Jim Thorpe

(1887 - 1953)

A photo of Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe
1887 - 1953
Born
May 22, 1887
Oklahoma
Death
March 28, 1953
California United States
Other Names
James Francis Thorpe
Summary
Jim Thorpe was born on May 22, 1887 in Oklahoma. He died on March 28, 1953 in California at age 65.
Updated: May 29, 2020
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Jim Thorpe (FAMOUS AS JIM THORPE)
Olympic medal record
Men's athletics
Representing the United States United States
Gold medal – first place 1912 Stockholm Decathlon
Gold medal – first place 1912 Stockholm Pentathlon
Thorpe's final event was the decathlon, his first (and as it turned out, his only) decathlon. Strong competition from local favorite Hugo Wieslander was expected. Thorpe, however, easily defeated Wieslander by more than 700 points. He placed in the top four in all ten events, and his Olympic record of 8,413 points would stand for nearly two decades. Overall, Thorpe won eight of the 15 individual events comprising the pentathlon and decathlon.
American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, Thorpe became the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States.
Born: May 22 or 28, 1887
Near Prague, Oklahoma, Indian Territory
Died: March 28, 1953 (aged 65)
Lomita, California
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 202 lb (92 kg)
College: Carlisle
Career history
As player:
Canton Bulldogs (1915–1917, 1919–1920)
Cleveland Indians (1921)
Oorang Indians (1922–1923)
Rock Island Independents (1924)
New York Giants (1925)
Rock Island Independents (1925)
Tampa Cardinals (1926)
Canton Bulldogs (1926)
Chicago Cardinals (1928)
As coach:
Indiana (1915) (assistant head coach)[3]
Canton Bulldogs (1915–1920)
Cleveland Indians (1921)
Oorang Indians (1922–1923)
Tampa Cardinals (1926)
Career highlights and awards
First-team All-Pro (1923)
NFL 1920s All-Decade Team
2× Consensus All-American (1911, 1912)
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at NFL.com
Head coaching record
Career: 14–25–2
Pro Football Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame
James Francis Thorpe (Sac and Fox (Sauk): Wa-Tho-Huk, translated as "Bright Path";
May 22 or 28, 1887 – March 28, 1953) was an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, Thorpe became the first Native American to win a gold medal for his home country. Considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, he won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, and played American football (collegiate and professional), professional baseball, and basketball. He lost his Olympic titles after it was found he had been paid for playing two seasons of semi-professional baseball before competing in the Olympics, thus violating the amateurism rules that were then in place. In 1983, 30 years after his death, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) restored his Olympic medals.
Thorpe grew up in the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma, and attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he was a two-time All-American for the school's football team. After his Olympic success in 1912, which included a record score in the decathlon, he added a victory in the All-Around Championship of the Amateur Athletic Union. In 1913, Thorpe signed with the New York Giants, and he played six seasons in Major League Baseball between 1913 and 1919. Thorpe joined the Canton Bulldogs American football team in 1915, helping them win three professional championships; he later played for six teams in the National Football League (NFL). He played as part of several all-American Indian teams throughout his career, and barnstormed as a professional basketball player with a team composed entirely of American Indians.
