Distilled History

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Archive for the ‘1904 Olympics’ Category

August 23rd, 2016 by Cameron Collins

Closing Out the 2016 (& 1904) Olympics

Dad & I at the 1980 Winter OlympicsWell, the Rio games are finally over.

And I can say that it went well. Meaning, my absurd Olympic appetite was fully sated in the last two weeks.  I watched hours upon hours of every badminton match, fencing duel, and steeplechase that I could.

During my sixteen-day obsession, I took the opportunity to post daily Olympic history tidbits over on the Distilled History Facebook page.  Many who follow Distilled History on social media may have seen a few of them, but I’m not so sure. I still can’t figure out how Facebook handles “pages”. Unlike personal pages, Facebook seems to think Distilled History is a business (despite being classified as a “personal blog”) and keeps insisting that I pay to “boost” my posts to more readers. It’s a bit frustrating because I’m really not trying to make money off the page (or the blog). I just want to use it as a place to post fun St. Louis history finds and additional content that was edited out of larger blog posts.

Anyway, since I didn’t “boost” any of my Olympic history facts, I think Facebook made sure fewer people saw them. So, I decided to combine them all into a single post here. So, this isn’t a “new” post, but I have four or five in the works that should be coming along soon.

Finally, a few of these facts are related to my post about Olympian George Eyser that was published when the Rio games got underway. Click here to get caught up on that great story.

Glen Echo Country Club

112 Years Later, Golf is Back

In the Rio games, the first Olympic gold medal in golf was awarded (to Justin Rose of Great Britain) since Canadian George Lyon won the event at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. A Canadian who didn’t pick up a club until the age of 38, Lyon amused spectators during his final round in 1904 by cracking jokes and doing hand stands while waiting for his turn to hit. The event was contested at the Glen Echo Country Club, a course that still exists in the suburb of Normandy, just west of St. Louis. Glen Echo was not only the first 18-hole golf course in St. Louis, but the first 18-hole course west of the Mississippi River. But wait, there’s more. The 1904 American golf team also included a man named Albert Lambert. Lambert’s father was Jordan Lambert, the founder of a pharmaceutical company that is known for creating Listerine. Lambert was also an aviation nut, and not only was he one of the primary financial backers of Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic, he is the “Lambert” in our “Lambert-St. Louis International Airport”.

They Ran on a Trapezoid

Like many events at the 1904 Olympics such as cycling, lacrosse, roque, archery, and weightlifting, George Eyser’s gymnastics events were held in the infield of the Olympic Stadium (now known as Washington University’s Francis Field). Built in 1902, the stadium could hold 19,000 spectators and featured a track that looks much different from what we saw in Rio. Unlike the 400 meter track (1/4 mile) that is standard in track & field today, the 1904 games featured a 536.44 meter track (1/3 mile). The track featured one very long straightaway, four turns, and three shorter straights. In 1984, the facility underwent a major renovation which included a new 400m synthetic track and the spectator capacity was reduced to 4,000. In the attached photograph, the octagonal “Women’s Magazine Building” (now University City’s City Hall) can be seen in the background.

The 1904 Olympic Stadium
Oliver KirkBantams and Feathers

Along with events such as freestyle wrestling and the decathlon, the sport of boxing made its Olympic debut at the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis. Held in the Physical Culture Gymnasium (next to the Olympic Stadium) on September 21st and 22nd 1904, the boxing competition had only seventeen boxers compete in seven weight classes. And since the event lacked world-class competition (only Americans participated), the boxing competition is not regarded as one of the highlights of the games. However, it did produce a bit of good Olympic history. Oliver Kirk, a fighter from the Business Men’s Club in St. Louis, won the gold medal in the men’s bantamweight division. But when only two boxers entered the featherweight class, Kirk fought the winner and was awarded a second gold medal. To this day, Kirk is the only man in Olympic history to win two gold medals in two separate weight divisions at the same Olympics.

Anton Heida

Austrian or American? Both.

Anton Heida, George Eyser’s primary gymnastics foe at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, has a good story to tell himself. Heida had one of the greatest Olympics of all time in 1904 when he won five gold medals and one silver medal in a single day. Heida is also the only athlete to have competed in the Summer Olympics for two different countries in the same games. An Austrian by birth, Heida competed as an Austrian during the first gymnastics competition held in July 1904. But in October 1904, Heida became a citizen of the United States. When Heida won six medals during the second gymnastics competition held on October 29, he competed an as American.

That’s a Pretty Painting! Here’s a Medal.1928 Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam

Many people aren’t aware that the Olympics used to contain art competitions. From 1912 to 1948, medals were awarded for works of art, including architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture. These five subjects were even broken into sub-categories, with awards for subjects like “lyric literature”, “graphic arts”, and “municipal planning”. Remarkably, the reason why the art contests were removed from the Olympic program is not because they weren’t sports (although all art entries were required to be “inspired by sport”), but because the artists were considered professionals and not amateurs. At the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, it can even be said that the stadium itself was a gold medalist. The stadium’s design was the gold medal winner for architect Jan Wils.

The Irish Whale

I was a discus thrower in high school, so as the track and field events got going in Rio, I decided to take a look at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics discus results. The winner was an Irishman named Martin Sheridan from New York. Part of a group of athletes known as the “Irish Whales”, Sheridan also won three medals in the 1908 London Olympics (one being the successful defense of his 1904 discus title). When he wasn’t throwing things for sport, he worked as a New York City policeman. I also found discus isn’t the only thing I have in common with Sheridan. When Sheridan died in the 1918 (in the notorious flu epidemic), he was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, the same cemetery my great-great grandfather is buried in. The photo below shows Sheridan competing in the 1908 games (and note the awesome garters he’s sporting).

Martin Sheridan

Dick Roth at the 1964 Tokyo OlympicsDick Roth’s Appendix

It wasn’t just the St. Louis Olympics that had me saying “no way”. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, American swimmer Dick Roth was stricken with an acute case of appendicitis just days before the swimming events started. Japanese doctors insisted on an immediate operation, but Roth adamantly refused. He also refused medication, so it was decided to simply pack him in ice and hope for the best. When he swam the 400 meter individual medley three days later, he not only won gold, he broke the world record. Interestingly, his post-swimming career has been just as interesting. In 1999, he wrote a book titled “No. It’s Not Hot in Here: A Husband’s Guide to Understanding Menopause”.

