The Lure of Record Breaking. When Ishpeming brought in Red Wing “experts” to promote its tournament in 1901, the organizers added a new event to the regular jumping program, “the long jump.” This proved immensely popular.9 Casting all form aside, casting Idraet aside, the desperate reach for achieving length began. At other meets the lure of length even made for intentional mismarking: one 112-foot jump was criticized as being “measured by saloon keepers with rope with rags on.” Ishpeming believed that Red Wing measurers had used ”pumpkin vines . . . with all crooks and turns” to measure a jump.
The Lure of Ski Record Breaking
Ishpeming tried to capitalize on the appeal to both jumper and spectator of record making and breaking. “It is expected,” the local paper announced on the eve of a competition, “that some new records will be made.”11 The promise of a new record was based on the elongation of a jump. Intertown skisport rivalry, which grew unabated in the first decade of the twentieth century, spawned the building of larger hills with higher take-off bumps, the advertising of the previous week’s achievements, and the proffering of a gold medal for any jumper who reached over 100 feet.
In 1904 Ole Westgaard was the winner at 96 feettantalizingly near the magical 100. When the American record stood at 106 feet, from the Red Wing jump Ishpeming built a new slide; there was “no better . . . anywhere in the United States, or in Norway for that matter,” and located the grandstand on the 100-foot line. On Munising’s new jump, “it will be an easy matter . . . to break the American record.”
There were even some who felt the “world’s record will be crowded” the following year. Bovey promised records, and Ashland’s hill could “easily produce jumps of record breaking nature,” but there were none in 1907 because the snow was sticky. Ashland, Munising, Red Wing, Ishpeming were all striving to have the record broken on their jumps, and if it could be done by a local, even more honor and economic advantage would accrue to the hometown.
The 1908 skiing season was not good because there was not much snow, yet it was “exceptionally interesting,” as Aksel Holter noted in his report to the NSA, “in as much as the American record was broken again and again on the different improved hills and a new world’s record came very nearly to being established on this side of the Ocean.”
The city of Duluth had entered the lists by capturing the record in January 1907 with 112 feet, although it lost it three days later when a jump of 114 feet was recorded at Red Wing. The record returned to Duluth on 13 January 1908, and was increased three days later to 117 feet. But in February, a leap of 122 feet was made at Ishpeming.
Then Duluth made changes on the Take-off and conducted a tournament on 15 March but the object of the tournament was not accomplished. Ole Feiring cleared 124 feet but fell in the attempt. Not yet satisfied Duluth announced another tournament for 22 March, being intent on beating the record. Nearly every contestant almost equaled the American record, and John Evenson beat it by 9 feet, clearing 131 feet in good form. Feiring sailed a distance of 134 feet, but fell in his attempt.. . . Arnold Olson of Duluth established an amateur record of 119 feet.
Evenson and Olson were the heroes. “Duluth thus established what it had been looking for, two American Records by two Duluth Skiers on a Duluth hill.”
This excerpt shows precisely how the particular profile of the jump changed the nature of record making. Evenson and Feiring no doubt made impressive jumps, but the fact that a number of competitors could jump to the American mark when the take-off was adjusted says more about the profile of the hill and its take-off than it does about jumping expertise. Too, the report makes it absolutely clear that this was a Duluth effort. The civic minded had “won” the national meet of 1908 and they were determined to profit from the success.