From 1920 to 1921, Thorpe was nominally the first president of the American Professional Football Association (APFA), which became the NFL in 1922. He played professional sports until age 41, the end of his sports career coinciding with the start of the Great Depression. He struggled to earn a living after that, working several odd jobs. He suffered from alcoholism, and lived his last years in failing health and poverty. He was married three times and had eight children, before suffering from heart failure and dying in 1953.
Thorpe has received various accolades for his athletic accomplishments. The Associated Press named him the "greatest athlete" from the first 50 years of the 20th century, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted him as part of its inaugural class in 1963. A Pennsylvania town was named in his honor and a monument site there is the site of his remains, which were the subject of legal action. Thorpe was portrayed in the 1951 film Jim Thorpe – All-American by Burt Lancaster, and appeared in several films himself.
Early life
Information about Thorpe's birth, name and ethnic background varies widely. He was baptized "Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe" in the Catholic Church. Thorpe was born in Indian Territory of the United States (later Oklahoma), but no birth certificate has been found. He was generally considered to have been born on May 22, 1887, near the town of Prague, Oklahoma.
Thorpe himself said in a note to The Shawnee News-Star in 1943 that he was born May 28, 1888, "near and south of Bellemont – Pottawatomie County – along the banks of the North Fork River ... hope this will clear up the inquiries as to my birthplace."However, most biographers believe that he was born on May 22, 1887, as that is what is listed on his baptismal certificate. Bellemont was a small community, now disappeared, on the line between Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties.Thorpe referred to Shawnee as his birthplace in the 1943 note.
Thorpe's parents were both of mixed-race ancestry. His father, Hiram Thorpe, had an Irish father and a Sac and Fox Indian mother.His mother, Charlotte Vieux, had a French father and a Potawatomi mother, a descendant of Chief Louis Vieux. He was raised as a Sac and Fox,and his native name, Wa-Tho-Huk, translated as "path lit by great flash of lightning" or, more simply, "Bright Path." As was the custom for Sac and Fox, he was named for something occurring around the time of his birth, in this case the light brightening the path to the cabin where he was born. Thorpe's parents were both Roman Catholic, a faith which Thorpe observed throughout his adult life.
Thorpe attended the Sac and Fox Indian Agency school in Stroud, Oklahoma, with his twin brother, Charlie. Charlie helped him through school until he died of pneumonia when they were nine years old. He ran away from school several times. His father then sent him to the Haskell Institute, an Indian boarding school in Lawrence, Kansas, so that he would not run away again. When his mother died of childbirth complications two years later, he became depressed. After several arguments with his father, he left home to work on a horse ranch.
In 1904 the sixteen-year-old Thorpe returned to his father and decided to attend Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There his athletic ability was recognized and he was coached by Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner, one of the most influential coaches of early American football history. Later that year he became orphaned after Hiram Thorpe died from gangrene poisoning after being wounded in a hunting accident, and Jim again dropped out of school. He resumed farm work for a few years and then returned to Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
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Biography
Jim Thorpe
Most commonly known name
Jim Thorpe
Full name
James Francis Thorpe
Nickname(s) or aliases
Male
Gender
Jim Thorpe was born on in Oklahoma
Birth
Jim Thorpe died on in California United States
Death
Jim Thorpe was born on in Oklahoma
Jim Thorpe died on in California United States
Birth
Death
Heritage

