veiled threat.

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Warner Didn’t Do It

November 18, 2010

I was recently sent an article on a particular topic on the history of football—it doesn’t matter which article because this is a common error—that attributed or blamed, depending on one’s perspective on Pop Warner that he did not do. That Warner had a split tenure at Carlisle Indian School is either not widely known or is forgotten by many when they write about Carlisle football. In this instance, the matter has to do with the 1904 Carlisle-Haskell game and the mass transfer of football talent from Haskell to Carlisle that happened after that game.

For a little background, President Theodore Roosevelt was to spend a few days around Thanksgiving at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Promoters saw an opportunity to attract greater attendance by staging a football game for Teddy to attend. Their first choice was to host the Army-Navy game that year. That idea was turned down immediately. The next thing that came to mind was to have the two prominent government Indian boarding school teams play each other as both were running roughshod over the competition in their respective parts of the country. Carlisle was already scheduled to play Ohio State on Thanksgiving, so the game with Haskell Institute of Lawrence, Kansas, was set for the Saturday following the holiday.

Why did Warner have nothing to do with this game, one asks? Well, Pop Warner left Carlisle after the 1903 season to return to coaching his alma mater, Cornell. The reason for that move, according to his critics, was that he was paid more money. They are probably correct. Warner coached Cornell through the 1904, 1905 and 1906 seasons and, other than teaching his new formations to Carlisle’s Indian coaches in 1906, probably had little to do with the operation of that program. He had no reason to recruit Haskell players for Carlisle. He might have tried to entice the best ones to enroll at Cornell, but that seems improbable.

Superintendent Richard Henry Pratt had been relieved of command of Carlisle Indian School in the summer of 1904 and replaced by then Captain William A. Mercer. With no athletic director in place and the coaches hired just for the season, Mercer filled the void left by Warner’s departure and became involved with the football program. The next year, he arranged the first Carlisle-Army game but that is a separate story.

1908 Carlisle-Denver Game Canceled

May 31, 2009

Like most of the interesting things I find, I unexpectedly stumbled across a November 19, 1908 Nebraska State Journal article that said the upcoming game between the Carlisle Indians and the University of Denver had been canceled. Post-season (about anything after Thanksgiving in those days) road trips were not unusual for the Indians. As early as 1896, they played a night game in the Chicago Coliseum on December 19 against that year’s Champions of the West, Wisconsin. And 1908’s trip wasn’t as long or as elaborate as some. It started early with a November 21 game against Minnesota in Minneapolis. Five days later, the opponent was St. Louis University in St. Louis. Six days after that it was Nebraska in Lincoln. Three days after that was to be the Denver game in Denver. According to the article, Denver officials were informed by Carlisle officials that the game was called off because, “…that leave of absence could not be secured for so long a journey.” The article didn’t say if it was Superintendent Friedman, who was new at his post, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Francis Leupp, or someone else. There had been recent communications with Pop Warner and he had said nothing about a cancelation. Denver didn’t take it lying down.

According to the paper, they went straight to the top: “President Roosevelt has been asked to use his influence in having a contract between representatives of Denver University and the Carlisle Indian school for a football game between the elevens of the two schools lived up to.…they at once asked the president through former United States Senator  Patterson, to request that the Indians be given the leave necessary. A portion of Senator Patterson’s message reads: ‘The Denver boys want a square deal and turn to you to get It for them.’ Governor Buchtel, who is chancellor of Denver University, also wired Congressman Bonynge and Senator Teller to secure, if possible, the Intervention of Commissioner of Indian Affairs Leupp.”

I don’t know what happened next but do know that the Indians won three and lost one on the road trip. The loss was to Minnesota. The wins were over St. Louis, Nebraska and Denver.

 

Carlisle Quarterback Mike Balenti

Carlisle Quarterback Mike Balenti

Old Sioux Chiefs Didn’t March In 1905 Inauguration

April 17, 2009

Previously, I wrote about the Carlisle Indian School contingent that marched in the 1905 Inauguration Parade to celebrate Theodore Roosevelt’s election as President. Six great chiefs, led by Geronimo, rode on horseback in front of the Carlisle Indian School Band. I didn’t write about the others who wanted to participate in the festivities.