Olympic Shoes

They Didn’t Come in Gold Back Then

When I was a fledgling freshman shot putter and discus thrower in high school, I actually dropped something like $100 on a pair of shoes designed specifically throwing shot puts and discuses. Such shoes have no tread whatsoever, making it easier for hurlers to spin and slide inside throwing circles. But I also remember hiding them from my coach, because I knew he would scoff at my insistence that I’d throw farther as a result of wearing them. Well, I can say that I scored a grand total of TWO points that year, and I’ll go to my grave believing those shoes are the reason it wasn’t zero. Anyway, while flipping through old records of the 1904 Olympics, I found an A.G. Spalding advertisement for track and field gear. Back then, a pair of running shoes would cost the 1904 version of Usain Bolt a whopping five bucks.  Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $130 in 2016.

Matilda Scott Howell

It Runs (Or Maybe Shoots?) in the Family

In the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, the only official event in which women competed was archery. And the archery competition was dominated by one woman in particular: Matilda Scott Howell. Born in Warren, Ohio and representing the Cincinnati archers, Howell swept the field, winning gold in both individual events and the team event. Interestingly, her father also competed as an archer in the 1904 games. His name was Thomas Foster Scott, and he was 71 years old when he finished in 17th and 13th place in his two events. He may not have won a medal, but to this day, Thomas Scott still holds the record for being the oldest competitor at an Olympic games.

Dwight Davis Tennis, Anyone?

In the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, the tennis competition was held from August 29 to September 5, 1904. The event was dominated by the Americans, which makes sense since only one of the competitors (a German) wasn’t American. And although he didn’t win a medal, the American team featured a historic figure of note. Dwight F. Davis, a prominent citizen from St. Louis finished 10th in the singles event and 5th in the doubles. Today, Dwight Davis is known for his political career (he was Coolidge’s Secretary of War), and the international tennis event he helped create as a member of the Harvard Tennis Team in 1900. The tournament was originally known as the “International Lawn Tennis Challenge”. Today, the tournament is known for the trophy Dwight Davis commissioned (and paid for himself) that was awarded to the winner: The Davis Cup.

The Sport of Roque

Don’t Call it Croquet

The Olympics have always featured sports that many Americans aren’t familiar with, and the 1904 Olympics were no exception. The only time the sport of roque was contested during the Olympics was at the 1904 St. Louis games. A variant of croquet, roque is unique in that it is played on a hard surface (such as clay or packed sand) and the court is surrounded by a short wall. The fast surface allows players to apply spin to a ball and the wall can be used to bank balls (like in billiards). Croquet and roque also feature similar playing implements including mallets and stakes, but in roque “wickets” are known as “arches”. At the St. Louis games, the roque competition was held on the infield of the Olympic Stadium from August 3 until August 8, 1904. The event was won by the “Father of American Roque”, a 64 year-old from Springfield, Massachusetts named Charles Jacobus.

Abandoned Venues? Not in St. Louis!The abandoned canoeing & kayaking venue in Athens

A big knock on the Olympics these days is that host cities are forced to spend millions building event venues that are quickly abandoned once the games are over. What happens in Rio remains to be seen, but recent hosts such as Athens, Beijing, and even Sochi are now faced with high maintenance costs for facilities that are no longer needed (for example, a baseball stadium in Greece) Well, at least St. Louis got that part of their Olympics right. Not only does the Olympic Stadium still stand, it is now home for Washington University athletics. Same with the gymnasium (also at Washington University) that held the 1904 boxing and fencing events. The 1904 golf course is still here (Glen Echo Country Club), and Creve Coeur Lake, which hosted the rowing events in 1904, is still where someone can watch a regatta. The only venue that no longer exists today is the “U.S. Life Saving Exhibition Lake”, where the swimming and diving events were held. More information about this man-mad lake (created specifically for the 1904 World’s Fair), can be found in this post I wrote back in 2012.

Water Polo at the 1904 Olympics

Some Were Olympic, Some Weren’t

To this day, Olympic historians bicker about what was an Olympic sport in 1904 and what wasn’t. Organizers filled the entire summer of 1904 with all sorts of athletic contests, including handicap events (assigning advantages through scoring), high school and college competitions, and various amateur organization championships. Today, the International Olympic Committee officially recognizes only seventeen of the sports contested, including athletics, gymnastics, golf, tennis, and others. Even tug of war, a sport contested at every Olympics from 1896 to 1920, is included in that list. However, many other sports contested that summer, including baseball, basketball, water polo, lacrosse, and even hurling, are not considered “Olympic” for one reason or another.

Other Distilled History posts about the 1904 St. Louis Olympics:
Weightlifter Fred Winters at the 1904 Olympics
August 12th, 2016 by Cameron Collins

George Eyser’s Big Day at the 1904 Olympics

Clicky Thing

Here’s what I typed into Google a few days ago:

“What is that clicky thing on an Olympic bow?”

While enthralled with NBC’s archery coverage of the Rio Olympics over the past week, I kept noticing this little piece of metal (or maybe it’s plastic) on an archer’s bow flip down and “click” (it makes an audible “click”) just before an arrow was released. And I was sure Google would give me some fancy techno-archery term to describe something only what an Olympic archer would know.

Well, it turns out it’s just a clicker. Seriously. They call it a “clicker”.

Anyway, the purpose of a clicker is to let the archer know that the arrow has been drawn back enough to effectively fire it. It’s usually made of strong wire or carbon, and the audible “click” is the signal to fire away. And once again, I’m enlightened.

A Turnverein Team at the 1904 Olympics

Actually, this little nugget of information helps explain why I am so happy the Rio Olympics are finally here. The Olympics are filled with great history, and each time I watch the games, I find myself wanting to know more. So my Olympic experience is not just watching the games. I use the time as an opportunity to flip through reference books, click-through Wikipedia, and ask Google for the stories behind the sports that are played, where they have been played, and most importantly, the people who have played them. As I figure out what a “clicker” is, I’m also learning that the South Koreans are the best archers in the world (at least in the Olympics), that humans have been shooting arrows at things for over 70,000 years, and that the only sport women could participate in at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics was in fact, archery.

And speaking of St. Louis, all of this reminds me how great it is that the city I now call home once hosted the Summer Olympics.

The Horizontal Bar Competition at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics

The St. Louis games suffer a poor reputation in most Olympic histories, but it’s still fun to know we had one. Only twenty-two cities in the world have hosted the summer games, and it’s a feather in our cap to say we are one of them. Even better, we flat-out stole the Olympics from our midwest rival Chicago, the city the games were originally awarded to. That’s a story (and a good one) for another day, but I first have to tell the story of George Eyser, a story I’ve been saving since I last wrote about the Olympics in 2012.