Ethnicity & Lineage

Native American
Thorpe's parents were both of mixed-race ancestry. His father, Hiram Thorpe, had an Irish father and a Sac and Fox Indian mother.His mother, Charlotte Vieux, had a French father and a Potawatomi mother, a descendant of Chief Louis Vieux. He was raised as a Sac and Fox,and his native name, Wa-Tho-Huk, translated as "path lit by great flash of lightning" or, more simply, "Bright Path." As was the custom for Sac and Fox, he was named for something occurring around the time of his birth, in this case the light brightening the path to the cabin where he was born.

Nationality & Locations

Native American plus Scottish.
Childhood

Religion

Catholic
Thorpe's parents were both Roman Catholic, a faith which Thorpe observed throughout his adult life.
Adulthood

Professions

Olympic Career
Thorpe at the 1912 Summer Olympics
For the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, two new multi-event disciplines were included, the pentathlon and the decathlon. A pentathlon, based on the ancient Greek event, had been introduced at the 1906 Intercalated Games. The 1912 version consisted of the long jump, javelin throw, 200-meter dash, discus throw and 1500-meter run.
The decathlon was a relatively new event in modern athletics, although a similar competition known as the all-around championship had been part of American track meets since the 1880s and a version had been featured on the program of the 1904 St. Louis Olympics. The events of the new decathlon differed slightly from the American version. Both seemed appropriate for Thorpe, who was so versatile that he served as Carlisle's one-man team in several track meets. According to his obituary in The New York Times, he could run the 100-yard dash in 10 seconds flat; the 220 in 21.8 seconds; the 440 in 51.8 seconds; the 880 in 1:57, the mile in 4:35; the 120-yard high hurdles in 15 seconds; and the 220-yard low hurdles in 24 seconds. He could long jump 23 ft 6 in and high-jump 6 ft 5 in. He could pole vault 11 feet; put the shot 47 ft 9 in; throw the javelin 163 feet; and throw the discus 136 feet.
Jim Thorpe, ca. 1910
Thorpe entered the U.S. Olympic trials for both the pentathlon and the decathlon. He easily earned a place on the pentathlon team, winning three events. The decathlon trial was subsequently cancelled, and Thorpe was chosen to represent the U.S. in the event. The pentathlon and decathlon teams also included future International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage.
His schedule in the Olympics was busy. Along with the decathlon and pentathlon, he competed in the long jump and high jump. The first competition was the pentathlon. He won four of the five events and placed third in the javelin, an event he had not competed in before 1912. Although the pentathlon was primarily decided on place points, points were also earned for the marks achieved in the individual events. He won the gold medal. That same day, he qualified for the high jump final in which he placed fourth, and also took seventh place in the long jump. Even more remarkably, because someone had stolen his shoes just before he was due to compete, he found some discarded ones in a rubbish bin and won his medals wearing them.

Olympic medal record
Men's athletics
Representing the United States United States
Gold medal – first place 1912 Stockholm Decathlon
Gold medal – first place 1912 Stockholm Pentathlon
Thorpe's final event was the decathlon, his first (and as it turned out, his only) decathlon. Strong competition from local favorite Hugo Wieslander was expected. Thorpe, however, easily defeated Wieslander by more than 700 points. He placed in the top four in all ten events, and his Olympic record of 8,413 points would stand for nearly two decades. Overall, Thorpe won eight of the 15 individual events comprising the pentathlon and decathlon.

As was the custom of the day, the medals were presented to the athletes during the closing ceremonies of the games. Along with the two gold medals, Thorpe also received two challenge prizes, which were donated by King Gustav V of Sweden for the decathlon and Czar Nicholas II of Russia for the pentathlon. Several sources recount that, when awarding Thorpe his prize, King Gustav said, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world", to which Thorpe replied, "Thanks, King".Contemporary sources are lacking, however, suggesting that the story is apocryphal. The anecdote appeared in newspapers as early as 1948, 36 years after his appearance in the Olympics, and in books as early as 1952.

Thorpe's successes had not gone unnoticed at home, and on his return he was the star attraction in a ticker-tape parade on Broadway. He remembered later, "I heard people yelling my name, and I couldn't realize how one fellow could have so many friends."

Apart from his track and field appearances, he also played in one of two exhibition baseball games at the 1912 Olympics, which featured two teams composed mostly of U.S. track and field athletes. Thorpe had previous experience in the sport, as the public would soon learn.

Personal Life

Baseball, NY Giants
Obituary

Average Age

Life Expectancy

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Olympic medal record
Men's athletics
Representing the United States United States
Gold medal – first place 1912 Stockholm Decathlon
Gold medal – first place 1912 Stockholm Pentathlon
Thorpe's final event was the decathlon, his first (and as it turned out, his only) decathlon. Strong competition from local favorite Hugo Wieslander was expected. Thorpe, however, easily defeated Wieslander by more than 700 points. He placed in the top four in all ten events, and his Olympic record of 8,413 points would stand for nearly two decades. Overall, Thorpe won eight of the 15 individual events comprising the pentathlon and decathlon.
May 29, 2020 · Reply

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Jim Thorpe
Pentathlon and Decathlon Gold medalist in the 1912 Olympic games
Jim Thorpe, born Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe on May 28, 1888 in Prague Oklahoma, was an American athlete that many considered to be the most versatile athlete in modern times. His is a unique situation, because no birth certificate has ever been found for him. It is only known that Thorpe was born in Indian territory to parents of mixed descent. His father was Irish and his mother was Sac and Fox Indian. Thorpe, raised as a Sac and Fox Indian, was given the native name Wa-Tho-Huk, translated as “A path lighted by a great flash of lightning” or simply “Bright Path.” He struggled with racism most of his life.

Jim had a twin brother Charlie, who tragically died at the young age of nine from pneumonia. Two years later, his mother died of complications from childbirth after which Jim fell into a depression. After arguments with his father, he ran away from home to work on a horse ranch.

