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Medal record
Josiah McCracken
Josiah McCracken
Men's athletics
Competitor for the  United States
Olympic Games
Silver 1900 Paris Shot put
Bronze 1900 Paris Hammer throw

Josiah Calvin McCracken (March 30, 1874 – February 15, 1962)[1] was an American football player and track and field athlete.

Early life - football and track achievements

Josiah Calvin McCracken, nicknamed Joe, was born in Lincoln, Tennessee. His earliest known Ulster-Scots ancestors settled in Pennsylvania before the French & Indian War (Seven Years' War). When Joe was 8 years old, his parents moved to Garnett, Kansas, and by the age of 17, the family was living in Sterling, Kansas. Joe excelled at both football as well as track & field events while a school boy in Kansas. He was heavily recruited by the Universities of Kansas, Cornell and Penn. The 1896 University of Kansas football coach was Hector Cowan a Princeton graduate, an 1889 Walter Camp All American football player and a future member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Cowan in addition to coaching KU football was a Presbyterian minister. Joe McCracken was raised in a devout Presbyterian family. After living on the plains of Kansas for fourteen years, Joe in 1896 transferred from Cooper College, a Presbyterian institution (known today as Sterling College) along with University of Kansas transfer John Outland to attend the University of Pennsylvania and played football under future College Football Hall of Fame coach George Washington Woodruff. Both McCracken and Outland would graduate from Penn with degrees in medicine. Unlike Cornell and Penn, the University of Kansas did not have a Medical School in 1896.

While at Penn, McCracken was an all around student athlete, playing varsity football four years, track four years (captain his senior year) and was a member of the gymnastics team.

Joe was named to Walter Camp's College All American football team on three occasions. He was a 3rd team All American in 1897; a 2nd team All American in 1898 and in 1899 a 1st team All American [1]. McCracken played primarily as an offensive fullback and defensive guard. During 1899 he played alongside John Outland (Outland Trophy) and A. R. Kennedy, another transfer students from the University of Kansas football program. McCracken, Outland and Kennedy were known around Philadelphia's Franklin Field as the "Kansas Musketeers". During McCracken's four years of playing football at Penn (1897-1900) the football team compiled a 47-5-2 record.

On May 31, 1898, Joe set a World Record in the hammer throw with a distance of 46.83m (153–8 ft) at a meet in New Jersey. After college he won a silver and bronze medal at the 1900 Paris Olympics [2].

McCracken was elected president of his class all four years at Penn, was president of the Christian Association three years, president of the Houston Club one year and an associate editor of the student newspaper, The Pennsylvanian. A New York Times article of April 11, 1901 described him as "the University of Pennsylvania's best all around athlete and the most popular man at the university..." When Joe graduated in 1901 with his medical degree and while receiving his diploma the whole audience rose to their feet and loudly applauded, an ovation never before given in the history of the University.

1900 Olympics

McCracken's previous world record in the hammer throw earned him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and a trip to the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris. During the Paris Olympics, The New York Times reported on July 16, 1900, that the French Olympic Committee had shifted several final events to Sunday and that American athletes including Josiah McCracken from Penn and Robert Garrett from Princeton University refused for religious reasons to compete in any Olympic events that were scheduled on Sunday. McCracken and Garrett were replaced with athletes from Hungary and Greece. Richard Sheldon also representing the USA, elected to participate on Sunday and won the gold medal in the shot put. Fortunately, McCracken's and Garrett's Saturday qualifying results in the shot put were good enough to earn them silver and bronze medals respectively in the shot put event. McCracken also received the bronze medal in the hammer throw.

Later life

After graduating from Penn, McCracken remained involved in college football as both a game official and coach. During his medical residency and internship period, McCracken was a football referee, linesman or time-keeper for many Ivy League varsity games, including the Harvard vs. Yale games of 1902 and 1904. In 1903, he returned to Kansas for one season as the Cooper College football coach. McCracken Field at Sterling College's Smisor Stadium is named in his honor. Also in 1903, three Penn 1900 Olympic athletes—Dr. Alexander Grant, George W. Orton and Dr. Joe McCracken—established Camp Tecumseh [3], a residential summer camp in New Hampshire for young men. The camp’s mission now as it was then, is “to make good boys better” through healthy athletic competition.

McCracken completed his medical internship at Columbia University and his medical residency at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. In 1906, the University of Pennsylvania Christian Association sent McCracken to China to establish a Christian medical school in Canton. McCracken served as president of the University of Canton Medical School from 1907 to 1913 and then as dean of the Pennsylvania Medical School of St. John's University in Shanghai from 1914 to 1942. McCracken spent a total of 36 years in China training Chinese doctors and improving existing medical schools. When the Japanese occupied China in 1942, Dr. McCracken and his family were expelled and placed aboard an Italian ship in Shanghai. Their escape from China required the assistance of the Swiss Consulate. Their passage home took them down the coast of southeastern Asia, across the Indian Ocean to Mozambique, Africa. In Mozambique they were transferred to a Swedish ship that took them around the Cape of Good Hope to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and finally to New York. During World War II McCracken served as a Major in the U.S. Public Health Reserves. Joe's wife Helen and his daughter Mary both died in the United States during the war. After the war McCracken returned to Shanghai for another year before having to return to the United States for health reasons. During retirement McCracken continued to raise funds for the hospitals and medical schools in China until the takeover in 1952 by the communist government.

The McCracken's had eight children,seven whom were born in China. A son of Joe and Helen, Dr. Josiah C. McCracken Jr., was a Penn football running back in the 1930s,whose nickname was the "Shanghai Express." During World War II Joe Jr. rose to the rank of Major in the U.S. Army Medical Corp and received the Bronze Star for his service in the southwest Pacific.

In May 1952 Joe Sr. returned to Kansas to visit relatives and the graves of his parents. While in Sterling he decided to sell his parents' farm. He donated the proceeds from the sale of the family farm to Sterling College in appreciation for what the school had done for him and other young people since then.

Joe McCracken Sr. died in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, on February 15, 1962, at nearly 88 years of age, and is buried alongside his wife Helen and daughter Dr. Mary McCracken in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY. Also buried in Woodlawn Cemetery are several of his distant relatives who had changed the spelling of the McCracken surname to MacCracken, including Henry Mitchell MacCracken, Chancellor of New York University, who conceived the idea of a Hall of Fame for Great Americans; and his sons Dr. Henry Noble MacCracken [4], President of Vassar College; and Dr. John Henry MacCracken, President of Lafayette College.[5]

On May 23, 1956, Joe was elected to the University of Pennsylvania Track Hall of Fame. On November 11, 2000, he was inducted into the University of Pennsylvania Athletic Hall of Fame.

During 2008 the University of Pennsylvania Christian Association established the Dr. Josiah C. McCracken Society [6].

In 2009 Joe McCracken was nominated for induction into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame so he could take his place alongside the other two Kansas Musketeers Kennedy and Outland previously inducted.


  1. "Former Penn Gridder Dies". Evening Standard. 1962-02-16.

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