George Louis Eyser was born on August 31, 1870 in Kiel, Germany. His family emigrated to the United States when he was fourteen, first settling in Colorado and then in St. Louis. He became an American citizen in 1894, was a bookkeeper by trade, but other than two remarkable facts, little else is known about George Eyser’s story. The first fact is that at some point in his youth, George Eyser was run over by a train and lost his left leg. The second is that despite this tragedy, George Eyser became an Olympic champion, winning six gymnastics medals (three gold, two silver, and one bronze) in a single day at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics.

The Concordia Turnverein Gymnastics Team in 1908

Before I get to the details of Eyser’s special day, let me set the table a little bit. A key reason why many Olympic historians believe the St. Louis games came up short is that many of the world’s best athletes didn’t bother to show up and compete. Many even use George Eyser to help make this point. If a man with a wooden leg could win gold, the guy who won silver must have been a pushover. It’s an argument that does have some merit. Getting to the middle of North America in 1904 wasn’t an easy task, and the 1904 Olympic organizers decided to stretch the Olympic events out over four months to coincide with the 1904 World’s Fair. To complicate things, organizers also broke the gymnastics competition into two separate events. One competition was held in early July of 1904, and the other in late October. As a result, many of the best European athletes decided not to make the trip. And although Germany sent a team of athletes to compete in the July competition, they didn’t stick around to compete in October.

But I believe George Eyser’s accomplishment shouldn’t be diminished. The level of competition he faced certainly wasn’t as skilled as it is today, but the sport of gymnastics was in its infancy in 1904. Despite this, Eyser undoubtedly faced athletes skilled in gymnastics. One example is Anton Heida, a 25-year old Austrian from Philadelphia who won six gymnastics medals of his own, including five golds. Heida was also the 1902 national champion in the long horse vault, and was a respected gymnastics athlete. In fact, the only event in which Heida did not win gold was the parallel bars competition. And it was George Eyser who beat him.

Concordia Turnverein

In what must have been a fascinating event to watch, Eyser and Heida also tied in the long horse vault (known simply as the “vault” in today’s Olympics), and each man was awarded a gold medal. Eyser’s performance is remarkable because unlike events that didn’t require the use of leg power, such as rope climbing or the horizontal bar, the vault competition certainly did. And the 1904 event didn’t include a springboard like it does today. George Eyser was required to launch himself over the apparatus and safely land not just once, but three times. His impressive final score matched that of a national champion who had both legs intact.

Turner Meet Headline

Another reason I’m inclined to believe George Eyser was exceptional is because of how popular gymnastics was among German Americans at the time. This was due to an actual gymnastic movement, or Turnverein, founded by man named Friedrich Ludwig Jahn at a time when Germany was occupied by Napoleon’s forces in the early 19th Century. Established for the purpose of cultivating health and vigor through gymnastics, the Turnverein movement came to America when German immigration was at its peak in the mid-1900’s. As a result, hundreds of Turnverein (also known as “Turner”) societies were founded all over the country. In large cities like St. Louis, Turner halls became the athletic, social, and political centers for thousands of German immigrants settling into a new life in America. More than a dozen Turner halls were founded in St. Louis, and each one contained a gymnasium filled with German athletes learning gymnastics, practicing gymnastics, and making gymnastics a part of their daily lives. It was also common for Turner clubs to participate against each other in organized gymnastic competitions and athletic meets, with members representing their club first and country second. And this is how George Eyser became an Olympian. Along with the South St. Louis Turnverein, St. Louis was represented by the Concordia Turners at the 1904 games against clubs from cities like New York, Chicago, Cleveland, and many others. In fact, no fewer than thirteen Turnvereins participated in the 1904 Olympics, and one must assume that George Eyser was just one of many with sufficient gymnastic ability to win gold.

Concordia Turnverein First Active Class

The popularity of gymnastics among German Americans could be one reason why the 1904 Olympic organizers decided to hold two separate gymnastic competitions. The events contested in July were restricted to Turners only, and were even referred to as the “Turner Games”. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in the days before the competition that “It will without doubt be the greatest competition ever held by Turner societies”. The Post-Dispatch also reported that the German Turnverein en route from Berlin was favored to win, but it wasn’t to be. When the German team arrived in St. Louis, it was discovered that the German athletes didn’t all belong to the same Turnverein. And since that is how the American athletes were organized, the Germans were barred from the team competitions.

Turners racing in the 100 yard dash

George Eyser didn’t find Olympic glory in the July competition. His Concordia team finished fourth in the team event (Anton Heida’s Philadelphia club won gold), and the all-around competition included track and field events that didn’t suit George Eyser’s unique disability. Not surprisingly, Eyser finished 118th (dead last) in the 100 yard dash, 118th in the long jump, and 76th in the shot put. However, despite a wooden leg, Eyser’s time of 15.4 seconds in the 100 meter dash is certainly impressive. The winner of the event, Max Emmerich of Indianapolis, won with a time of 10.6 seconds, just five seconds faster than Eyser.

Eyser & Heida's Medal Fight

On October 29, 1904, when the second set of gymnastic events began, George Eyser’s prospects for success were far better. The October events were apparatus-only, allowing Eyser to capitalize on his upper-body strength and technical gymnastic ability. As a result, he won gold in the parallel bars, rope climbing, and as mentioned earlier, tied for gold with Anton Heida in the long horse vault event. To round out his impressive day, Eyser won silver medals in the all-around and side horse, and won a bronze on the horizontal bar. Regardless of how the St. Louis Olympics are viewed today, George Eyser’s accomplishment of six medals in a single day is an impressive one. He faced quality competition in a sport that was widely contested at the time. And it wasn’t until 2008, when Natalie du Toit swam for South Africa at the Beijing Olympics, did another Olympic athlete compete with an artificial leg.

As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t able to find much else about the rest of George Eyser’s life. But it certainly seems that his competitive fire continued to burn. Along with continuing his gymnastics career with the Concordia Turners, I found George Eyser in a newspaper article published six months after the St. Louis Olympics ended. It seems there is more to the story between Anton Heida and George Eyser’s Olympic competition. The article states that the 1904 parallel bars gold medal was originally awarded to Anton Heida as the result of a scoring error. But when the scoring error was identified and Eyser proclaimed the winner, Heida refused to relinquish the gold medal. And as the article suggests, the matter was likely headed to court. Unfortunately, I can find no record of the resolution.

