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Tournament of Roses chariot races

Tournament of Roses chariot races

Jan. 1, 1915:  Two teams drive down the stretch during the last chariot race at the Tournament of Roses.

The Tournament of Roses’ parade was already a big success, but in search of post-parade activities, an East-West football game was tried in 1902. The first Rose Bowl game, called the “Tournament East-West football game,” ended eight minutes early as Stanford, losing 49-0 to Michigan, conceded.

After the lopsided game, the Tournament of Roses tried other post-parade events, including chariot races from 1904 through 1915.

A non-bylined Los Angeles Times story published Oct. 17, 1963, explained:

The idea was suggested by Tournament of Roses President Dr. Charles F. Holder. E. T. Off, one of the directors, took a fancy to the idea and entered as a competitor.

The initial race was held in Tournament Park on Jan. 1, 1904. It pitted chariot and four-horse teams in a mile race. Competing were Off, Max Wiggins of El Monte, C. C. West of Arcadia and E.E. Turner.

When the dust cleared and the excited spectators looked at their stopwatches, Wiggins had nipped the other three in the fast time of 1:57.

Crowds of more than 20,000 attended, but chariot racing was very expensive – few could afford to put together horse teams. Also, as shown in 1912 photo below, there was the danger of accidents.

In 1916, football was tried again. Washington State beat Brown, 14-0, and the extensive coverage in newspapers nationwide brought attention to Pasadena and Southern California.

Chariots were out; pigskins were  in.

The photo above, by staff photographer E. J. Spencer, was published with the 1963 Times story.

There are additional chariot race images online at the USC Digital Library.

Jan. 1, 1912: Horses are untangled after chariots driven by Albert Persons and C. E. Post collide during Tournament of Roses chariot races. Neither driver was injured. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1912, Los Angeles Times. There was no mention of injuries suffered by the horses.

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