The first two Olympics in the modern era had taken place in Europe, Greece (1896), and Paris (1900). Lacrosse had not been featured in either of those Olympics.
The 1904 Olympics were awarded to the United States, the first Olympic Games on the American Continent. The city who won the Games? Chicago. Hold that thought because you’re right they weren’t held in Chicago.
To understand why, we need to step back to the Louisiana Purchase which was in made in 1803. Why is this important? Because, in 1903 a 100 year anniversary was ready to be celebrated. So what does a 1903 celebration have to do with the Olympics in 1904? Well just as plans sometimes go, St. Louis who was hosting the 100 year Louisiana Purchase anniversary was very far behind and pushed the celebration to 1904.
St. Louis decided the Olympics might overshadow their event so they decided to include an athletic competition of their own. They contacted the Olympic Committee and threatened that their games would over shadow theirs, and demanded they move the games to St. Louis. The Olympic Committee relented and pulled the games from Chicago and gave them to St. Louis.
So now with the Olympics coming to the United States we come to how lacrosse games were played in St. Louis. One of the benefits of hosting the Olympics is that the host country can introduce sports to the world by adding those games to the Olympics. In 1904 lacrosse was being played all over the United States, including Eastern and Midwest lacrosse leagues. Teams existed in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California,
So it was the United States that introduced Lacrosse to the Olympics.
Only three teams participate in this first year of lacrosse in the Olympics.
St. Louis Athletic Association Lacrosse Club
1904 Olympic Lacrosse Rosters
Winnipeg Shamrock Lacrosse Team (Gold Medal)
St. Louis Amateur Athletic Association Lacrosse Team (Silver Medal)
J. W. Dowling
W. R. Gibson
W. A. Murphy William Partridge
William T. Passmore
W. J. Ross
A. M. Woods
Mohawk Indians Lacrosse Team (Bronze Medal)
Lightfoot Man Afraid Soap
Rain in Face
Other sports in the 1904 Olympic Games included:
Official Olympic Sports in 1904
Aquatics (Diving, Swimming)
Roque (a form of Croquet)
Track and Field events
Tug of war
Exhibition Sports in 1904
So how did St. Louis come to represent the United States when powerhouse teams like the Brooklyn Crescents, St. Paul Saints, and Chicago Calumets were available? Or why did the Shamrocks of Winnipeg represent Canada, when the Shamrocks of Montreal were a much stronger team that year?
That’s another blog to come – 1904 Olympic Lacrosse teams – What went wrong?
Source material – Minnesota Lacrosse: A History