But I have another week of Olympics, so I have plenty of time to keep digging.

The Drink


With all the Turners jumping, swinging, and flipping in this post, I suppose I should be celebrating the Olympics by drinking something at least a bit German. But with the games set in Rio De Janeiro, I simply couldn’t resist toasting George Eyser with anything but Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha.

Prior to the opening ceremonies of the Rio games, the caipirinha is actually a drink that I have never tried. I’ve been told often that is delicious, but for one reason or another, I’ve never ordered it. But as the Rio Olympics drew closer, I made sure to have a bottle of cachaça on hand.

Cachaça is the most popular distilled spirit in Brazil and the key spirit in the caipirinha. It’s distilled from sugarcane juice and has close ties to rum (but I’ve also been told not to call it a “Brazilian rum”). Anyway, it’s safe to say I became well-acquainted with the caipirinha since the opening ceremonies a week ago. I had a splitting headache the next morning, but it reminded me that I now have another cocktail for the bar book. It is a tart, refreshing drink that is not only perfect for Olympic watching, but for surviving the dog days of summer St. Louis is so eager to provide.

My caipirinha recipe:

  • 2 ounces Uma Gold Cachaça
  • 2 sugar cubes
  • 1/2 lime cut into half-wheels

Muddle sugar cubes and lime wheels in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and 2 ounces of cachaça (or maybe a bit more if you are in the fourth hour Olympic opening ceremonies) and shake vigorously. Pour into a rocks glass and enjoy.

And don’t forget to raise your glass to George Eyser, a true St. Louis Olympic champion.

January 28th, 2014 by Cameron Collins

Adding a Bit of Color to St. Louis History

Union General Ambrose Burnside

In recent months, I’ve noticed a trend in the world of digital photography that I think is pretty neat. In various blogs, social media feeds, and Internet articles, folks have been posting colorized versions of historic black and white photographs. Try googling something like “Civil War in color”, and you’ll find scores of Rebs in butternut, Yanks in blue, and battlefields scattered with dead versions of each. All of them are decked out in a full spectrum of color.

I know some people are opposed to the practice, but I’m a fan. Detractors suggest colorizing black and white photography destroys the artist’s original vision, and there is merit to that argument. Tell me a colorized version of Identical Twins by Diane Arbus is better than the original, and we’ll go a few rounds. But on the other hand, I think Civil War photographers like Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner would have used color photography if it was available during their time. Either way, the original will always be there to look at (and prefer) if one chooses to do so.

Actually, I think the entire argument is a waste of time. Most of the colorized historic photographs I’ve seen online don’t look sufficiently realistic to begin with (the image of Burnside by Mads Madsen being a notable exception). Few get the flesh tones right, vegetation is often overwhelmingly monotone, and finer details get largely ignored. It still doesn’t bother me in the least, because I think it’s all just good fun. For me, it’s simply entertaining to look at a color version of a moment in time that I’ve never seen in color before.

Imagination is fun, and that’s as far as it goes in my book.

Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967 by Diane Arbus

When I was a photography student in college, one of my favorite classes was a techniques class in which colorizing our own black and white photography was at the heart of several assignments. This was back in 1992 (yikes), and Photoshop was a long way off. Instead, we colorized by hand using Marshall Photo Oils, tinting agents, and a variety of chemicals. Of the several photographs I colored, maybe one or two at were good enough to put on a wall. Maybe the others weren’t, but I still had fun seeing what I could do.

Anyway, in continuing my streak of unfortunate months of January, I recently emerged from a three-week trip to the gates of Hell. Others may know this experience as having a bad case of the flu. Unfortunately, this was no minor case of sniffles and mild coughing. I thought I was a tough guy and didn’t need a flu shot this year. Instead, I missed two weeks of work, lost ten pounds, and nearly landed in the hospital. I even vomited on my cat.

Kitty survived the ordeal, but I spent weeks without an ounce of the energy needed to come near this blog. Even the thought of drinking one of my beloved Manhattans made my stomach turn (which is also the reason a drink doesn’t accompany this post). In order to preserve my sanity while I waited for various drugs to kick in, I surprisingly found working with Photoshop to be a good way to pass the time. Turns out pushing pixels around a computer screen is the perfect low-impact flu activity. It also didn’t require any deep thought, providing a welcome respite for my perpetually aching head.

With that in hand, I went about trying to figure out how to add a bit of color to St. Louis’ past.

Before I display my initial attempts at this new hobby, I can’t resist taking the opportunity to show off one of the more… amusing reasons I first chose to dabble in Photoshop many years ago. My good pal Hopkins knows this all too well. The experience certainly helped me in this new endeavor.

Musical Hopkins!

When I got down to it, I found that colorizing photographs is not difficult, but it’s extremely time-consuming. This post probably required more hours of work than any other in the life of this blog, and looking at the result, I’m not sure it was worth it. I also think that if I didn’t have a 102 temperature, coloring leaves for eight hours straight would have sent me off completely off the edge. But in the end, I think I produced a few examples worthy enough to display here. Most importantly, I had fun. And now that I’m nearly healed up, I promise to put this new hobby aside and get back to a the historic, long-winded, and drunken Distilled History posts that many of you are used to.

While I took a stab at this with a few images from previous Distilled History posts, I also found a few new images that helped me figure this out the necessary techniques (in other words, portraits with sharp focus are ideal). Notably, I was delighted to find numerous photographs by the legendary Lewis Wickes Hine in the photo archives of the Library of Congress. Hines became famous for using photography as a tool to promote social reform, most notably as a means to get child labor regulations implemented. In the early 20th century, he photographed many truant children on the streets of St. Louis working long hours at various street jobs.

This photograph shows three young “newsies” on Jefferson Avenue. It was taken on May 9th, 1910.

Newsies at Skeeter's Branch by Lewis Hine

Colorization of Newsies at Skeeter's Branch

I tried colorizing an image from the 1904 World’s Fair, but I was quickly overwhelmed. However, many images from the 1904 Olympics are perfect for colorizing. This photograph shows American Fred Winters competing in the weightlifting competition. He went on to win the silver medal.

Read more about the 1904 Olympics in this post and this post, both published in the summer of 2012.

