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Irish American Athletic Club

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Title: Irish American Athletic Club  
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Subject: Irish Whales, John Flanagan (athlete), Lawson Robertson, Myer Prinstein, Martin Sheridan
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Irish American Athletic Club

The Irish American Athletic Club was an amateur athletic organization, based in Queens, New York, at the beginning of the 20th century.

Early years

Established on January 30, 1898, originally as the "Greater New York Irish Athletic Association", they shortened the name to the Irish American Athletic Club a few years later. They purchased a plot of land in what was then called Laurel Hill, Long Island, near Calvary Cemetery, Queens, and built a state-of-the-art athletic facility on what was farmland.[1] The stadium, called Celtic Park, formally reopened after renovations on May 9, 1901, and until the facility was sold for housing in 1930, some of the greatest American athletes trained or competed on Celtic Park's track and field.[2] The Irish American Athletic Club adopted a winged fist adorned with American flags and shamrocks as their emblem, with the Irish Gaelic motto ‘Láim[Sic] Láidir Abú’ or ‘A strong hand will be victorious,' and were often referred to as the 'Winged Fists'. At one time they had clubs in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Yonkers, New York.[3]


During the thirty odd years of its existence, all of the following athletes competed for the Irish American Athletic Club at some point; Bill Horr, Daniel Kelly, Abel Kiviat, Hannes Kolehmainen, Emilio Lunghi, Alvah Meyer, James Mitchell, Pat McDonald, Matt McGrath, Emil Muller, Peter O'Connor, Edwin Pritchard, Harry Porter, Myer Prinstein, Richard Remer, John J. Reynolds, Frank Riley, William Robbins, Lawson Robertson, James Rosenberger, Michael J. Ryan, Pat Ryan, Harry Schaaf, Arthur Shaw, Mel Sheppard, Martin Sheridan, James P. Sullivan, Lee Talbott, John Baxter Taylor, Jr., Con Walsh and Harold Wilson.

Non-Irish members

The Irish American Athletic Club was predominantly composed of Irish born and first generation Bruno Brodd, Joseph Bromilow, John Eke, Egon Erickson, Myer Prinstein, Abel Kiviat, Hannes Kolehmainen, Alvah Meyer, Lawson Robertson, Harold Wilson, Emilio Lunghi and John Baxter Taylor, Jr. (the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal). Myer Prinstein, competing as a member of the Irish American Athletic Club in St. Louis 1904, won both the long jump and the hop, step and jump ( now called the triple jump) on the same day, the only athlete ever to win both events in the same games. He also came 5th in both the 60 m dash and 400 m. In Athens 1906 he again won the long jump competition, beating the world record holder, Irishman, Peter O'Connor. Swedish-born Ernie Hjertberg, himself a US track and field champion, was appointed coach and recruited outstanding non-Irish athletes. Under his leadership, the IAAC turned into a national track power.[4][5][6]

National championships and Olympic medals

The Irish American Athletic Club won the Amateur Athletic Union national outdoor track and field team championship titles in; 1904, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914 and 1916. They also won the national indoor track and field team championship titles in; 1906, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1913, 1914 and 1915. Individual athletes of the IAAC won 81 national outdoor championships titles and 36 individual national indoor championship titles.[7] From 1900 to 1924, men who were at one time members of the Irish American Athletic Club won 54 Olympic medals for the U.S. Olympic team,[8] including 26 gold medals.

Olympic participation

In addition to winning numerous local and regional Amateur Athletic Union competitions, Irish American Athletic Club members competed for the U.S. Olympic team in the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens, Greece, the 1908 Olympics in London, the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm and the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp.

