San Francisco Examiner/July 18, 1901
Most notable was the entrance upon the scene of Mr. Julius Becker, who, when it comes to Schützenfests, is one of the old war horses. On his breast he proudly wore a silver medal cast in the figure of a war-harnessed knight and won at a fest of the Danzig Schützenguild of West Prussia in 1854.
Among other medals, and some imperial, he had with him, won in competition from the early fifties to the late seventies. Very young it makes us Americans feel to sit at the knees of such a man, who calmly relates that he became first knight of the 525TH annual fest of the Marienwerder Schützenguild, and that that happened a quarter of a century ago!
Nearly six centuries gone, Winrich von Knieprode, first knight of the name, made his stronghold in a castle perched on a rock near Marienburg. This same castle it was that the Maltese knights built when they gave over crusading and fell to conquering the pagan Prussians; and from this same castle Winrich von Knieprode waged successful war against the Robber Knights and gave law and order to the devastated land.
And this was the knight who founded the first Schützenguild 550 years ago. And that guild, of which Mr. Becker is a member, still flourishes to-day and treasures the great medal chains of silver presented to the first Schützen Konig by its founder. These chains weigh twenty-one pounds and each year the target determines which member of the club is to receive the great honor of holding them in charge.
When Napoleon Bonaparte brought Prussia to her knees, he entered Danzig with the express intention of looting these chains. But in vain were the royal servants browbeaten and threatened, and in vain were the gardens and cellars of the King dug up. The unconquered Corsican went on his way empty-handed; and as the only thing, but the greatest thing saved, the King produced the chains and caused the glad tidings to be sent to all the people.
Mr. Becker’s shooting days are over, but as he sits and watches us younger men and measures us by the traditions of centuries, we feel very young indeed. Many a long cycle and strange event must come to pass ere our children’s children and their children’s children shoot for kingship at the 550th fest of an American Schützen.
Wednesday was All People’s Day, and all people’s day it turned out to be, with the smoke thick on the firing line and the men lining up for a chance at the targets. It was an ideal day, with just enough wind to cool the air and not enough to discommode the marksmen.
That is, it was cool except in the glass shooting-box of the honor targets. Here strange and startling temperatures ranged, and, to judge from the sweat dripping from some of the men as they emerged, even a government thermometer could not have withstood the pressure.
“Hot?” one of the unfortunates remarked, sweeping the moisture from his fevered brow; “just let me tell you that the steam-room of the Olympics is out of the running.” And thereat he turned away, weak and tottery, to meditate upon the mystery of things in general and of honor targets in particular.
All the sharpshooters have balked at these targets for three days now, and not a few of them are still balking. And small wonder. During all the fest a member is entitled to but three shots on them, while the prizes to be gained thereby are the most valuable and the honors overwhelming.
The fun has begun, however, though it is anything but fun to the nerve-tried men who go into the glass box. Finally, when they have steeled themselves to the ordeal, they walk up very quickly, with determined faces, and duck in without a glance to right or left.
Here is where A. H. Pape fell down yesterday. Pape is reigning king of the Californian Schützen Club, and from the opening of the Festival has backed his reputation with skill and credit. Yesterday morning, having just made 23, 25, and 24, on the ring target, and feeling rather good because of it, he decided that then was the time to tackle the Honor Target Eureka. Well, each shot is a possible 25, and his first shot netted him 9.
His next shots brought him 21 and 22, but too late to avert the Waterloo. Then he grew reckless, went up against the Honor Germania, dropped the red flag the first shot, missed the second, and declined to fire the third.
What causes merriment among the sharpshooters is the fact that his father F. Pape, who is 63 and who was never reckoned a crack, stands third high on the same target, with a score of 67. It is rumored that Pape the younger made the failure out of filial respect; that he could not bear to beat his father. But Papa Pape says nothing, though his eyes wink significantly.
The works of Jack London and other major journalists are freely available from The Archive of American Journalism: www.historicjournalism.com