Weightlifter Fred Winters at the 1904 Olympics

Historic photographs of daily life are by far my favorite. I often wish I could just leap into an image such as the one below and ask the subjects what their lives are like. In this case, I want to ask these two kids why they didn’t choose a spot away from the public toilet to play a game of marbles.

Boys Playing Marbles in an Alley

Colorized version of Boys Playing Marbles in an Alley

In May 1896, one of the deadliest and costliest tornados in American history ripped through the heart of south St. Louis. The aftermath was photographed extensively, and several remarkable images are available online. While the tornado made short work of a bandstand in Lafayette Square Park, the statue of Thomas Hart Benton (that still stands today) survived unharmed.

Read more about the 1896 Cyclone in this Distilled History post published in November 2012.

Aftermath of the 1896 Cyclone in Lafayette Square Park

Colorization of 1896 Cycle Aftermath

James “Cool Papa” Bell led the Negro League St. Louis Stars to two World Championships in 1928 and 1930. One of the greatest ballplayers to ever call St. Louis home, many believe the speedy center fielder was one of the fastest men to ever play the game.

Read more about St. Louis baseball history in this Distilled History post published in April 2013.


On May 5, 1910, Lewis Hine photographed a boy named “Gurley” selling newspapers at the corner of Washington and 18th in downtown St. Louis.

Gurley on 18th & Washington

Gurley on 18th & Washington Colorized

Water sports at the 1904 Olympics were contested in a man-made lake located at the present-day corner of Skinker and Wydown. Unfortunately, livestock from nearby World’s Fair agricultural exhibits used the same lake to bathe and defecate in. As a result, many competitors became severely ill. Four water polo players died of typhus within a year.

Read more about the 1904 Olympics in this post and this post, both published in the summer of 2012.

1904 Olympic Swimmers

When I first thought of this project, I knew colorizing one or more of the St. Louis Motordrome images taken by J.R.Eike in the early 20th Century was a must. Men like the two guys below risked death by racing motorcycles at speeds over 100mph on steep track embankments. The St. Louis Motordrome that once stood at Grand and Meramec in south city had a 62 degree embankment, which was one of the steepest tracks ever built.

Use of J.R. Eike’s photographs are courtesy of Thomas Kempland. Read more about the St. Louis Motordrome in this Distilled History post published in September 2012.

St. Louis Motodrome

St. Louis Motordrome Colorized

This photograph shows the main entrance to Schnaider’s Beer Garden, which thrived at the intersection of Mississippi and Chouteau in the late 19th century. Located across the street from his brewery, up to 10,000 people at a time could pack Schnaider’s and fill their bellies with beer. Another fun fact about Schnaider’s is the band that played nightly at Schnaider’s would eventually evolve into the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Read more about Schnaider’s Beer Garden in this Distilled History post published in October 2012.

Schnaider's Beer Garden

Colorization of Schnaider's Beer Garden Photograph

August 9th, 2012 by Cameron Collins

Rough Day at the 1904 Olympic Marathon

1904 Olympic Marathon

On August 30, 1904, thirty-two athletes from four nations lined up for a forty kilometer race at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. It was the marathon race at the III Olympiad, and what happened over the next twenty-five miles or so is one of the best stories in the history of the sport. I’ve stood up for the St. Louis Olympics in a previous post on this blog, but there’s no defending the marathon. It was a debacle. Before I get to what happened in the race, you have to imagine St. Louis in August. It’s hot. It’s really hot. The humidity is awful, there’s rarely any wind, and being outside while just standing still is no fun. The idea of running a marathon in that kind of heat is insane. True to form, St. Louis kicked in a scorcher on marathon day in 1904. When the race started around 2:30pm, temperatures were above 90, the humidity was brutal, and the runners faced a course with seven large hills. It was going to be a long day.

The race started with five laps of the Olympic Stadium and then headed west into St. Louis County.  A team of horses preceding the runners kicked up dirt on county roads that were not paved.  Automobiles following the runners made it worse. Runners quickly found it difficult to breath through the clouds of dust.  To make matters worse, the only water station on the route was a small well at mile twelve.

1904 Marathon Route

Conditions were so bad that of the thirty-two runners, only fourteen completed the race.  As runners dropped out, the crowd back at the stadium became weary waiting for the runners to return. After three long hours, an American named Frederick Lorz appeared in the distance. In actuality, Lorz had dropped out of the race back at mile nine. After quitting, he hitched a ride for several miles. The car broke down, prompting Lorz to hop out and jog back to the stadium. When he got there, the crowd assumed he was the leader. As cheers erupted from the crowd, Lorz realized nobody in the stadium knew he had quit the race. He decided to see how far he could carry on the ruse. He ran around the stadium and crossed the finish line. Although he quickly admitted his joke, race officials were not amused. He was disqualified.

The most colorful competitor was Felix Carvajal, a poor postman from Cuba. His country wouldn’t pay for his trip to St. Louis, so he raised the money to get to St. Louis on his own. He got as far as New Orleans before losing all of his money in a craps game. He resorted to hopping boxcars and hitchhiking to get to St. Louis. Upon arrival, he endeared himself to the American weightlifters who gave him a room and food to eat. For the race, he lined up at the start wearing his street clothes.  A discus thrower found some scissors and cut his pants off at the knee to make shorts.

Felix Carvajal & Thomas Hicks

According to some sources (like Wikipedia), Carvajal was the subject of another good story. Having traveled far while not having much to eat, Carvajal became hungry during the race. He stopped at an orchard and ate a few apples which turned out to be rotten. This gave him a stomach ache which caused him to lie down and take a nap. Despite his lengthy slumber, Carvajal still finished in fourth place.

However, according to historian George R. Matthews, the story is false. In his book America’s First Olympics: The St. Louis Games of 1904, Matthews states that there is absolutely no record of Carvajal stopping to eat rotten apples and becoming ill. Matthews recounts that Carvajal had a jovial demeanor, he joked with officials and competitors, and he grabbed some peaches from a reporter, but that’s about it. Matthews pins the source of the tale to Bill Henry and his book, The Approved History of the Olympics, published in 1948. Henry wrote his book with the “approval” of Pierre de Coubertin, a man who did not see or support the St. Louis games in any way (more on that topic here). Along with the apple story, Matthews states that several St. Louis Olympic facts put forth by Henry are false.

