Tuesday, August 07, 2012


Olympic History-1910 Mecca Cards

    Recently came across a wonderful set of sports cards dedicated to a variety of athletes. There are several prize fighters included in the group as well as track and field athletes.

Many of the competitors pictured in the set participated in the Olympic Games for the United States. The set is entitled “Champion Athlete and Prize Fighter”, and it was produced by the Mecca Company in 1910 and 1911. Each card in the set opens a fantastic book of sport history.

Card # 32 in the set is John Flanagan. On the back of his card, he is described as “one of the world’s greatest hammer throwers”. Truly an understatement. He won the gold medal in three consecutive Olympic Games: Paris, 1900, St. Louis, 1904, and London in 1908. He also won a silver medal in the “weight throw” in 1904.

Flanagan was born in Kilbreedy, County Limerick, Ireland on January 9, 1873. He emigrated to the United States in 1896. He was already the world record holder for the hammer throw at that time. He competed for the New York Athletic Club as well as the Irish American Athletic Club. He joined the New York City Police Department in 1903. He was assigned to the Bureau of Licences which gave him plenty of time off to train.

In 1905, he participated in the Police Association Games in Queens, New York. He won four of the weight throwing events, then entered the 100 yard dash, winning it as well! At the London Games in 1908, he broke his own world record in the hammer throw, and also competed in the Tug-Of-War, at that time an official Olympic Event!

He returned to Ireland for his father’s funeral in 1924, and remained there until his death in 1938.

Dan Ahearn is pictured on Card # 38. Also an Irishman by birth, he emigrated to the United States in 1909. He held the world record for the Triple Jump from 1909 until 1924. He was also a member of the “Winged Fist Club” representing Irish Americans. His brother Tim won the Triple Jump Gold Medal in London in 1908. He also became a policeman, but in Chicago. He died in 1954.

Platt Adams, on Card # 25, won the bronze medal in 1908 in the Standing High Jump. You read that correctly! You stood there, and jumped! In 1909, he won several events at the National  A. A. U. games; broad jump championship, the standing broad jump, and the running hop, step, and jump.

Martin Sheridan, also another Irish-American, was a phenomenal athlete. In his obituary in the New York Times, he was called “one of the greatest athletes the country has ever known”. He won five gold medals in Olympic competition, three silver and a bronze. Unfortunately, he was a very early casualty in the flu pandemic of 1918, the day before his 37th birthday.

There are fifty cards in the set, each telling its own tale. An entire life captured in the picture on the front of the card, and a few paragraphs on the back. A bit of early Olympic history.

James Hurst


August 7, 2012.

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