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Scandal, legalized betting and first-ever marathon photos

Friday, April 19, 12:00 p.m.

1901 was a year of firsts for the Boston Marathon.

For the first time, the 38 eligible "perfectly fit" starters appeared in photographs, rather than line drawings, in the local newspapers.

Original coverage
Click here for The Boston Globe's coverage of the 1901 race.
This was a year when organized betting, usually reserved for boxing and horse racing, was used to turn the runners' performances into quick returns or losses. All bets at Ashland's Columbia House were on Caffery. The next closest wager was on MacDonald; but even so, Caffery was favored 2 to 1.

The race was marked with unusual moments such as when a horse joined the race somewhere between Natick and Wellesley. Also, contoversy entered the Marathon for the first time as a result of Ronald McDonald collapsing after being handed a sponge by an onlooker and carrying it until he dropped.

There are two different versions of what happened to McDonald. The first, provided by McDonald's attending physician claimed the sponge was infused with chloroform. Dr. Thompson ruled out an accident because of the huge sum of money staked on the race. The second, levelled by McDonald's trainer John Bowles, accused Thompson of giving McDonald some pills, that were supposed to stimulate him, when he became exhausted. Bowles claimed the doctor fabricated his conspiracy story after realizing the pills had the opposite effect.

With this commotion as a backdrop, Caffery ran a flawless race to the finish.