Dirt roads in the 1904 marathon

Chaos reigned throughout the race. Leaders dropped out one by one.  One runner dropped out after having a vomiting attack.  Another collapsed with a stomach hemorrhage. Two officials suffered serious injuries when they crashed their car into a ditch. Two men named Len Tau and Jan Mashiani became the first black Africans to compete in an Olympics. They were in St. Louis as part of the South African Boer War exhibit at the World’s Fair. Len Tau ran so well that he finished ninth. He would have finished even higher if a wild dog didn’t chase him off the course for over a mile.

1904 Olympic Marathon

In the end, the final winner was American Thomas Hicks. He barely made it himself. With seven miles to go, Hicks was lagging.  To revive him, his manger gave him 1/60th of a grain of strychnine and an egg white. It helped, but Hicks became demoralized when Fred Lorz passed him on his way back to the stadium. Even when he learned Lorz had been disqualified, Hicks begged his managers to let him stop. They refused, giving him another dose of strychnine, two more egg whites, and a chaser of brandy. Poisoned and exhausted, Hicks somehow wobbled back, stumbling around the stadium while being supported by his managers. He collapsed through the finish line with a time of 3:28:53. It was the slowest Olympic marathon ever.  Hicks almost died as a result. Doctors quickly worked to revive him, declaring that he had “a very low vitality”.  Fortunately, Hicks recovered, collected his gold medal, and promptly retired from running marathons.

Thomas Hicks, winner of the 1904 Marathon
The Drink
I certainly can’t run twenty-five miles, so I decided to bike the 1904 marathon route. I took a hand-held GPS with me and tracked the route. I love to bike, but I had about as much fun as the runners did on this route back in 1904. Most of the dirt roads used for the 1904 marathon are now some of St. Louis’s busiest streets (Manchester, Ballas, Olive). It was hot, the traffic was awful, and the scenery isn’t great on those roads. I love St. Louis, but I hate Manchester Road.

1904 Olympic Marathon Route (by bike)

My drink for this post really doesn’t have anything to do with the Olympics or the marathon. Instead, I tied it to a special day of my own. For the past several years, I have been biking to work once or twice a week. It’s a short ride, only 8.5 miles, to get from my house in south city to my office in downtown St. Louis. I’ve found biking to work is a good way to see the city and a great way to start the day. Back in February of this year, I set a goal of biking to work ten days in a row. I hit the ten-day mark and decided to see if I could hit fifteen. I hit that, and decided to go for one month. As I hit each goal, I realized I was loving it. I started taking new routes, I was getting faster on the bike, and I was saving a ton of money. I’ve even lost a few pounds (I’d probably lose a few more if I didn’t enjoy my cocktail drinking so much).

Last month, I hit my latest goal of riding the bike to work 100 days in a row. To celebrate, I used the GPS to track my special route through Tower Grove Park that morning. Here’s what it looked like after I exported it to Google Earth.

Bike-a-sketch: 100 Days

On the way home that day, I stopped at Van Gohz, a bar at the corner of Shenandoah and Compton. I bike by this place each day, but I had never been inside. I needed a Manhattan on day 100, so I stopped to check it out. It didn’t result in a memorable cocktail, but I shouldn’t be overly critical the nice folks at Van Gohz. It’s obvious that it’s just not a place where great care is taken to mix a drink. I mean, the first thing you see when you walk inside is a Golden Tee machine.

I asked for Makers in the Manhattan, but I let him go to see how the drink would be made. Realizing it was a special day, I stopped him when he picked up the rocks glass. I politely asked for it to be served straight up and in a cocktail glass.  However, I didn’t catch him in time before the shake. And what a shake it was! He actually had to stop and rest during his human blender impression. Frothy Manhattan comin’ right up!

Van Gohz Manhattan

For the record, “drawing” with a GPS is not my idea. I’ve seen it somewhere on the Internet before, but it was done on foot. I thought it was a really creative idea that could be used to get a point across. A few days later, I used Tower Grove Park again to bike-a-sketch what a perfect Manhattan cocktail should look like (cherry optional).

Bike-a-sketch: Manhattan
August 3rd, 2012 by Cameron Collins

Olympic Lake, Olympic Drink

U.S. Life Saving Exhibition Lake

This is the corner of Skinker Boulevard and Wydown Boulevard on the western edge of Forest Park in St. Louis. At the World’s Fair in 1904, a large man-made lake existed on this exact location. It was called the “U.S. Life Saving Exhibition Lake”. The Coast Guard used it to stage life saving techniques during the 1904 World’s Fair. The lake was also used to host the swimming, diving, and water polo competitions during the 1904 Olympics.

In the 1904 Olympic swimming program, thirty-two participants from five countries competed. A total of nine events were held from September 4 until September 7, 1904. Only men were allowed to participate.

Unlike many events at the St. Louis Olympics, swimming was well represented internationally. It’s also one of the few sports where American athletes didn’t dominate the podium.  The Germans, led by distance swimmer Emile Rausch, won four gold medals. The Americans won three.

The 1904 games also introduced a few key innovations to Olympic swimming. It was the first time a swimming relay race was held in an Olympics. The breaststroke made its Olympic debut.  St. Louis was also the only Olympics at which swimming distances were measured in yards, not meters.

1904 New York Athletic Club Relay Team

One of the better stories from the swimming events is the brawl that broke out after the 50 yard race. A man named Zoltan Halmaj of Hungary seemed to win the event, but a U.S.  judge stepped in and declared American J. Scott Leary the winner. The argument became so heated the two teams started slugging it out.  After tempers cooled, it was decided to re-swim the race. After two false starts, Halmaj won by a full stroke.

Diving also made its Olympic debut in 1904. Two diving events were contested on September 4 and 5.  Seven divers from the United States and three divers from Germany competed.

The main event was called “Fancy Diving”. Like swimming, it wasn’t without controversy. The bronze medal was initially awarded to an American, but the Germans protested, proclaiming the German dives were “fancier”. The Americans claimed they had better entries into the water, an aspect of the sport the Germans weren’t concerned with. A dive-off for third was proposed, but the German competitor, Alfred Braunschweiger, refused to participate. The bronze medal was awarded to the American.  However, the International Olympic Committee  reviewed the protest two years later. The result was overturned and third place was declared a tie. To this day, the United States has not acknowledged the decision.

Diving at the 1904 Olympics

The other diving event was the “Plunge for Distance” competition. In this event, a diver plunged head-first into the water from a platform. Without using propulsion from the legs or arms, the distance of the dive was measured after sixty seconds, or when the diver’s head broke the surface of the water. William Dickey of the United States won the event with a dive of 62 feet 6 inches. Plunge for distance was actually a popular sport at the time, but the event made it’s only appearance at the 1904 games.

