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1904 Olympics, St. Louis

St. Louis was the first American city to host the Olympics. The 1904 Olympic games looked a bit different than the games today, but in many ways the same athleticism and spirit can be found in the photographs and stories from 1904. Learn more about the 1904 Olympics by visiting the "Our Olympics" gallery installation at the Missouri History Museum. "Our Olympics" is on display June 30 - Nov 18, 2012.

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The 1904 Olympics in St. Louis marked not only the first time the Games were hosted by an American city, but also the first time that freestyle wrestling made an appearance in the Olympics. The long history of Olympic wrestling is what has left so many athletes and fans shocked when the IOC announced this week that the sport would be thrown out of the Games. Read more on the Missouri History Museum's blog: historyhappensher...

Ending What Started in St. Louis

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Spaulding Point Trophy from the 1904 Olympics. ©Missouri History Museum

George Poage, second from the right, in the first heat of the 60-meter run. Poage was the first African American to medal at the Olympics. Photo by Jessie Tarbox Beals (attributed), 1904. Missouri History Museum.

A Legacy in Dispute

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Perikles Kakousis was a Greek weightlifter who won gold in the two-hand lift at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. He was heralded in the local press for coming “thousands of miles to carry modern Olympic honors back to his native land.”

Not So Far from London

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  • Sundance Vacations

    It's amazing that Olympians now lift 4X as much weight. What have we been putting in the water?!

Ray Ewry won eight gold medals in the 1900, 1904, and 1908 Games, and remained the American with the most individual gold medals until Michael Phelps surpassed him. Ewry was struck with polio when he was seven and was told that he may never walk again. One doctor said he should try jumping exercises to build the strength of his legs. He went from being unable to walk to becoming one of the most celebrated jumpers in Olympic history.

Not So Far from London

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A number of sports featured in the 1904 Olympic games look unusual today. To many, tug of war seems like a competition more suited for elementary school field days rather than the Olympics, but from 1900 to 1920 it was a feature of all Games, including those held in St. Louis.

One sport made its first and only Olympic appearance at the 1904 games in St. Louis. That sport was the plunge for distance, a kind of long jump for divers. Competitors jumped from a platform into a lake and glided as far as they could underwater without using their arms or legs. William Dickey of the New York Athletic Club earned the unique title of Olympic champion in the plunge for distance with a winning distance of 62 feet, 6 inches.

A Long Way from London

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Thomas Hicks of Massachusetts, being sponged by attendants. Photo by Jessie Tarbox Beals, 1904. Missouri History Museum.

Running Through History

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A. G. Spalding and Brothers, exhibit of a model gymnasium; showing their No. 0 Vaulting Horse, used by the Team of German Turners during the Turners International and Team competition, July 1, and 2d, 1904.

1904 Olympic Marathon participants, Len Tau (left) and Jan Mashiani of the Tswana tribe of South Africa.

  • Paul Bennett

    4years b4 london 1908

  • Benhard Wiese

    Truely hope that the museum will remove the subtitle - as it still refers to the 2 athletes as being "kaffirs" - which is the crudest and most derogatory form of refering to black people in South Africa. Historically however, the term is derived from Arabic...literally meaning non-believers.

  • Missouri History Museum

    @Benhard Wiese, Here is a link another version on our collection search: http://collections.mohistor.... We did not realize that was there when we pinned it. Unfortunately, racism is a part of our history. At the Missouri History Museum, we seek to preserve our history so that we may learn to be better from it.

A. G. Spalding and Bros., exhibit of a Model Gymnasium, showing another view of their No. O Vaulting Horse particularly commended by all the Turn Verein Representatives who competed in the Olympic International Gymnastic Championships.

"A. G. Spalding and Bros., exhibit of a model gymnasium; showing a pair of parallel bars, particularly commended by the entire body of Turn Verein representatives who used them in the Olympic Gymnastic Competitions."

Gymnastic Championship at the Turner Games, July 1904.

Thomas J. Hicks of Cambridge, Massachusetts YMCA winner of the 1904 Olympic Marathon Race.

Thomas J. Hicks of Cambridge, Massachusetts YMCA leading the 1904 Olympic Marathon runners at the 20 mile mark.

1904 Olympics: 440 yard Olympic championship, Daniels of the New York Athletic Club starting.

A.G. Spalding and Bros. Model Gymnasium, Physical Culture Exhibit, Louisiana Purchase Exposition. (1904 Olympics). With overhead apparatus drawn up and out of the way.

First runners leaving the stadium during the 1904 Olympic Marathon Race. (Mellor and Spring in front of referees' automobile).

"A. G. Spalding and Brothers, exhibit of a model gymnasium, showing their latest up-to-date improved vaulting box."

Athlete performing the broad jump, or standing long jump, at the Turner Games.

Gymnastic Championship at the Turner Games, July 1904.

A Group of Swimmers at the 1904 Olympic Championships.

Shot-put competition at the Turner Games.

Turnverein combined exercise, 100 yard dash at the Turner Games.