1904 Olympic Track and Field Review

William Hogensen earned three sprint medals at the 1904 Olympics. Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

United States Olympic track and field teams have had their share of success over the years, but the Americans were never more dominant than in 1904. U.S. athletes won 23 out of 25 track and field events, and also earned 23 silver and 22 bronze medals in the first Olympic games in which actual gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded. Ten nations and 233 athletes were represented in these events, including 197 American competitors. Non-Americans won just seven medals in the Games, which were held in St. Louis.

The first modern Olympics: 1896

Three new Olympic events were added in 1904: a three-event triathlon, a 10-event “all-around” competition – a precursor to the decathlon – and a 56-pound weight throw. The 4000-meter steeplechase was eliminated and two events were altered. The 2500-meter steeplechase was extended to 2590 meters, while the 5000-meter team race was lengthened to 4 miles (6437 meters).


Archie Hahn was the outstanding Olympic sprinter in 1904, capturing gold medals in the 60 meters (7.0 seconds), the 100 (11.0) and the 200 (21.6 on a straight track). William Hogensen was second in the 60 and earned bronze medals in the 100 and 200. Nate Cartmell took silvers in the 100 and 200, while Fay Moulton was third in the 60. Harry Hillman won the first of his three 1904 gold medals in the 400, finishing in 49.2, followed by Frank Waller and Herman Groman. Americans won all the sprint medals.

Middle and Long Distance

James Lightbody was another three-event winner in 1904, taking the 800 meters (1:56.0), the 1500 (4:05.4) and the steeplechase (7:39.6). Howard Valentine and Emil Breitkreutz were second and third, respectively, in the 800, while Frank Verner and Lacey Hearn took silver and bronze in the 1500. Ireland’s John Daly – representing Great Britain – made a bid for a rare non-American triumph in the steeplechase, but fell one second short and settled for silver, while Arthur Newton took the bronze.

American Fred Lorz was the apparent marathon winner after taking a unique path to the finish line. He ran about nine miles before retiring due to exhaustion and then took a ride in his manager’s car. After the car broke down, Lorz exited, ran the rest of the way to the stadium and crossed the finish line first. Soon after, he claimed that his actions were meant to be a joke. In any event, he was disqualified, and Thomas Hicks declared the winner, in 3:28:53. Hicks had some unusual assistance as well, taking two doses of strychnine and a drink of brandy along the way. Albert Corey, a Frenchman then living in the U.S., was second, and his medal was officially credited to the U.S., even though Corey remained a French citizen. Newton earned the bronze medal.

A pair of five-man teams – nine American runners, plus Corey – ran in the 4-mile team race. Newton was the fastest, finishing in 21:17.8, to lead the New York AC team to victory. The Chicago AC team, which included Corey, was second by one point.


Hillman gained his second and third gold medals in the hurdles, winning the second – and last – 200-meter hurdles event in Olympic history, in 24.6, and taking the 400 hurdles in 53.0. Frank Castleman and Waller earned silver medals in the 200 and 400 hurdles, respectively, while George Poage was third in both races. Fred Schule won the 110 hurdles in 16.0, followed by Thaddeus Shideler and Lesley Ashburner. Except for a pair of Australians in the 110, all hurdles competitors were Americans.


Myer Prinstein bettered his 1900 performance by taking gold in the standard long jump (7.34 meters/24 feet, 1 inch) and triple jump (14.35/47-1). Prinstein also placed fifth in both the 60- and 400-meter runs. Daniel Frank was second in the long jump, Fred Englehardt took the silver in the triple jump, and Robert Stangland was third in both events.

Samuel Jones won the high jump by clearing 1.80/5-10¾, with Garrett Serviss second and Germany’s Paul Weinstein – the only non-American jumping medalist – third. Charles Dvorak topped 3.5/11-5¾ to win the pole vault, ahead of LeRoy Samse and Louis Wilkins.

As he did in 1900, Ray Ewry won all three standing jumps in 1904. He earned gold medals in the standing versions of the long jump (3.47/11-4½), the triple jump (10.54/34-7) and the high jump (1.60/5-3). Charles King was second in both the standing long and triple jumps. Joseph Stadler gained the silver in the standing high jump and the bronze in the standing triple jump. John Biller was third in the standing long jump and Lawson Robertson took the bronze in the standing high jump.


Ralph Rose competed in all four throwing events and earned three medals, winning the shot put with a throw measuring 14.81/48-7. He was second in the discus, third in the hammer throw and sixth in the 56-pound weight throw. John Flanagan took the hammer throw gold at 51.23/168-1 and placed second in the weight throw. Martin Sheridan won the discus in a throw-off with Rose, after both reached 39.28/128-10 during the regular competition. Sheridan won the throw-off with a toss of 38.97/127-10 to Rose’s 36.74/120-6. In the weight throw event, which wouldn’t return to the Olympics until 1920, Canadian Etienne Desmarteau took the gold by tossing the implement 10.46/34-3¾. Other silver medalists included Wesley Coe in the shot and John DeWitt in the hammer. Bronze medalists included Lawrence Feuerbach in the shot, Greece’s Nicolaos Georgandas in the discus and James Mitchell in the weight throw.

Multi Events

Seven athletes competed in the all-around competition, which was held in a single day. The events, in order, were the 100-yard run, shot put, high jump, 880-yard walk, hammer, pole vault, 120-yard hurdles, 56-pound weight throw, long jump and mile run. As with the modern decathlon, athletes received points based on their times or distances in each event. Great Britain’s Thomas Kiely – another Irishman – had the top performance in the race walk, hammer throw, hurdles and the weight throw to win the event with 6,036 points. Americans Adam Gunn and Truxton Hare took the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

The triathlon included three track and field events – the long jump, shot put and 100-yard dash – but was actually considered part of the gymnastics all-around competition, so all the competitors were gymnasts. The U.S. swept the medals, with Max Emmerich first, John Grieb second and William Merz third.

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