Over a dozen old Sioux chiefs paid their own way to travel to Washington from the Rosebud and Standing Rock Reservations “…to march in their eagle feathers and war bonnets and paint down the avenue after the great Father who once lived out in their country.” Indian Commissioner Leupp would have none of it. He would not let the inauguration be a Wild West Show, that there was no place for these red men. He said, “The Indians will be represented by the chiefs of six famous nations at one time hostile to this country. …Directly behind these old chieftains, each of whom represents a nation once at war with this country and subdued only at great loss of life, will be 350 students of the Carlisle Indian School. My object is to contrast the old Indians of the warpath and the educated, manly Indians of today.”

Leupp would not budge and the old chiefs returned to Dakota without marching in the parade. They were not greeted by President Roosevelt who clapped his hands with delight and, like the others in his box, rose to his feet when the six chiefs passed.

1905 Inaugural Parade

January 23, 2009

The 1905 Presidential Inauguration was a big deal, especially for Carlisle. They had marched at inaugurations before, but this one was special. President-elect Teddy Roosevelt wanted to “make a big show,” likely because his first inauguration was a short, somber affair held in the home of Ansley Wilcox after President McKinley’s assassination. They pulled out all the stops to make his 1905 inauguration a day to remember. Already a staple of inauguration parades after appearing in two previous ones, the Carlisle Indian School Cadets (essentially the large boys) and the renowned school band were expected to march again. However, this time some celebrities would appear with them.

A week or so before the inauguration, six famous chiefs from formerly hostile tribes, arrived in Carlisle to head the school’s contingent in the parade. But, before they left for Washington, there was much to do. First, they spoke to an assembly of students through interpreters. A dress rehearsal was held on the main street of Carlisle to practice for the parade. The Carlisle Herald predicted that the group would be one of the big parade’s star attractions.

Those marching in the parade were woken at 3:45 a.m., had breakfast at 4:30, and were the special train to Washington at 5:30. As the train rolled out of Carlisle, a heavy snow fell, but later the sun burned through, making for a fine day weather-wise. Fortunately, the travelers had lunch on the train because it was late in arriving in Washington. They were hurried into the last division of the Military Grand Division. Originally, they were to have been in the Civic Grand Division, but Gen. Chaffee transferred all cadets under arms to the military division, putting them in a separate brigade. Leading the group was Geronimo, in full Apache regalia including war paint, sitting astride his horse, also in war paint, in the center of the street. To either side, on their horses in their regalia and war paint, rode the five other chiefs: American Horse (Oglala Sioux), Hollow Horn Bear (Brulé Sioux), Little Plume (Blackfeet), Buckskin Charlie (Ute), and Quanah Parker, (Comanche). Following them came the 46-piece Carlisle Indian School Band led by Claude M. Stauffer. Capt. William M. Mercer, superintendent of the school and member of the 7th Cavalry, led the 350 Carlisle Cadets from horseback.

All in President’s box rose when the Carlisle contingent passed. The old chiefs were the object of the most interest from the crowd. Roosevelt said, “This is an admirable contrast-first the chiefs, in their native costumes and then these boys from Carlisle.” Marching ahead of Carlisle in the Military Grand Division were the Cadets from West Point and the 7th Cavalry, whose band played “Garry Owen,” their regiment song, when they passed. President Roosevelt remarked, “That is a bully fighting tune, and this is Custer’s old regiment, one of the finest in the service.” Capt. Mercer surely heard his regiment’s song and may have requested the Carlisle band to play it on occasion.

Perhaps being in close proximity to the War Department and West Point officials gave Mercer the opportunity to discuss a football game between Carlisle and Army. About six weeks later a game between the two government schools appeared on a schedule published in the school paper. The historic event would take place the following November 11.

Six chiefs lead, followed by the CIIS band and 350 students

Six chiefs lead, followed by the CIIS band and 350 students

 

 

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