1904 Summer Olympics


Competition type Olympic Games
Number and Year III / 1904
Host city St. Louis, United States (Venues)
Opening ceremony 14 May
Closing ceremony
Competition dates 1 July – 26 November
OCOG Olympic Games Committee (1904)
Participants 650 from 10 countries
Medal events 95 in 18 disciplines
Other events 363 in 14 disciplines


After the debacle of 1900, Coubertin was hoping for better from the United States in 1904, but he did not see his hopes realized. The Games were originally awarded to Chicago. However, St. Louis was to host a major world’s fair in 1903, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, but the St. Louis organizers were behind schedule in their planning so they moved the exposition back to 1904, and the St. Louis organizers wanted the Olympic Games to be part of the fair. They threatened to hold competing Olympics if Chicago did not allow them to have the Games. Chicago eventually acquiesced.

The Games were very similar to 1900 – they lasted almost five months, many of the events were not labeled as Olympic but only as championships of the fair, it is difficult to know which sports and events were definitely on the Olympic program, a number of unusual sports and events saw their way to the program, and the Games were mostly an afterthought to the Fair. James Sullivan, whose official title was “Chief of the Department of Physical Culture Section of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition” and was thus the Director of the Olympic Games, termed almost every event that occurred in conjunction with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition as an Olympic event, adding to the confusion for future Olympic researchers.

Coubertin did not even attend the Olympics in 1904, sending two IOC delegates from Hungary and Germany in his place. He was appalled when he heard of the happenings in St. Louis, but never more so than when he heard about “Anthropological Days”. The Fair organizers contested several days of “Olympic” competitions among several so-called primitive tribes who were being exhibited at the Exposition. Among these were Pygmies, Patagonians, Filipinos, Native American Indian Tribes, Japanese Ainus, and certain Asian tribes. Events including throwing bolos, mud fighting, and climbing a greased pole. Coubertin was informed of these events by Hungarian IOC Member Ferenc Kemény, who wrote, “I was not only present at a sporting contest but also at a fair where there were sports, where there was cheating, where monsters were exhibited for a joke.” Coubertin presciently noted, “As for that outrageous charade, it will of course lose its appeal when black men, red men, and yellow men learn to run, jump and throw, and leave the white men behind them.”

As in 1900, only the athletics (track & field) received any great publicity as being an Olympic sport. These events were virtually an American club championship, and, in fact, Albert Spalding donated a trophy for the American club scoring the most points in the event. The trophy’s winner was hotly contested between the Chicago Athletic Association and the New York Athletic Club, and the New York AC’s victory was disputed by the Chicago club when they claimed a “ringer” had been used in the tug-of-war event. Though surpassed by athletes in other sports, the American foursome of Archie Hahn, Harry Hillman, Jim Lightbody, and Ray Ewry won three gold medals each in track and field and received the bulk of the media attention.

In other sports, American dominance was almost as complete, owing to the fact that only a few other countries attended the Games, and very few foreign athletes competed. It should be noted that in those years, athletes often competed virtually as individuals, with no real national teams. Thus, the case of Félix Carvajal of Cuba, who travelled to St. Louis using money raised in staging various exhibitions in Havana. He stopped in New Orleans and lost his money in a crap game, so he hitchhiked to St. Louis to run in the marathon. He showed up on the starting line wearing heavy shoes, long trousers, and a long-sleeved shirt, and eventually finished fourth. Two black Zulu tribesmen who were part of the Boer War exhibition at the fair, Len Taunyane and Jan Mashiani, also competed in the marathon. Ironically, they are considered to be the first Olympic competitors from South Africa. One other notable achievement in 1904 was Oliver Kirk, who won two gold medals in boxing, in two different weight classes, an Olympic record that will surely never be equalled.

The great hoax of the athletic events at the 1904 Olympics occurred in the marathon race. The winner was English-born American Tom Hicks, but the first runner to come into the stadium was Fred Lorz, also of the United States. He had his picture taken with Alice Roosevelt, daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, before it was revealed that he stopped running and taken a car ride to just outside the stadium. The AAU disqualified him “for life” although that ruling was rescinded in time for Lorz to win the 1905 Boston Marathon.

Coubertin vowed after 1904 that he would never again hold the Olympics as a sideshow to a fair.

Bid process

The host city for the 1904 Olympic Games was selected at the IOC Session in Paris on 22 May 1901. The original selection was Chicago, Illinois, the only serious bid. Three other American cities, Buffalo, New York, New York City and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had also been considered.

But, eventually, Chicago stepped aside to allow St. Louis, Missouri to host the 1904 Olympic Games. This was confirmed by a postal vote of the IOC who responded in December 1902. The vote was 14 – 2 in favor of St. Louis.


Officially opened by David FrancisUSAPresident, Louisiana Purchase International Exposition

Medal Disciplines

Archery Fencing Swimming
Artistic Gymnastics Football Tennis
Athletics Golf Tug-Of-War
Boxing Lacrosse Water Polo
Cycling Track Roque Weightlifting
Diving Rowing Wrestling

Other Disciplines

American Football Cycling Track Rowing
Archery Fencing Swimming
Artistic Gymnastics Gaelic Football Tennis
Athletics Golf Tug-Of-War
Basketball Hurling

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States USA 80 85 83 248
Germany GER 5 4 5 14
Canada CAN 4 1 1 6
Cuba CUB 3 0 0 3
Hungary HUN 2 1 1 4
Great Britain GBR 1 1 0 2
Greece GRE 1 0 1 2
Mixed team MIX 1 0 0 1

Mixed team medals

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Cuba CUB 1 0 0 1
United States USA 1 0 0 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Anton Heida USA 5 1 0 6
Marcus Hurley USA 4 0 1 5
George Eyser USA 3 2 1 6
Charlie Daniels USA 3 1 1 5
Jim Lightbody USA 3 1 0 4
Lida Howell USA 3 0 0 3
Ramón Fonst CUB 3 0 0 3
Ray Ewry USA 3 0 0 3
Archie Hahn USA 3 0 0 3
Harry Hillman USA 3 0 0 3

All medalists at these Games