1904 Summer Olympics
|Host city||St. Louis, Missouri, United States|
|Athletes||651 (645 men, 6 women)|
|Events||95 in 16 sports (17 disciplines)|
|Stadium||Washington University in St. Louis Francis Field|
The 1904 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the III Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, from August 29 until 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. It was the first time that the Olympic Games were held outside Europe.
Tensions caused by the Russo–Japanese War and the difficulty of getting to St. Louis in 1904 may have contributed to the fact that very few top ranked athletes from outside the US and Canada took part in these 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 combined the US national championship with the Olympic championship.
The current three-medal format—gold, silver, and bronze for first, second, and third places—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.
One 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 team representing Great Britain was awarded a total of two medals, both won by Irish athletes. The top non-USA athlete was Emil Rausch of Germany, who won three swimming events. Zoltán Halmay of Hungary and Charles Daniels of the United States each won two swimming gold medals. Galt Football Club from Canada won the gold medal in football.
The organizers of the World's Fair held a "pseudo-scientific demonstration, grandiosely called Anthropology Days," in which Native Americans and "ethnic tribesmen" from Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and South America were shipped to St. Louis and made to compete against each other and against white athletes in track and field events in an effort to demonstrate white biological superiority over other races. This event was referred to by local media at the time as the "Savage Olympics." The marriage of the "human zoos" included at many contemporary Worlds Fairs with the Olympics—in other words, the athletic exhibition of so-called "primitives"—served multiple purposes. On the one hand, it confirmed the racial prejudices of Western audiences, namely the Savage Olympics demonstrated "that the white man leads the races of the world, both physically and mentally." It also helped to set the stage for the later inclusion in the Olympics of greater numbers of non-Western athletes, or "what the Occidental gaze characterized as ‘exotic’ athletes." 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". Ultimately, the event was "poorly organized" and "plainly a shambles," however organizer William John McGee, head of a Smithsonian Institution division at the time, nevertheless concluded that the 1904 Savage Olympics "established in quantitative measure the inferiority of primitive peoples…in that coordination of mind and body which seems to mark the outcome of human development and measure the attainment of human excellence."
The 1904 Summer Olympic program featured 16 sports encompassing 94 events in 17 disciplines. Swimming and diving are considered two disciplines of the same sport, aquatics. The number of events in each discipline is noted in parentheses.
Boxing made its Olympic debut at the St. Louis Games. The sport has since featured at every Summer Olympics, except for the 1912 Stockholm Games.
Basketball, hurling, American football and baseball were featured as demonstration sports. Gaelic football was also an unofficial demonstration sport at the 1904 Olympics. There was a demonstration bout of women's boxing.
Water polo is also mentioned in the games reports for the 1904 Summer Olympics. At the time it was not considered to be a demonstration sport, but, as of 2020, the IOC does not include it in its records.
Five sports venues were used for the 1904 Summer Olympics. The venues included Glen Echo Country Club, the first golf course constructed west of the Mississippi River, which had opened in 1901. Three Olympic sports were hosted at Forest Park, the site of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition which was being held concurrently with the Olympics: the Life Saving Exhibition Lake at Forest Park was used for the diving, swimming, and water polo events.
Creve Coeur Lake became the first park of St. Louis County in 1945. The Lake has hosted rowing regattas since 1882 and still hosts them as of 2010. Francis Olympic Field and Gymnasium are still in use on the Washington University in St. Louis campus as of 2021. An ornamental gate commemorating the 1904 Games was constructed outside the stadium immediately after the Exposition. A swimming pool was added to the gymnasium in 1985. Forest Park, constructed in 1876, is still in use as of 2021 and attracts over 12 million visitors annually. Glen Echo Country Club remains in use as a golf course today as of 2021.
|Creve Coeur Lake||Rowing||Not listed|||
|Francis Field||Archery, Athletics, Cycling, Football, Gymnastics, Lacrosse, Roque, Tennis, Tug of war, Weightlifting, Wrestling||19,000|||
|Francis Gymnasium||Boxing, Fencing||Not listed|||
|Forest Park||Diving, Swimming, Water polo||Not listed|||
|Glen Echo Country Club||Golf||Not listed|||
Athletes from twelve nations competed in St. Louis. Numbers in parentheses indicate the number of known competitors for each nation. Due to the difficulty of getting to St. Louis in 1904, and European tensions caused by the Russo-Japanese War, only 62 athletes from outside North America participated in the Olympics.
|Participating National Olympic Committees|
Some sources also list athletes from the following nations as having competed at these Games.
Number of athletes by National Olympic Committees
These are the top ten nations to win medals at the 1904 Games.
|Totals (10 nations)||96||91||91||278|
The nationalities of some medalists are disputed, as many American competitors were recent immigrants to the United States who had not yet been granted US citizenship.
In 2009, historians from the International Society of Olympic Historians discovered that cyclist Frank Bizzoni, formerly thought to be an American, was still an Italian citizen when he competed in 1904, being granted US citizenship in 1917.
The International Olympic Committee considers Norwegian-American wrestlers Charles Ericksen and Bernhoff Hansen to have competed for the United States; each man won a gold medal. In 2012, Norwegian historians, however, found documentation showing that Ericksen did not receive American citizenship until March 22, 1905, and that Hansen probably never received American citizenship. The historians have therefore petitioned the IOC to have the athletes registered as Norwegians. In May 2013, it was reported that the Norwegian Olympic Committee had filed a formal application for changing the nationality of the wrestlers in the IOC's medal database; as of April 2019, no decision has yet been made.
Francis Gailey competed in 1904 as an Australian, and immigrated to America in 1906, sailing to San Francisco in the SS Sonoma. He worked as a banker in California, lived for a time in Ontario, Canada, where he married Mary Adams, and finally settled in 1918 in southern California, managing orange-grove plantations.
Gustav Tiefenthaler was born in Switzerland, but the family moved to the United States when he was young. He represented the South Broadway AC in St. Louis. At the Olympics, Tiefenthaler wrestled one bout and lost, but earned a bronze medal for his efforts.
The IOC lists French-American Albert Corey as a United States competitor for his marathon silver medal, but (together with four undisputed Americans) as part of a mixed team for the team race silver medal.
The IOC counts one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals won by the American fencer Albertson Van Zo Post for Cuba instead of the United States. The IOC also shows Charles Tatham as Cuban for individual fencing events and American for the team event, but he was an American.
- Olympic Games celebrated in the United States
- 1904 Summer Olympics – St. Louis
- 1932 Summer Olympics – Los Angeles
- 1932 Winter Olympics – Lake Placid
- 1960 Winter Olympics – Squaw Valley
- 1980 Winter Olympics – Lake Placid
- 1984 Summer Olympics – Los Angeles
- 1996 Summer Olympics – Atlanta
- 2002 Winter Olympics – Salt Lake City
- 2028 Summer Olympics – Los Angeles
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 1904 Summer Olympics.|
- "St Louis 1904". Olympics.com. International Olympic Committee.
- The Olympic Games 1904, Charles J.P. Lucas
- Spalding's Athletic Almanac for 1905
- Photos of the 1904 Olympics from the Missouri History Museum