c. 1908 Jim Thorpe Postcard pair

Before beginning today’s blog entry, a quick update on the “Name That Player” contest: Keep the guesses coming (but please, try and include photographic proof).  We’ve gotten a lot of suggestions, but thus far just one or two that we think might be possibilities.  And perhaps one guess of our own, that hasn’t been suggested yet.

Now, on to the next featured piece.

Thrope RPPC FrontIn 1907, a young Jim Thorpe tried out for the football team at the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, PA.  Thorpe had enrolled at the school in 1904 but was too small to play on the varsity team.  In 1907, Thorpe tried out for the team whose coach, Glenn “Pop” Warner, was impressed with Thorpe’s running ability and the rest was history, as Thorpe graduated and became an Olympic athlete and professional multi-sport superstar.  

Already a star athlete at the school, these two photographs were taken of the young Thorpe and some of his friends at the Carlisle Indian School in 1908.  One of them, Joe Charley (eventually Chief Joe Charley of the Yakama Indian tribe), mailed these two postcards to his sisters Fannie and Bessie, each former students of the Carlisle Indian School, on June 4, 1908.  

The photos depict four well-dressed young men, posing smartly for the camera (it is our belief based on future photos of Joe Charley available online in full Native American regalia, that Charley is the smallest of thre four men, with the dark necktie).  The unmistakeable Thorpe wears a pinstripe suit and straw hat.  Most interesting about the photos is that, under magnification, Thorpe has some sort of medal pinned to his tie, and a ribbon of some sort on his jacket pocket.  Could these be some early athletic awards?  Perhaps.  In the spring of 1908 Thorpe won a gold medal in the Penn Relays for a 6’1″ high jump, and won several other track and field awards during that spring.

The images in both postcards are sharp with beautiful contrast, with some edge and corner wear to both.  One of the two postcards exhibits some surface indentation along the edges consistent with once having been framed, and obviously, both have been postally used.  Additionally, both have remnants on the reverse of having once been mounted in some sort of album.  Still, these are two spectacular images of a young Jim Thorpe, likely both unique, at the very start of what would become a legendary athetic career.

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