1908 Olympics

In the Robert Cloughen, 200 metres race, silver; John Flanagan, hammer throw, gold; Johnny Hayes, marathon, gold; Bill Horr, discus-free style, bronze, discus-Greek style, silver; Matt McGrath, hammer throw, silver; Harry Porter, high jump, gold; Melvin Sheppard, 800 metres race, gold, 1,500 metres race, gold, 1,600 metres medley relay, gold; and Martin Sheridan, discus-free style, gold, discus-Greek style, gold, and standing long jump, bronze; and John Baxter Taylor, Jr., who passed the baton to Mel Sheppard, to win the gold in the 1,600 meter medley relay, becoming the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal. Other Irish American Athletic Club members of the 1908 U.S. Olympic team included; Joseph Bromilow, Harvey Cohn, Daniel Kelly, Frank Riley, William Robbins, Lawson Robertson, Michael J. Ryan, James P. Sullivan and Lee Talbott.[9]

John Eller, Abel Kiviat and John J. Reynolds of the Irish American Athletic Club, posing for a 1912 U.S. Olympic team photo.
Irish Whales: Pat McDonald and Matt McGrath of the Irish American Athletic Club, posing for a 1912 U.S. Olympic team photo.

1910 point champions

"With a grand total of 2,001 points gained by their track and field men in 1910, the Irish-American Athletic Club had put to its credit a score said to be greater than that of any similar aggregation of athletes during any single year," according to the New York Times. "Eighty-nine men contributed to this splendid showing, gaining points only in track and field games."[10]

1912 Olympics

Thirteen members of the Irish American Athletic Club competed as part of the Abel Kiviat, gold, 3,000 meter team race, and silver, 1,500 meter race; Pat McDonald, gold, shot put, and silver, shot put, both hands; Mel Sheppard, gold, 4 × 400 meter relay, and silver, 800 meter race; Matt McGrath, gold, hammer throw, Alvah Meyer, silver, 100 meter race, and Jim Duncan, discus throw, bronze. The other IAAC members of the 1912 U.S. Olympic team were; John Eller, Emil Muller, Edwin Pritchard, John J. Reynolds, James Rosenberger and Michael J. Ryan.

Final championship title – 1916

Before the largest crowd that had ever assembled to see a track meet in the United States, on September 9, 1916, the Irish American Athletic Club defeated the New York Athletic Club at the Amateur Athletic Union's National Championships, by a score of 38 to 27. Before a crowd of 30,000 spectators at Newark, New Jersey's Weequahic Park,[11] the Irish-American Athletic Club won what would be their last national championship title. The club disbanding a year later, when the U.S. became a combatant in the First World War.

See also


  1. ^ "A New Athletic Club: Greater New York Irish A. A. has already Secured Quarters." The New York Times, January 31, 1898: p. 4.
  2. ^ "Athletic Field Remodeled. Celtic Park in New Garb to be Re-opened Monday." The New York Times, May 10, 1901: p. 10.
  3. ^ New-York Daily Tribune, November 25, 1910.
  4. ^ USA Outdoor Track & Field Champions - Men's 3,000 m Steeplechase
  5. ^ USA Outdoor Track & Field Champions - Men's 5,000 m
  6. ^ by George B. Kirsch, Othello Harris, Claire Elaine Nolte.Encyclopedia of ethnicity and sports in the United States
  7. ^ USA Track & Field
  8. ^ Winged Fist Organization
  9. ^ The 1908 Olympic Games : Results for All Competitors in All Events, With Commentary by Bill Mallon, Ian Buchanan. [1]
  10. ^ The New York Times, January 9, 1911: p. 11.
  11. ^ "Irish A.C. Wins Honors on Track." The New York Times, September 10, 1916: p. S2.


External links

  • Archives of Irish America - NYU
  • Irish-born Medal Winners in the early Olympic Games
  • "To No Earthly King...The United States Flag-Bearing Incident at the 1908 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony" International Society of Olympic Historians, Sept. 1999.
  • Martin Sheridan-Early Discus Star
  • Winged Fist Organization
  • 1910 Mecca and Hassan Cigarettes Irish-American Athletic Club athlete cards
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