Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    Jim Thorpe Memorabilia Archive Including 1912 Carlisle Indian School Game Worn Helmet & Cleats.

    Born on May 28, 1887 to the daughter of the last great Sauk and Fox chief Black Hawk, a revered warrior and athlete, James Francis Thorpe was given the Indian name Wa-Tho-Huk, which translates to "Bright Path." It was a name that few would ever hear, but one that would prove to be perfectly fitting. The American political philosophy of Manifest Destiny had already decimated the population of Native Americans in our ever-expanding nation, and marginalized those who survived its brutality. Through this enforced segregation, Thorpe found his way to the Carlisle Industrial Indian School in rural Pennsylvania in 1904 at age sixteen. It was there that his phenomenal athletic career began, as a member of the school's track and football teams, and that he fell under the tutelage of gridiron legend Glenn "Pop" Warner during eight years on campus. The pieces that would construct Thorpe's immortality started to fall into place.

    While the legend of Jim Thorpe began to grow within the collegiate football ranks during the later years of the twentieth century's first decade, it was 1912 that saw his conversion to international superstar. At the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, a twenty-four year old Thorpe dominated the pentathlon and decathlon, earning Gold in each and his proudest compliment from King Gustav of Sweden, who said to him, "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world. I would consider it an honor to shake your hand." Thorpe's reply: "Thanks, King."

    The year 1912 also brings us to the premiere pieces that Heritage Auction Galleries is pleased and privileged to present to the collecting community. The incredible leather helmet and cleats stand as the only Jim Thorpe game used material ever to surface from his days with the Carlisle Indians. It was in 1912 that the tiny school shocked the collegiate football world by wresting the NCAA Championship from the death grip of the Ivy League. In twelve games, Thorpe scored twenty-five touchdowns and 198 points. While it is all but guaranteed that the offered game used helmet and cleats, worn in the months immediately following Thorpe's Olympic Gold, represent Thorpe's sole examples of such for the entirety of the season, we are certain of their use at the very least in the historic meeting with Army. In this twenty-seven to six victory, Thorpe saw a ninety-two yard touchdown run annulled due to a teammate's infraction. The next play he carried the ball ninety-seven yards to paydirt. Also during this game occurred a fateful meeting with history, as a young Army defender named Dwight David Eisenhower saw his football career ended as he badly injured his leg trying to bring down a rushing Thorpe.

    The leather helmet exhibits terrific wear, but none of the damage one would expect for a piece fast approaching its centennial. The toning of the hide has deepened to an antique deep brown, and the interior webbing, so often damaged in helmets decades younger, is solid and complete. There are no apparent manufacturer's labels, though this is to be expected, as anything imprinted on the helmet's interior would have been lost long ago to age and wear. The pair of cleats also show tremendous wear, each sporting seven rounded studs on the sole applied with a trio of short nails. Ancient "Spalding" tags are found inside each tongue, stamped with the proper "8 ½" size. A portion of one shoelace keeps the pair joined, and minor tears in the ankle region of each shoe cause no concern. Together the helmet and cleats form a display that even Canton couldn't match, and one that the Hall of Fame would surely be overjoyed to present should the winning bidder feel charitable. Again, these are the only Jim Thorpe Carlisle Indian School game worn pieces known.

    The massive Thorpe archive extends well beyond this helmet and cleats however, and while we would encourage serious bidders to visit our Dallas headquarters to examine the lot in person, we will endeavor to convey its magnitude here in print. While not one hundred percent comprehensive, the list is as follows:

    1) Twelve Jim Thorpe signed photographs. Most are signed on the photos' verso with the notation "Property of Jim Thorpe," as is the case with the dozens of individually listed photographs in this auction. All are in 9/10 or better ink, with the exception of one in equally strong pencil. Two have vintage tape repairs to photos crossing the writing. One is signed on front, featuring an image of Thorpe in Canton football uniform. Another photo simply identifies "Carl Phillip Thorpe" on the photo's backside, an autograph of sorts-this is not included in the count of twelve. Photos are mostly 8x10", with a few exceptions. Except for tape-repaired photos mentioned, photos average VG-EX.
    2) Incredibly important presentational plaque presented to Thorpe by the Associated Press naming him the "America's greatest athlete of the past 50 years." Plaque is signed by the Attorney General of the United States and the publisher of The Washington Post. The wooden laminated wall hanging measures 12.5x18" in size.
    3) Presentational "Key to the City" of Philadelphia. Displayed in a shadow box measuring 12x13x2".
    4) Three Holy Bibles. First is embossed in gold on the cover, "James Thorpe, Christmas 1904." Cover is almost entirely loose, but still technically attached. Second dates to 1940's, origin unknown, very worn. Third appears to have been used at Thorpe's funeral, with apparent inscription from his widow saying farewell on opening page. Best condition of the three.
    5) Thorpe's personal copy of the script for the film, "Jim Thorpe-All-American." VG-EX. Dated August 3, 1950.
    6) 1950 presentational certificate of lifetime achievement in leather binding from the Touchdown Club of Washington, D.C. Embossed gold lettering on cover. 7) Presentational certificate naming Patricia Thorpe an honorary citizen of the newly named Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.
    8) 1946 Track & Field 2nd place presentational plaque, likely belonging to son of Thorpe.
    9) Several chapters of the typed manuscript for Thorpe's biography, written by his widow Patricia.
    10) Three hardcover football books once belonging to Thorpe. Two are inscribed to him by the authors.
    11) Approximately fifty unmailed invitations to Thorpe's sixty-fourth birthday party. 12) Three reel-to-reel audiotapes holding interviews with Thorpe recounting the highlights of his athletic career (a terrific historian's tool!).
    13) Oversized one-of-a-kind studio pressing record albums also holding Thorpe interviews (special turntable needed for these).
    14) Vast array of unsigned photographs (including snapshot of Babe Ruth, small wire photo (PR-GD) of Thorpe in New York Giants uniform, etc.), newspaper clippings (many pasted within a scrapbook) recounting the many highlights of Thorpe's life, a letter signed by Chief Justice Warren of "Warren Commission" fame, two badges issued for the Dedication of the Jim Thorpe Memorial.
    15) A few other odds and ends.

    The winning bidder of this lot could certainly open a small museum using only the pieces offered here, and any researcher would find the vast amount of textual and audio documentation to be of tremendous service. Accompanying this historic offering is a letter of provenance from the widow of Charles Gorham, Thorpe's lawyer and close friend. She attests to the particulars of the collection, from the fact that it was all given to her husband by the Thorpe family, to the exact provenance of the game worn materials as dating to Carlisle Indian School, 1912. Furthermore, a 1967 letter from Thorpe's widow Patricia explicitly states that the helmet and cleats belonged to Jim. This is unquestionably the finest, largest and most historically relevant offering of Jim Thorpe material ever to be placed upon the auction block, with the most iron clad provenance imaginable. To call this a "once in a lifetime opportunity" is merely to state the obvious. LOA from Lou Lampson.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2006
    6th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 14
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,700

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976

    Learn about consigning with us

    I thought that Peter Calderon was very pleasant and had a very professional attitude.
    Jerold G.,
    Dripping Springs, TX
    View More Testimonials

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search