Henry Putnam, son of H. W. and Anne Andrews Putnam, was born in Carthage in 1906 and was one of the most talented and versatile athletes to graduate from Carthage High School in the first half of the 20th century. An exceptional track and field man, who lettered four years, he competed in several events including the hurdles, broad jump, high jump, javelin, and pole vault, and the 1925 Carthaginian states that at the 1924 Missouri state track meet, Henry, who was team Captain and had been unable to compete all season due to a knee injury, “was all primed and ready, and flashed to the tape ahead of all the rest, winning the high hurdles. This is the first time in the history of C. H. S. that she has placed first in the state meet.” (Class A). The 1924 yearbook states he was “an iron man who never gives up” and “Henry’s value to the Carthage High School track team cannot be overestimated….an athlete if ever there was one. He will long be remembered as a great track man.”
Henry also was a starter on the basketball team his junior year, but football was where he really shined. He was a starter on three teams with a combined won lost record of 20-5-1, outscoring the opposition 839-104. His sophomore year he played right end, as a junior he was starting quarter back, and was a true triple threat – passing, running, and kicking the ball. As a senior he moved to half back to take advantage of his remarkable broken field running, and was featured as a drop-kicker, punter (one news article reports a 70 yard punt), and punt returner as well as playing safety on defense. While individual statistics from that era are not available, a reading of game stories reveals that he had multiple punt returns and scrimmage runs of over 50 yards.
Named to the mythical “All Southwest” team honorable mention as a sophomore and to the first team as a junior and senior (at halfback and safety), writers described him as “a broken field runner of college caliber, a good accurate passer, a drop kicker of ability, and one of the best punters I have ever seen…a triple threat man that any school should be proud of “and “Putnam is one of the best tacklers in the conference”. A leader off the field as well, he served as his Class President two years.
After high school, Henry starred on the track team at Phillips Exeter Academy in 1925, and at Dartmouth College, competing against the world’s best in the semi finals of the 120 yard high hurdles at the famous ICAAAA Track Championships at Franklin Field in Philadelphia in 1929. His best time was within a few tenths of a second of the then world best time.
Henry died in 1947 at age 41, leaving four young children and his wife, Josephine Phelps Putnam, granddaughter of Col. W. H. Phelps.