Olympic Encounters in 1908

Past display archive
29 May 2012 - 15 January 2013

Room 25: case display


Looking back to the first London Olympic Games held in 1908, this small display focuses on a visit made to the House of Commons by athletes from the American Olympic team following their participation in the event. Taken by the politician and photographer, Sir Benjamin Stone, the group photographs of the smartly dressed athletes include John Baxter Taylor Jr, the first African American to win an Olympic Gold Medal, and Lewis Tewanima, a talented long distance runner and member of the Hopi people from Arizona.

Comprised of three works, chosen out of a set of ten, the display highlights the political dimension of the Games. Many of the athletes featured in the photographs belonged to the Irish American Athletic Club based in New York, and their support of Irish Nationalism had caused some tension during the Games. Stone’s images, such as the one of John J. Hayes, the Irish American marathon winner, seen in a group with John Cullinan, the Irish Nationalist MP for South Tipperary, provide further confirmation of the visiting athletes’ political affiliations.

© National Portrait Gallery, London