1904 Summer Olympic Games | St. Louis, Missouri
The 1904 Summer Olympics (officially the Games of the III Olympiad and also known as St. Louis 1904) were an international multi-sport event held in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, from August 29 to September 3, 1904, as part of an extended sports program lasting from July 1 to November 23, 1904, located at what is now known as Francis Field on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. This was the first time that the Olympic Games were held outside Europe.
Tensions caused by the Russo–Japanese War and difficulties in traveling to St. Louis resulted in very few top-class athletes from outside the US and Canada taking part in the 1904 Games. Only 62 of the 651 athletes who competed came from outside North America, and only between 12 and 15 nations were represented in all. Some events subsequently combined the US national championship with the Olympic championship. The current three-medal format of gold, silver, and bronze for first, second, and third place was introduced at the 1904 Olympics.
Chicago, Illinois, won the bid to host the 1904 Summer Olympics, but the organizers of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis would not accept another international event in the same timeframe. The exposition organization began to plan for its own sports activities, informing the Chicago OCOG that its own international sports events intended to eclipse the Olympic Games unless they were moved to St. Louis. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, stepped in and awarded the Games to St. Louis.
Boxing, dumbbells, freestyle wrestling and the decathlon made their debuts. The swimming events were held in a temporary pond near Skinker and Wydown Boulevards, where "lifesaving demonstrations" of unsinkable lifeboats for ocean liners took place.
The St. Louis games are famous for including one of the most outrageous marathons in Olympic history. The race was held in 90-degree weather on a dust-covered road, and the inhospitable conditions conspired to force 18 of the 32 competitors to withdraw from exhaustion. One even suffered a stomach hemorrhage and nearly died before receiving medical attention. Race winner Thomas Hicks only fared slightly better. The runner spent the last 10 miles of the competition in utter agony, and was given several eggs, doses of toxic strychnine and even plugs of brandy to keep him on his feet. His assistants practically carried him over the finish line for a plodding final time of 3 hours, 28 minutes and 53 seconds. Other competitors faced even weirder problems. Cuban runner Felix Carbajal stopped along the course to snack on some apples only to be bowled over by stomach cramps, and a South African runner named Len Tau was chased off the course by a pack of wild dogs. After the race, many argued the marathon was too dangerous for the competitors and should be abolished. Even James Sullivan, the director of the 1904 games, admitted the event probably wouldn’t be back in 1908. “I personally am opposed to it,” he said. “It is indefensible on any ground, but historic.”
ne of the most remarkable athletes was the American gymnast George Eyser, who won six medals even though his left leg was made of wood, and Frank Kugler won four medals in freestyle wrestling, weightlifting and tug of war, making him the only competitor to win a medal in three different sports at the same Olympic Games.
Chicago runner James Lightbody won the steeplechase and the 800 m and then set a world record in the 1500 m. Harry Hillman won both the 200 m and 400 m hurdles and also the flat 400 m. Sprinter Archie Hahn was champion in the 60 m, 100 m and 200 m. In this last race, he set an Olympic record in 21.6, a record that stood for 28 years. In the discus, after American Martin Sheridan had thrown exactly the same distance as his compatriot, Ralph Rose (39.28 m), the judges gave them both an extra throw to decide the winner. Sheridan won the decider and claimed the gold medal. Ray Ewry again won all three standing jumps.
The organizers of the World's Fair held "Anthropology Days" on August 12 and 13. Since the 1889 Paris Exposition, human zoos, as a key feature of world's fairs, functioned as demonstrations of anthropological notions of race, progress, and civilization. These goals were followed also at the 1904 World's Fair. Fourteen hundred indigenous people from Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, East Asia, Africa, the Middle East, South America, and North America were displayed in anthropological exhibits that showed them in their natural habitats. Another 1600 indigenous people displayed their culture in other areas of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (LPE), including on the fairgrounds and at the Model School, where American Indian boarding schools students demonstrated their successful assimilation. The sporting event itself took place with the participation of about 100 paid indigenous men (no women participated in Anthropology Days, though some, notably the Fort Shaw Indian School girls basketball team, did compete in other athletic events at the LPE). Contests included "baseball throwing, shot put, running, broad jumping, weight lifting, pole climbing, and tugs-of-war before a crowd of approximately ten thousand". According to theorist Susan Brownell, world's fairs – with their inclusion of human zoos – and the Olympics were a logical fit at this time, as they "were both linked to an underlying cultural logic that gave them a natural affinity".Also, one of the original intentions of Anthropology Days was to create publicity for the official Olympic events.