Pennsylvania Trapshooting Hall of Fame

Where Legends Reside.

Trapshooting Starts in Pennsylvania

The First Ten Grand Americans

By
Richard Hamilton

YEAR LOCATION WINNER SCORE ENTRIES
1893 Dexter Park, Long Island, NY R. A Welch  (23x25) (4x4)

24

1894 Dexter Park, Long Island, NY T. W. Morfey  (25x25) (10x12)

54

1895 Willard Park, NJ J. G. Messner  (25x25) (10x10)

61

1896 Elkwood Park, Long Branch, NJ O. R. Dickey  (24x24) (6x6)

109

1897 Elkwood Park, Long Branch, NJ Thomas Marshall  (25x25)

146

1898 Elkwood Park, Long Branch, NJ E. D. Fulford  (25x25) (23x23)

207

1899 Elkwood Park, Long Branch, NJ Thomas Marshall  (25x25) 33x33)

278

1900 Interstate Park, Long Island, NY H. D. Bates  (25x25) (34x34)

224

1901 Interstate Park, Long Island, NY E. C. Griffith  (25x25) (18x18)

222

1902 Blue Ridge Park, Kansas City, MO H. C. Hirschy  (25x25) (53x53)

493

 


1895 Magazine advertisement
Collection of Richard Hamilton


Live Bird shooting in America

1893
     T
he first Grand American Handicap at live birds was held on April 5, 1893 and sponsored by the Interstate Association. All ten of the live bird championship's were a product of the Interstate Association. The shoot was managed by Elmer Shaner of Pennsylvania. He would manage every Grand American live bird Tournament. The shoot, held at Dexter Park in Long Island, New York attracted 24 shooters with R. A. Welch winning the title with 23x25. Mr. Welch, shooting from 28 yards, was tied with 3 others whom he defeated in a shootoff, miss and out. He killed 4 straight pigeons to win the title. Welch shot out of the Riverton Gun Club in Philadelphia.

1894
    
The second Grand American was held on the same date in 1894 on the same grounds. This time 54 gunners showed up for the big event. T. W. Morfey, shooting from 28 yards killed 25 straight to finish in a tie with one other gunner. They each killed 8x10 in the first round of a ten bird shoot-off. They than shot off, miss and out with Morfey winning in the second round. Morfey was from Patterson, NJ.

1895
     The third Grand American, held on April 4, 1895 moved to Willard Park in New Jersey. J. G. Messner, shooting from 25 yards, killed 25 straight to tie with two others. There were 61 gunners in the field. In the ensuing shoot-off, Mr. Messner killed 10 straight pigeons in a ten bird shoot-off to claim the title. J. A. R. Elliott, an ATA Hall of Famer, finished runner-up, missing his 10th shoot-off pigeon. Messner, From Pittsburgh, was a novice shooter, having started shooting live birds only 6 weeks prior to the GAH. He only shot at 175 pigeons in his brief career prior the 1895 GAH. He shot at his first pigeons at the Pittsburgh Gun Club.

1896
     The fourth Grand American at live birds was held on March 25, 1896. Again the tournament moved, this time being held in Elkwood Park, Long Branch, New Jersey. The shoot attract 109 of the best live bird shooters in America. After the smoke cleared, there were no straights but 8 contestants killed 24x25, including the eventual champion, O. R. Dickey, shooting from 29 yards. In a miss and out shoot-off, Dickey killed 6 straight pigeons for the title.

1897
     The fifth Grand American, held on March 24, 1897, was also held at Elkwood Park in New Jersey. For the first time, a gunner won the title without a shoot-off. For the fifth straight year, entries increased over the previous year, with the tournament attracting 146 shooters. Shooting from 28 yards, ATA Hall of Famer Thomas A. Marshall killed 25x25 to win without a tie. Marshall was inducted into the Trapshooting Hall of Fame in 1969 with the first group of 15 shooting immortals.


 

1898
     For the third straight year, the Grand American was held at Elkwood Park in New Jersey. The sixth Grand American was held on March 23, 1898 with 207 pigeon shooters in the field. E. D. Fulford, shooting from 29 yards, and eight others, tied for the title with 25 straight. In a miss and out shoot-off, Mr. Fulford killed 23 straight pigeons for the title. He died in 1904 pf pneumonia at the age of 41. 

 

E. D. Fulford

1898 GAH Trophy

1899
    The 1899 Grand American was held at Elkwood Park in New Jersey for the fourth and last time on April 12, 1899. A record 278 gunners turned out for the event. Thomas A. Marshall, once a mayor of Keithsburg, Illinois, won his second Grand American, becoming the only shooter to repeat as Grand American Handicap Champion at either live birds or clay targets. This time he shot from 29 yards. Two years earlier when he won his first title, Marshall shot from 28 yards. Born in Mississippi, Marshall killed 25 straight. Unlike 1897 when he won the title without a tie, he has to survive a 33 bird shoot-off, miss and out, with 5 others for his second crown. Marshall tied for the title the next year (1900) but lost a shoot-off.

1900
     The eighth Grand American moved to Interstate Park, Queens, Long Island, NY. The tournament, held on April 4th, 1900 attracted 224 gunners, a decline in entries for the first time. Pigeon shooting had fallen out of respect with mainstream America. The media, and others, were calling for legislation banning pigeon shooting. H. D. Bates, a Canadian shooting from 28 yards, killed 25 straight to finish tied with 7 other shooters, including the defending champion, T. A. Marshall. Again, the tie was shot off miss and out with Mr. Bates killing 34 straight pigeons for the championship. Two months later, on the same grounds, from June 12-15, 1900, the first Grand American at inanimate (clay) targets, was contested. Only 74 shooters showed up for this event at clay targets. This shoot was also managed by Elmer Shaner, as he would do for the first 19 Grand Americanís at clay targets. The Grand American Handicap was won by the great Rolla "Pop" Heikes, a Remington professional. Heikes was the first and last professional to win the Grand American Handicap at clay targets. Rules barring professionals went into effect the following year.

1901
     The ninth Grand American at live birds was again held at Interstate Park on April 3, 1901. An amazing 22 contestants tied for the title with 25 straight. Shooting from 28 yards, E. C. Griffith killed 25 straight from 28 yards, then had to endure a 18 bird miss and out shoot-off over 21 others to claim the crown. The shoot attracted 222 pigeon shooters. This was two less than 1900 and a decline in entries for the second year in a row. In 1902 Griffith would win the Grand American again, this time at clay targets. He is the only two time winner of the Grand American Handicap. He lived in Pascoag, Rhode Island and later in his life he owned a movie theatre in his hometown. He won several Rhode Island state championships during his career. For many years he was connected with an ammunition company as were many of the early great pigeon and clay target shooters. 

1902
     The Interstate Association moved the live bird shoot to the mid-west, to Blue Ridge Park, in Kansas City, MO. Owing to the popular demand for the elimination of live pigeons as targets at trapshooting tournaments, the Association decided to recognize that demand and the tenth and last Grand American at live birds was held in 1902. The final shoot was held on April 2nd, 1902. Thirty-three shooters out of the record 493 entries killed 25 straight pigeons. H. C. Hirschy had to kill 53 straight in the large miss and out shoot-off for the last Grand American Handicap at live birds title. He shot from the 29 yard mark. The following year, in 1903, the Grand American at clay targets would be shot over these same grounds. The era of live pigeon shoots had come to an end.

     Several states, including Pennsylvania, continued to hold pigeon shoot events at their state shoots. The last pigeon shoot, held in conjunction with a state shoot, was held in Pennsylvania in 1906. Pigeon events are still held at several Pennsylvania Gun Clubs to this date.