Dreams of Olympics Past: Nat Pendleton

The Summer Olympics are across the ocean this year, but that doesn’t stop us from remembering our past ties to these games:  the Davenporters who were counted among the world’s finest athletes.

One of these was Nat Pendleton, who was born in Davenport on August 9, 1895.  We can’t locate his Scott County birth record, but his parents, Nathaniel and Adalaide, do appear in the State Census for 1895 and Mr. Pendleton is listed in that year’s city directory as the secretary treasurer for the Davenport Gas Light Company.  The little family lived in a nice neighborhood at 1011 Main Street.

Unfortunately, by the next year’s directory, the company had disappeared.  The Pendletons had moved to an apartment at the Kimball House, but soon moved east, eventually settling in New York by way of Ohio and New Jersey.

Nat attended Columbia College, where he showed himself to be champion wrestling material.  In 1920, he was chosen to wrestle freestyle, heavy weight division, in the Summer Olympics, which were held in Antwerp, Belgium.  After beating Sweden’s Ernst Nilsson in the semi-finals, Nat won a silver medal in the finals.

His only loss in the Olympics was to Robert Roth of Switzerland, who took the gold.

Nat later became a well-known character actor in Hollywood, usually playing strong silent types.  He appeared in many diverse films—if not always diverse roles—such as the Thin Man series, the Doctor Kildare series, and, most notably The Great Ziegfeld as circus strongman Eugene Sandow.   He died in California on Oct 12, 1967.

Nat Pendleton may have spent only a few years in Davenport, but he’s one of us by birth,* and we’re keeping him in our minds and memories as we watch this year’s Summer Games.  We may even rent the Thin Man series as well!

(posted by Sarah)

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*We’d claim cyclist Christine Thorburn if we could, except Bettendorf probably wouldn’t let us get away with it.

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2 Responses to Dreams of Olympics Past: Nat Pendleton

  1. Amber says:

    That is so cool! I am a huge Nick and Nora fan, so I’m going to have watch for Nat the next time I break out those movies :-)

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