Thorpe’s athletic career began in 1907 at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. There he excelled in Football, track and field and ballroom dancing. He was awarded All-American honors in 1911 and 1912. Though track and field would be the sport that would gain Jim Thorpe the greatest fame, football was his favorite sport.

In Olympic competition, Thorpe won gold medals in both the pentathlon and the decathlon at the 1912 games in Stockholm, Sweden. Both were new multi-event disciplines on the program. Out of the five events in the pentathlon, Thorpe won four, placing third in the Javelin. The competition was primarily decided on place points and Thorpe’s Olympic record 8,413 points would stand for nearly two decades.

In the decathlon, Thorpe placed in the top four of all ten events and overall went on to win eight of the two competitions’ 15 individual events.

Controversy later surrounded Jim Thorpe’s records when the 1913 strict Olympic rules surrounding amateurism were challenged. If athletes had been paid or received money prizes, then they were not allowed to compete in the Olympics. Thorpe had played professional baseball, and a U.S. newspaper published the story in January 1913. Other college boys had done the same thing, but used alias’ and Thorpe did not. Consequently, the Amateur Athletic Union had decided to retroactively withdraw Jim Thorpe’s name and convinced the IOC to do the same. Later that same year, the IOC stripped Jim Thorpe of his title and medals and declared him a professional.

In light of his new status, Thorpe moved on to play professional baseball with the New York Giants. In his career he scored 91 runs, had 82 runs batted in, and a .252 batting average over 289 games.

Thorpe also came back to his love, football. In 1915 he signed with the Canton Bulldogs, helping them secure national championship titles in 1916, 1917, and 1919. The Bulldogs shortly thereafter, were among the first 14 teams to form the American Professional Football Association, which would later (two years) become the NFL. He retired from pro football at the age of 41, never getting to play for a NFL championship team. He did, however, play 52 NFL games for six different teams spanning from 1920 to 1928.

In addition, Thorpe also played professional basketball for two seasons.

Married three times, Thorpe had four children with his first wife and four more children with his second wife. Jim Thorpe became a chronic alcoholic in his later years. He struggled to keep a job, had no money left and by 1950 had to be admitted to the hospital for cancer as a charity case.

Thorpe died on March 28 in 1953 of complications from his third heart attack.

Thorpe received wide acclaim from the press. In 1950 an Associated Press poll of nearly 400 sports writers voted Thorpe the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century. In 1999 the Associated Press placed him third on their list of athletes of the century and ESPN ranked him seventh on their list of North American athletes of the century. In May of 1999, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution designating Jim Thorpe as “America’s athlete of the century.” Further, in 1950 Thorpe was named the greatest American football player” of the first half of the century by the Associated Press . Finally, Jim Thorpe was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Jim's lifetime.

In 1887, in the year that Jim Thorpe was born, on May 9th, Buffalo Bill's Wild West show opened in London. Founded in 1883, the show was attended - twice - by Queen Victoria and adored by audiences who thrilled to his fanciful acts portraying life in the "Wild West."

In 1893, he was merely 6 years old when on May 5th, a crash on the New York Stock Exchange started a depression that lasted 4 years. It was the beginning of the Panic of 1893.

In 1925, Jim was 38 years old when in July, the Scopes Trial - often called the Scopes Monkey Trial - took place, prosecuting a substitute teacher for teaching evolution in school. Tennessee had enacted a law that said it was "unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school". William Jennings Bryan headed the prosecution and Clarence Darrow headed the defense. The teacher was found guilty and fined $100. An appeal to the Supreme Court of Tennessee upheld the law but overturned the guilty verdict.

In 1939, when he was 52 years old, on the 1st of September, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. On September 17th, the Soviet Union invaded Poland as well. Poland expected help from France and the United Kingdom, since they had a pact with both. But no help came. By October 6th, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany held full control of the previously Polish lands. Eventually, the invasion of Poland lead to World War II.

In 1953, in the year of Jim Thorpe's passing, on January 20th, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the 34th President of the United States. Formerly the 1st Supreme Allied Commander Europe in World War II, Eisenhower had never previously held a political office.

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