Swimming at the 1904 Olympics

The water polo competition was also held in the Life Saving Exhibition Lake. Although recognized by the International Olympic Committee, many historians believe the 1904 results should not be considered official because only American teams participated. The event was held on September 5 and 6, 1904, with the New York Athletic Club beating the Missouri Athletic Club for the gold medal. A sad footnote followed the water polo competition. The artificial lake was also used for many agricultural exhibits at the World’s Fair. Cattle from these exhibits often wandered into the lake, ultimately polluting the water. The water quality became so poor that many of the athletes became severely ill after the competition. Four water polo players died from typhus within a year.

1904 Water Polo Competition
The Drink

To go along with the Olympic theme of this post, another Olympic cocktail was served up. Here’s a recipe for “The Olympic Cocktail”, which I found on a few different mixology websites.

The Olympic Cocktail

The recipe is pretty simple.

  • 1 part Cognac (I used Courvoisier VS)
  • 1 part Orange Curacao
  • 1 part Orange Juice

Fill a mixing glass with ice cubes. Add the ingredients and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass (I added the slice of orange for a bit of visual appeal).

I planned to drink a few of these while was watching the Olympics with my mother back in upstate New York. However, my hometown was still dealing with the effects of the tornado that hit the day before. Cable was back on, but it would cut out often during the day as repairs were made around the city.

We kicked back and had a couple Olympic cocktails anyway. The reviews were mixed. My sister seemed to enjoy it, but the drink is orange… VERY orange.  I generally shy away from fruity drinks, so it was a bit much for me.  My mother had one and moved right on to her standard dry martini. I went Manhattan (of course).  For any readers who’d like to try the drink, I suggest cutting back on the orange juice a bit. Put more cognac in it.

Actually, cognac is a spirit I don’t have much experience with. I know it’s a variety of brandy, but I’ve never mixed it in a cocktail. My mother had a bottle of very cheap stuff in the cupboard.  On a lark, we had taste test between that and the Courvoisier (supposedly a very good brand). We all thought the Courvoisier had a better aroma, but the cheap stuff tasted better. Add cognac to my list of things to learn more about.

In conclusion, Here’s a photograph of some of the tornado damage that hit my hometown.  I think I should count myself lucky if missing some Olympic coverage is all I can complain about.

Elmira Tornado Damage
July 28th, 2012 by Cameron Collins

Pierre de Coubertin is a Jerk

1904 Olympic Poster

St. Louis is one of the few American cities that can claim it hosted the Olympics. At the games of the III Olympiad in 1904, 651 athletes from eleven nations competed in fifteen sports. It’s a highlight of St. Louis history, but to some historians, it’s considered a low point in Olympic history.

Since moving to St. Louis, I have always heard the 1904 games of St. Louis were somewhat of a joke. I’ve even read they were considered an embarrassment to the modern Olympic movement. The prevailing opinion is that the games were overshadowed by the 1904 World’s Fair in Forest Park, which occurred at the same time. The games were poorly organized, events were spread out over several months, nobody attended, and most of the world’s best athletes didn’t bother to show up.

Drive by Washington University today and you’ll see Francis Field, the stadium that hosted many events, including track & field, gymnastics, and archery. Drive by the corner of Wydown and Skinker and you’ll see the area where the “Life Saving Exhibition Lake” existed. Used by the Coast Guard during the World’s Fair to demonstrate water safety, it also acted as the venue for swimming and diving. The sites are there, but unless you get out and really look around, you will find scant evidence of an Olympic history in St. Louis. I’ve always wondered why St. Louis doesn’t embrace its Olympic history more. And why did St. Louis fail so miserably at hosting the Olympics, but overwhelmingly succeeded at hosting a World’s Fair?

I set out to do a little research and figure out what went wrong at the St. Louis Olympics. Some of the criticisms have merit. Spreading the events out over four months did made it difficult for foreign athletes to get to St. Louis. Organizers also made a mistake in including several levels of competition. High school, college, and even YMCA events were contested, making it difficult to determine which events were considered “Olympic”. However, St. Louis was only the third Olympics held. The prior Olympics in Paris are also considered a disaster, so St. Louis had only one Olympics (1896 in Athens) to build on. Things we take for granted in today’s games, such as opening ceremonies, lighting the Olympic torch, and defined standards for Olympic sports had not yet been defined. A standard protocol for hosting the games wouldn’t be instituted for years.

Pierre de Coubertin

St. Louis actually made some significant contributions to the modern Olympic movement. It was the first Olympics to award gold, silver, and bronze medals. Boxing, freestyle wrestling, and the decathlon made their Olympic debut. It was the first Olympics in which African-Americans competed and medaled.

But the overwhelmingly negative view of the St. Louis Olympics could stem from what it did not have: A man by the name of Pierre de Coubertin.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin is considered by many to be the father of the modern Olympic Games. Largely through his efforts, the first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Eight years later in 1904, the third Olympics were awarded to the city of Chicago. However, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the largest World’s Fair ever staged up to that point, was scheduled to occur in St. Louis at the same time. Some key people in St. Louis, notably a man named David R. Francis, didn’t think an international sporting event held in a rival city was a good idea. He wanted to get the games transferred to St. Louis. To do this, he threatened to hold a rival athletic competition at the World’s Fair to directly compete with the Olympics. It was the perfect ploy. The world was already coming to St. Louis, so he held all the cards. The debate created quite an uproar, especially in Chicago, which had already been planning the games for over a year. Eventually, Pierre de Coubertin gave in and the games were transferred to St. Louis.

I recently read a book titled America’s First Olympics: The St. Louis Games of 1904 by George R. Matthews. In this book, I read a side of the story I finally wanted to hear. According to Matthews, Coubertin held a deep grudge for the rest of life in response to being bullied into moving the games. One of his bitter rivals in the athletic community, a man named James E. Sullivan, was named one of the major organizers of the St. Louis games. These facts led Coubertin to become completely uninvolved with the St. Louis Olympics months before they started. He did not attend, nor did he offer any input as to how the games should be run. Later in life, he tried to pass off the decision by claiming President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and insisted the games be relocated St. Louis. However, George Matthews asserts there is absolutely no evidence to support Coubertain’s claim.

