This is a tricky question in some matters, the American history of archery does not start when it became an official sport, but with American history itself. Since native Indians had always used bows and arrows, the US had a deep connection with archery prior to European settlement.
It was in 1828, with the foundation of the first ever American Archery Club “The United Bowmen of Philadelphia”. A team that stills exists and has operated in the same place for the last 63 years.
Let’s dive little bit into American archery and its history.
When did archery become a sport?
Archery has always been practiced as a sport since the bow was invented. People throughout history have always practiced and competed in archery competitions to prove their skill and strength. But let’s talk about real regulations and rules, let’s talk about archery as an Olympic sport. Some people even consider that if it is not in the Olympics, it is not actually a sport.
Archery became an Olympic Sport in 1900 and remained until 1920, then archery was removed from the Olympic calendar until 1972, when archery became a standard discipline in the Olympics and became the sport we all love and watch on the television. So, if you wish to consider the Olympic dates as a mark for something to become a sport, these are the dates. Then again, for me, when there are rules, competition and maybe an organization behind its regulation, it is in fact a sport. Otherwise, American Football wouldn’t be a sport, right? I mean that’s not an Olympic sport. Nevertheless, it is up to you to decide that.
What year did archery achieve new status as an American Sport?
It was in 1828 when “The United Bowmen of Philadelphia” was founded. This group or club foundation marked history in American archery. They were the first archery club in the United States. It wasn’t until 1879 when the USA Archery organization was formed and introduced that a national body was formed. Still, it wasn’t until 1982 when they just stablished USAT which means United States Archery Team.
For me, the establishment of the USA Archery Team is the most notable date of all. It marks the start of the US participating with an official Olympic team dedicated fully to archery and really sets the status of archery as a national sport.
From that point on, the US is the country in the world with the second most Olympic medals in archery, just behind South Korea at the time of writing.
When did the bow and arrow come to America?
Well, we are talking something around 9000 B.C. Bows and arrows have always been part of native American history. Of course, they were not the more complex kind of bows we see today, or even close to the bows used by the Syrians from the ancient Roman era in europe, or the longbows the British had during the 100-year war with France. They had simple bows and arrows, ready to hunt and defend themselves from foreign invaders.
We’ve all seen movies, cartoons and even videogames with native Americans using bows. For example, Assassins Creed 3 represents this in a really realistic way the use of the bow. It was not a long range weapon as the English used it at a much later time, but it was effective for mid range fighting. Specially the guerrilla type warfare commonly used by tribes. A close combat ambush using small mountains as cover with straight shots. Armies used bows volleys, making a large group of archers shoot together at an enemy force to maximize the chance of an arrow striking home and spreading panic amongst the enemy. Native Americans tended shoot at will, each one at their target and with straight shots.
Why did they do straight shots? Probably because they never fought an organized army with shields, rather they faced unprotected soldiers with guns and material uniforms instead of chain armour.
Their bows and arrows where not the most effective and powerful ones, but they were more than enough for their hunting reasons. A lot of them were crafted by their own users. These bows used by native Americans where mostly short, since they practiced horse archery and a smaller, nimble weapon was preferred over a larger more powerful bow which would be difficult to use on horseback.
When did archery start in the Olympics?
Archery has not had a smooth history in the Olympics. It first appeared in the Paris Summer Olympics of 1900 with only 3 different nations competing: Belgium, France and the Netherlands. After 4 Olympic appearances in the Olympics, archery was removed from the Olympic Schedule for the following 52 years.
Archery returned in 1972 at the Munich Olympics. From that point on, it has stayed as an Olympic sport. Over the years, archery adopted different disciplines and expand to woman’s categories.
If you want to know more about archery in the Olympics, I wrote an article a while ago about all the specifics.
When was the first American appearance in the Olympics?
Although they didn’t have a formal US Olympic Archery team until 1982, they did participate in the second appearance of archery as a discipline in the Olympics. Many American archers participated in the 1904 Olympics winning several medals for their country.
These men and woman went on their own to represent their country. By their own means, training and sacrificing to make an appearance. A reality several countries still suffer with no official support or funding for some sports.
We’ve briefly covered the history of archery in America. I hope you enjoyed our little ride through archery in America. I certainly enjoyed researching it as a topic and presenting it to you.