“Olympic Socker Contest”, St. Louis 1904

Discussion in 'The Beautiful Game' started by P. J. Szule, Nov 13, 2004.

  1. P. J. Szule

    P. J. Szule New Member

    Jul 22, 2001
    New York
    The 17th day of November, 2004 will mark that one hundred years ago that day, at the third Modern Olympic Games in St. Louis, Missouri, Canada defeated the United States in the championship game of the football tournament. One hundred years. For some of us, like this poster, well into middle age, one’s grandfather could have played in that game. Many of us could so connect with that world as it appeared, sounded and smelled in Transylvanian towns of Austria-Hungary, in sleepy hamlets of southern Italy or Scotland, at the docks of Buenos Aires, amid the tenements of Manhattan, by the farms of Ontario and in the parishes of St. Louis.

    Some historians surmise that 1904 was still of the 19th century and that it lasted until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Yet rapid improvements in rail and steamship transportation, the explosion of the industrial and urban spheres were already rendering the outlines of the century that was to take shape after that war. Nationalization and politicization of the masses brought with it global communications, entertainment and international sports. The Modern Olympic Movement, for better or worse, was part of these developments affecting most of the continents.

    America was bursting with opportunities. Wealth was being created at breakneck speed and, energized by the ideas and passion of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, in 1903, the country was preparing to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. The celebration would also mark the centennial of the departure of the Thomas Jefferson inspired Lewis and Clark Expedition the following year. St. Louis, a booming city and a great commercial and transportation center on the Mississippi, was essentially at the center of the United States.

    As the fourth largest in America, the city, led by Missouri Governor David R. Francis, eagerly competed in Washington to be awarded the Columbian Exposition cum World’s Fair franchise for the eighteen-nineties, but lost out to Chicago. Francis, upset and disappointed, was determined to have St. Louis hold a bigger and better celebration in 1903 for the Louisiana Purchase Centennial. Soon, Chicago and St. Louis were at it again regards hosting the Olympic Games.

    Meanwhile, in 1901, Congress passed the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Bill authorizing funding of the St. Louis Fair and Francis soon was heading the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company. Organizational difficulties and travel distances delayed both the commemorative Exposition and the Olympics until 1904. Benefits of American imperialism for the “recently acquired countries and protectorates” were the main theme of the Exposition having just “come under the influence of Anglo-Saxon civilization”. In addition, and this was Francis’ theme: universal peace under “this banner” mitigating diverse peoples and nationalities “to co-exist”.

    An enormous government-private sector effort ensued in the city; new roads and streets, a large number of new street cars and water purification projects were built or deployed. The site, the western portion of the already exceptional Forest Park was then designed and erected as the center of the Exposition (the Pike) with expansive halls, colonnades, promenades and restaurants. Director of the exhibits, Fredrick J. V. Skiff, conceived a multi-themed exhibit that spanned from education, the arts, liberal arts and applied sciences to manufacturing, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, mining, electricity, social economy and physical culture. This latter notion - strong body as essential to a keen intellect - was stressed at the Physical Culture Exhibit and, under the directorship of one James Edward Sullivan, in a sense, compounded the 1904 Olympic Games into the Exposition.

    On Saturday, April 20th 1904, President Roosevelt, via a telegraphic relay, opened the Exposition from Washington. After nearly twenty million visitors (probably close to an accurate count as the turnstile, a new innovation, was first used at the Exposition), it closed with a ceremony presided over by David R. Francis on December 1st 1904. The Fair was a financial success (granting funding for the Jefferson Memorial in Forest Park, the nation’s first) alas its legacy was the unfortunate propagation of racial stereotypes with exhibits of “barbaric” American Indians and Philippinos and the idolatry of an imagined antebellum South.

    The Olympic Games opened on May 14, 1904 with an anxious Baron de Coubertin, along with the International Olympic Committee itself, trusting that the embarrassments of Paris 1900 would not be repeated. It soon became apparent that James Sullivan, Chief of the Department of Physical Culture Section of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (and thus the Director of the Olympic Games, nomen est omen) treated just about any sporting event around the Exposition as “part of the Olympics”. There was the Missouri scholastic track championship billed as “Olympic Interscholastic Meet”. The last athletic event itself took place on November 26th after the closing of the Olympic Games yet as part of the Exposition’s University Week. It was the “Championship Football Contest” between the Indian schools of Carlisle and Haskell and, it was inevitable, that the game was also thought of as an “Olympic Exhibition”.

    Most of the Olympic events took place on the campus of Washington University just minutes from Forest Park and the Exposition. The newly built WU stadium was named after David Francis but was referred to as the Olympic Stadium. The Physical Culture Gymnasium, almost adjacent to the Olympic Stadium, served for indoor events. Baron de Coubertin’s worst fears were largely realized, the Games were an afterthought to the Fair, lasted over five months and many peripheral events, aided by the organizers and local promoters, found some “Olympic affiliation”.

    These imperfections notwithstanding, viewing the historic photographs and reading contemporary accounts of the Games in the St. Lois Post-Dispatch or the St. Louis Republic (the St. Louis Public Library has a superb and voluminous collection) one senses the outlines of today’s fully international and fiercely competitive Games. Just a brief glance into some of the seventeen scrapbooks of photographs at the Library show “His Highness, the Prince of Bavaria in Box 54”, wrestlers of the “Norwegian Turnverein of Brooklyn, New York” and the “water teams” of the Buffalo, New York and of the New York Athletic Clubs. And tennis legend Dwight C. Davis (progenitor of the Davis Cup) competing in the “Louisiana Purchase Open”. And George Coleman Poage of Wisconsin competing in track and field as the first African- American in the Olympic Games. Alas, admittedly on a very brief research visit, I found no soccer, association football or socker (sic - St. Louis Republic) photographs.

