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Archery at the 1900 Paris Summer Games

1900 Summer Games: Next Summer Games


Host City: Paris, France
Date Started: May 27, 1900
Date Finished: August 14, 1900
Events: 8

Participants: 23 (23 men and 0 women) from 3 countries
Youngest Participant: FRA Henri Hérouin (24 years, 98 days)
Oldest Participant: BEL Louis Glineur (50 years, 217 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): BEL Hubert Van Innis (4 medals)
Most Medals (Country): FRA France (13 medals)


The archery events at the 1900 Paris Exposition are very confusing. If any sport on the “Olympic” program in 1900 were to be eliminated for consideration from the official 1900 Olympic results, it would be archery. While there were foreign entrants, the events were basically French national championships, and were open to anyone in France. But in fact, they were open virtually to everybody.

While in most of the sports and events in this summary, we have been able to find complete results of all competitors, we have not even approached that in archery, nor will anyone ever be able to do so. Literally, almost anybody in France was eligible to enter these contests, and over 5,000 archers competed in all the events. The newspapers and sporting magazines only mentioned the archery events at the beginning of the contests in late May and gave no detailed results. What you see below is a scant summary of the competitions, but it is all that is available, and is basically based on the 1900 Official Report, La Vie au Grand Air, and a recent book by Karl Lennartz and Walter Teutenburg.

It is noted in an excellent source for a description of the 1900 archery events, Archers d’Autre Fois\: Archers d’Aujour d’Hui by Henri Stein (Paris\: D. A. Longuet, 1925), “Le premier grand concours fédéral de championnat entre sociétés fédérées, à eu lieu … Fontainebleu en 1898, le second … Crépy-en-Valois en 1899, le troisiéme … Paris (Bois de Vincennes) en 1900, pendant l’Exposition. . . . Le concours du tir … l’arc au berceau débuta par la fête traditionelle de la parade, le dimanche 27 mai, s’ouvrit le lendemain 28 et dura trois mois, pendant lesquels quarante-huit journées furent consacrées au jeu. Le concours de tir … la perche ne dura que deux jours (15 et 16 juillet) et comprit deux sortes de perches, … la pyramide et … la herse. . . . 5,244 tireurs prirent part … l’ensemble du concours, dont 4,569 pour le tir au berceau; la compagnie de Saint-Pierre-Montmartre fut classée premiére avec 178 coups. . . . Le Championnat de France se tire en deux épreuves\: classement et finales. Pour être class‚, l’archer doit placer au moins 25 fl‚ches sur 40 en dedans du cordon de la cible qui a 0.48 metres de diamŠtre. L’épreuve finale se tire le jour de la distribution du bouquet, entre tous les classés, en 40 fléches également; et les points obtenus sont additionnés avec ceux de la premiére épreuve. . . . Á la parade du grand prix de l’Exposition de 1900, il y eut 178 compagnies d’arc et 25 d’arbalète représentées; en tout, 1,723 délégués accompagnés de 182 drapeaux et banniéres, de 82 tambours et de 2 fanfares.”

The Field also gave a description of the 1900 archery events, “On Sunday the 27th, the various societies will assemble on the Place de la Nation with drums beating and colours flying, and will be received from 7 to 10:30 AM by the members of the committee. The drums will beat the ‘fall in,’ and, the societies having been marshaled in columns of fours in the order in which they are to shoot, will march to the butts, which will be prepared in the enclosure of the Velodrome Municipal at Vincennes. Throughout the march the bows will be carried strung in the right hand, distances being kept by the officers, the champions of 1898 and 1899, invested with scarves of honour leading, the drums beating and colours flying as before. On arriving at the ground the contest for the Grand Prix de l’Exposition will commence at 50 metres. The shooting will be resumed on the following Monday and Tuesday, and recommence on Sunday, June 3, from which date it will continue, with certain intervals, till August.” The Field stated that the event was basically a French analogue of the British Grand National Archery Meeting, but also stated that it was open to any nationality, and that Englishmen could compete. It appears that none did.

The 1900 Official Report confirmed the numbers given in Stein’s book. Per that report, as many as 5,250 competitors took part. However, on closer inspection, not this many athletes can be considered to actually have competed in the Olympics. An analogy would be to consider all Olympic qualifying events for the 1996 swimming events, and to consider every competitor, from every country, who tried to qualify, as having competed in the Olympics. The only difference was that in 1900, the qualifying all took place in France, and was basically all but limited to Frenchmen, especially given the constraints of international travel in 1900.

It turns out, when reading the 1900 Official Report closely, that the team events au berceau served as qualifying for the individual events. The top eight finishers in the team events au cordon doré were eligible to compete for the individual titles. The top six finishers in the team events au chapelet were eligible to compete for the individual titles. Thus, we have counted as Olympians only the qualifiers for the individual championships. This is exactly analogous to modern Olympic gymnastics, in which all team members compete for the team title, some advance to the individual all-around, and only eight on each apparatus advance to the apparatus final. Only those eight on each apparatus are currently considered to have competed officially in those apparatus events.

Archery expert Fred Lake has further commented on the 1900 archery events, “The two types of archery – short-range butt shooting in a covered gallery (au berceau) and popinjay (… la perche) – were practised mainly in France and Belgium and were immensely popular.” Were there archers competing from nations other than France and Belgium? The 1900 Official Report mentions that six Dutch (Netherlands) archers competed. However, it appears that none of them qualified for any of the individual event finals.

A further case could be made that only one event took place au berceau, that of “Championnat du Monde.” This event was apparently contested between the two au berceau archers who performed best in the various individual events au cordon dor‚ and au chapelet (Henri Hérouin and Hubert Van Innis). Thus, all the earlier events could be considered qualifying for that one final event.

There were individual events in tir à l’arbalête, but there were apparently no foreign entrants. Thus, we have not included these among the Olympic events.