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Shooting at the 1900 Paris Summer Games

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Sports:

Host City: Paris, France
Date Started: July 15, 1900
Date Finished: August 5, 1900
Events: 8

Participants: 72 (72 men and 0 women) from 8 countries
Youngest Participant: FRA Jules Charpentier (21 years, 132 days)
Oldest Participant: FRA Joseph Labbé (49 years, 249 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 3 athletes with 4 medals
Most Medals (Country): SUI Switzerland (7 medals)

Overview

The 1900 shooting events are incredibly confusing. Multiple shooting contests were held during the Paris Exposition in 1900. The 1900 Official Report discusses them in varying degrees of detail, but not all of them can be truly termed Olympic events. Many of them were limited to French shooting societies, or were handicap events. Some were open only to certain classes of shooters.

And, in fact, it could be argued that none of the 1900 shooting events should be considered Olympic events because virtually all of them awarded some form of prize money and were, at least titularly, contested by professionals. Shooting and Fishing noted “The big amount of money to be divided as prizes decided many marksmen to enter in the different competitions.” Apparently, this has been known for many years and the IOC has continued to accept several of the events as being part of the 1900 Olympics.

Following, we have listed the 38 shooting events which are discussed in the 1900 Official Report. Of these, we would consider only eight of them to be of “Olympic caliber.”

As noted above, many of these events awarded prize money, which was antithetical to Olympic principles in 1900, except for fencing, in which professionals were allowed to compete. A purist could demur, and state that none of the events awarding prize money should be considered as an “Olympic event.” If that were the case, then only six (6) events would remain – International Individual Free Rifle Match, Three Positions; International Individual Free Rifle Match, Standing; International Individual Free Rifle Match, Kneeling; International Individual Free Rifle Match, Prone; International Individual Free Pistol Match; and the International Trap Shooting.

Further, in the International Free Rifle and International Free Pistol events, the individual shooters received no prize money for their individual performances, but did receive money for the team event, effectively making them professional. Omitting those events would then leave only the International Trap Shooting as a truly amateur event, which would meet Olympic principles as of 1900. It seems more reasonable, if one accepts the above six events as Olympic events, to also include the International Team Free Rifle, and International Team Free Pistol matches, on which the individual events were based. This would give eight (8) Olympic events for 1900 shooting.

To some extent, it may depend on whether one is a “lumper or a splitter.” We have kept 8 shooting events as “Olympic events,” as described above, although I could hardly argue with historians who would contend with that approach. The decision cannot be made categorically.

More recent Olympic statistical summaries, notably those of Kamper, Kluge, and Wallechinsky have been reasonably accurate in terms of covering the “well-known” 1900 shooting events. (Kluge and Wallechinsky certainly used Kamper’s Encyclopädia of the Olympic Games as a source.) However, some of the confusion concerning 1900 shooting must be traced to the early Olympic historians who completely botched the reporting of this sport. Fritz Wasner in Olympia-Lexikon listed only 10 shooting events as having been held in 1900, omitting many of the 38 events which were conducted. But that was not so bad, as Kamper listed 11, and that has been the standard listing for many years.

It was left to the Hungarian Ferenc Mező, whose book, The Modern Olympic Games, is normally reasonably accurate, to thoroughly confuse many future Olympic and shooting historians. Mező listed 26 shooting events. Of these, 11 were contested as part of the 1900 shooting competitions. The other 15 were contested at the 1908 Olympics and Mezã had them at the wrong Olympic Games. In several cases, however, he did note, “[shooter’s name] won the same event at the 1908 Olympic Games.” What he failed to notice was that, in all 15 cases, the same shooter or nation not only won the same event at the 1908 Olympics, but did so with the exact same score. Mező listed all the same events and winners in his section on 1908.

Still, confusion over the 1900 shooting events is almost excusable. Although archery was similar in that thousands of French archers participated, the 1900 shooting events had a huge turn-out of shooters, mostly from France. It should be note that of the 6,351 shooters listed, a full 96% were from France. In fact, the 1900 Official Report noted that 6,351 shooters competed and 518,602 shots were fired during the competitions.

We did not locate all of these shooters. However, following are the most complete results ever seen for 1900 shooting. In a few of the events, we were able to locate all competitors, thanks to a French shooting magazine from 1900 entitled Le Stand. Another, presumably more complete, 1900 French shooting magazine existed, entitled Le Tir National. However, the holdings for this magazine at the Bibliothéque Nationale do not begin until 1901, and we were unable to locate another source for this magazine. The complete results of the 1900 shooting contests were apparently recorded, however. The 1900 Official Report notes on page 210 as follows, “Les résultats techniques du concours sont consignés dans un palmarès formant un volume de 300 pages et contenant l’attribution détaillée des 11,000 prix décernés.” Unfortunately, the Bibliothéque Nationale knows nothing of this book, and no other source for it could be found.

The multiple events conducted during the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, as described in the 1900 Official Report, and the 1900 Rules and Programs, were as follows:

Prix d’Excellence

Concours d’Excellence

Roi de Tir (King of Shooting), Rifle France

Roi de Tir (King of Shooting), Revolver, France

Military Rifle, 200 metres [Category 1]

Military Rifle, 200 metres [Category 2]

Free Rifle, 200 metres [Category 3]

Free Rifle, 200 metres [Category 4]

Free Rifle, 300 metres [Category 5]

Military Pistol, 20 metres [Category 6]

Free Pistol, 50 metres [Category 7]

Small-bore Rifle, 12 metres [Category 8]

Small-bore Rifle, 12 metres [Category 9]

Running Wild Boar Shooting, 27 metres [Category 10]

Military Pistol [Category 11A]

Military Pistol, Silhouette [Category 11B]

Military Rifle, Youth [Category 12]

Military Rifle, Adult, Society Championships [Category 13]

Society Contests, Youth [Category 14]

Union Contests [Category 15]

Military Rifle, National [Category 16]

Military Pistol, National [Category 17]

Military Rifle, Youth, National [Category 18]

International Free Rifle Match, 300 metres, Team [Category 19]

International Free Rifle Match, 300 metres, Individual, 3 Positions [Category 19]

International Free Rifle Match, 300 metres, Individual, Standing [Category 19]

International Free Rifle Match, 300 metres, Individual, Kneeling [Category 19]

International Free Rifle Match, 300 metres, Individual, Prone [Category 19]

International Free Pistol Match, 50 metres, Team [Category 20].

International Free Pistol Match, 50 metres, Individual [Category 20]

Active Army, Team [Category 21A]

Active Army, Individual [Category 21B]

Territory Armies [Category 22]

Active Army Officers, Rifles [Category 23]

Active Army Officers, Revolvers [Category 23]

Trap Shooting, International [Tir au fusil de chasse]

Trap Shooting, National [Tir au fusil de chasse]

Live Pigeon Shooting [Tir aux pigeons]

Medalists