    Revealingly, identifications of athletes and visitors still emphasized regional and state affiliations rather than nationalities. Full blown national or all-star teams were to follow later in the century. Therefore it does not diminish the value of the Olympic “socker contest”, as the Republic repeatedly labeled it, that the participants were two club teams from St. Louis and one from Galt, Ontario, Canada.

    Given the considerable travel times to Europe and South-America, the football tournament of the St. Louis Games was destined to be a North American affair. Joseph Laydon, a fine local amateur athlete competed in the boxing tournament of the Games. Exposition and Olympic officials encouraged Laydon to launch an amateur association football (all right, soccer) league as, for Olympic participation, amateur status was a prerequisite. St. Louis of course had several semi-pro soccer teams already. With Laydon’s activism and encouragement, the Amateur Association Football League of St. Louis was established which, in affect, was an extension of the already functioning Parish League. Christian Brothers College (still a fine prep school and college), St. Rose Parish, St. Ann’s Parish and newly formed St. Alphonsus Parish made up the pool.

    We do not have information on how and why Galt of Ontario decided to travel to St. Louis in quest of Olympic gold but we do know that they were current Canadian National Champions. They beat the University of Toronto for the title and now, on the 16th of November 1904, Galt F.C. of Ontario played St. Louis’ Christian Brothers College and beat them decisively, 7:0. Joseph Laydon played half-back for CBC, in fact, the St. Louis Republic the following day prints the line ups of both teams: Linton - Taylor, Steep – Hall, McDonald, Twaits - Dueker, Gourlay, Johnson, Lane and Fraser for Galt and, Menges – Brittingham, Lawler - Bartlett, Lyndon, Cudmore - T. January, Brockmeyer, H. January, Ratican and C. January for CBC.

    The banner sports-headline of page ten of the Republic on the 17th was “Racing Items --- Pugilistic Gossip --- Bowling Scores --- Football Talk”. A little explanation is in order. Racing of course then was perhaps the most widely followed sport in America (the paper had a fine report filed from Aqueduct of Queens, New York that day), boxing was very popular and the “Football Talk” referred to the exciting rumor that Haskell and Carlisle, the Indian schools football match up (gridiron, of course) on the 26th will “probably be attended by President Roosevelt”.

    Along with all this sports coverage, in a rather small article, the Republic writes on the soccer event that: “ while the local team put up a good game it did not appear so when they were pitted against the more experienced Canadians, who played rings around the college boys”. And, “they were not forced to do their utmost against the local eleven, they showed that they are in line for the championship of the world. Teamwork was a noticeable feature. The forwards of the Galts worked together and dribbled the ball within a short distance of the goal posts. They would then pass to one another and shoot through the bars”. Gault F.C. thus was to play St. Rose Parish on the 18th for the “Olympic Socker Championship”.

    With the same line up as against Christian Brothers College, the Canadians did beat St. Rose’s team, 4:0. St. Rose sent the line-up of Frost – Cotsgrove, O’Connell – C. Jameson, Tate, Cook – Crook, H. Jameson, Brady, Dierkes and Dooling onto the field. A decidedly Irish parish, I might add. The Republic, under the double headline of “Canadians Beat St. Rose’s Team – Galt Team of Ontario Wins the Olympic Socker Championship” reported that: “St. Rose put up a stubborn fight against the Canadians and held down the score closer than C.B.C. the day before”. Taylor scored twice along with Twait’s single tally and there was an own goal by St. Rose. The mayor of Galt had the honors to award the gold medals to the Canadian players. The same evening they were to leave for Chicago for a friendly game with the Wanderers of that city. I trust they had a moment to cheer and drank some famed local beer.

    Later that day, CBC and St. Rose played for second place but a game of scoreless tie, followed by similar extra time was called due to darkness. The game was rescheduled for the 23rd of November and, for the silver medals, Christian Brothers College did beat St. Rose, 2:0.

    The soccer tournament, viewed from the perspective of the many questionable and questionably billed events (tug-of-war, pole climbing, or croquet) in conjunction with the Exposition and the Olympic Games themselves, fared rather well. It was an international event, in fact the champion was not local but international as two nations, three teams and thirty four players competed. Weighted against the entire Games, twelve countries participated with six-hundred and twenty-four men and six women athletes.

    Much is made of the dilution of the purity and seriousness of these Olympics as is of Paris 1900. Yet even the St. Louis Republic, although it was owned by David R. Francis, seems to have maintained an appropriate reserve. The Haskell-Carlisle game was a huge event with a matching build up. With Theodore Roosevelt’s anticipated attendance and with the Exposition’s University Week celebrations in full flight, the Republic’s articles about the game never once slip and fuse the Olympics into it.

    No less of an authority than historian Bill Mallon, in his comprehensive book The 1904 Olympic Games brushes aside any claims, statements or charts that the association football tournament was an exhibition or demonstration event at these Games. Canada, it surely was, Olympic Football – Soccer Champion of the 1904 St. Louis Games.

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