1904 Olympics - Francis Field

In his book, Matthews claims the St. Louis Olympics should actually be viewed as a success. Newspaper accounts from around the country portray the St. Louis Olympics as being well-organized, competitive, and entertaining. The events were well attended. St. Louis built state of the art facilities for the time. At the conclusion of the games, Pierre de Coubertin even wrote a letter of congratulations to David Francis for hosting a successful Olympic games.

Big crowds at Francis Field

The St. Louis Olympics did have its low moments. Since it was difficult to travel to the middle of North America at the time, the overwhelming number of athletes were from the United States. Many events, such as water polo, are not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee today because only American teams competed. Coubertin harshly criticized the “World Anthropological Days”, in which indigenous peoples competed in sporting events as a source of entertainment. Although not part of the Olympic program, hosting the events in conjunction with the Olympics conveys the racist attitudes of the time . The marathon, although probably considered a debacle, is perhaps one of the most comical events in Olympic history (click here to read more about that crazy day).

1904 St. Louis Olympics

It is a fact that St. Louis was soon overshadowed by games held in subsequent Olympiads. London in 1908 and Stockholm in 1912 were much bigger and benefited from learning the mistakes made in previous Olympics. But according to George Matthews, the real damage to the memory of the St. Louis Olympics started in 1931. This is when Pierre de Coubertin published his memoirs. In this book, Coubertin paints the St. Louis Olympics a being complete failure.

Tug of War in the 1904 Olympics

Coubertin’s book was the first written account of the St. Louis Olympics. In it, he trashes an Olympics he never set eyes on. Coubertin attacks on several fronts. First, he voices a displeasure for the city of St. Louis (which he visited only once in 1893). Second, he states that he was forced by Roosevelt to transfer the games (again, there is no evidence to support this claim). Finally, he claims the Olympics were merely an appendage to the World’s Fair. By 1931, anyone of note who could counter his claims (such as Theodore Roosevelt) had passed away.

Further damage to the memory of the St. Louis Olympics was done in 1948 when a man named Bill Henry published The Approved History of the Olympic Games. Henry’s assessment of the St. Louis Olympics is even harsher. He calls the them an “embarrassment” and questions if any event contested in St. Louis should be considered Olympic. He argues that world-class athletes purposely skipped the games and that most of America had no idea the Olympics were even happening in St. Louis. Matthews adroitly counters these claims sufficiently in his book. Henry also completely fabricated events such as Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter Alice placing a wreath on the marathon winner’s brow. In fact, Alice Roosevelt wasn’t even in St. Louis on the day the marathon was contested. In fact, the word “Approved” in the title of Henry’s book means just that. Along with offering assistance with Henry’s research, Pierre de Coubertin had had given his approval of the manuscript shortly before his death.

Obviously, Matthews is just one voice in this small debate. However, after reading his book, It’s impossible to not have a greater appreciation for the St. Louis Olympics. Although Coubertin is certainly an important figure in Olympic history, I believe it’s likely he was a man who took credit for what worked and avoided blame for what didn’t. Unfortunately, many historians continue to follow his lead. Renowned Olympic historian David Wallechinsky claims in his Complete Book of the Olympics 2012 that the poor organization in St. Louis nearly ended the modern Olympic movement. I’ll have to keep up the research on this question. There’s more to this story.

The Drink

Pimm's CupBy the length of this post, a reader can likely determine I’m a big fan of the Olympics. I am happy to say I’m one of the few that can claim to have been in Lake Placid at the moment the USA beat the USSR in hockey in 1980. Sounds great, but I was actually only nine years old at the time. I was stuffed inside a pillowy snowsuit and forced to waddle around downtown Lake Placid like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story. In all honesty, the noise and drunk crowds at the moment of celebration scared the living shit out of me. As a result, I perfectly remember pissing my snowsuit when Lake Placid erupted in celebration. Still, the experience was so unique that I’ve been an Olympic fan ever since.

What better drink to celebrate the Olympics, particularly the start of the London 2012 Olympics, than the overwhelmingly English quaff Pimm’s. I’ve always wanted to find a good recipe for it’s most popular product line, Pimm’s No. 1.

Pimm’s is a gin-based liqueur containing quinine and a mixture of herbs. It was created by a man named James Pimm, the owner of an oyster bar in London. In 1823, he created and offered a digestif named “Pimm’s Cup”. It soon became very popular among visitors to his bar. Large scale production of Pimm’s started in 1851 and then commercially in 1859. After being relatively unknown in the United States through the 20th century, it’s popularity has significantly increased in recent years. In England, it remains overwhelmingly popular. Along with champagne, it is one of the two signature drinks at Wimbledon.

Pimm’s is most commonly served as a fruit cup. It’s usually mixed with lemon juice or ginger ale. Fresh ingredients, such as cucumber, lemon, strawberry, and mint are commonly mixed in to add to the spicy flavor of the liqueur. It has a low-alcohol content (50 proof), so it’s perfect for drinking a few glasses while watching several hours of London 2012 Olympic coverage.

I found this recipe in Bon Apetit magazine and set out to make it myself and drink it through London’s opening ceremonies.

Bon Apetit Pimm's Cup Recipe
Pimm's Cup

I had a bit of fun finding the ingredients for this drink. My hometown of Elmira, New York, where I am on vacation, isn’t exactly a shopper’s paradise. I had no luck finding ginger beer, so I went with a premium ginger ale. I also have to admit I had no idea what a rhubarb looks like. For some reason, I expected it to look like kale. I can only hope my culinary skills improve as my mixology skills do. A great treat was my mother’s herb garden, which provided the fresh rosemary, thyme, and mint.

(Update: After reading this post, my friend Gina pointed out that I shouldn’t say “a rhubarb”. I should say “rhubarb”.  It’s written or spoken as “a stalk of rhubarb”, not as a singular item like “a carrot”.  I’m obviously very ignorant about rhubarbs… or stalks of rhubarbs… or whatever.)

Unfortunately, my Pimm’s drinking did not coincide with any Olympic viewing. A rare tornado hit my hometown the night before the Olympics started. Trees were knocked down and uprooted all over the city. Cable and air signals were both knocked out, so we drank our Pimm’s (and later a couple Manhattan cocktails, of course) in front of a black tv screen. There’s nothing better than a bit of alcohol during an outage.

I found the drink very refreshing! It’s very crisp, spicy, and fruity. With the muddled cucumber, I think I’ll someday tinker with the recipe a bit. I love gin (and Pimm’s is gin based), so perhaps a bit of Hendrick’s can add to the flavor. It will be good to drink when I get back to the 100 degree weather in St. Louis.

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