Visit our new blog on antique Roller Polo and Hockey memorabilia beginning in late 2019: https://hockeyofyore.blogspot.com.
Monday, January 6, 2020
We have seen roughly seven or eight wool caps in collections, most identified as “football” caps, primarily from the late 1870s up through the early 1890s. Over the years it has become apparent to us that such caps, although more commonly worn by football players of the period were also worn by team members of crew, lacrosse and even roller polo. It is unlikely these could be routinely differentiated from one another. Such caps may also have been non-sports related, although their rarity suggests this may not have been usual.
A review of many early football photographs also reveals that it is common that team members may have worn many different types of caps. The shorter wool cap, the stocking cap and any number of other hat/cap varieties. More mainstream teams with larger budgets often exhibit many of the same or similar caps being worn by the team members.
It would be nice if one could tie these wool caps to a legitimate provenance or photo match it to a player or team. This of course would be the exception rather than the rule.
The wool cap pictured in the two photos above is worsted wool, in pretty good shape with some thinning and one hole that is non-obtrusive. It is all black, without any striping. For just a few photographic examples of this type of cap see our blog entry dated January 21, 2014. Many similar examples can be found on our blog or on the internet.
It appears that it is constructed in the same manner, including the lower seam as those in the period advertisement below (506). This advertisement is pictured in an article on the Antiquefootball.com. site.
As an aside, my favorite cap photo, which illustrates the point that there was not a standard convention for this particular type of equipment, is pictured below (note the length and style of the stocking cap).
Thursday, December 26, 2019
Close up of the game
Postponed twice, on both October 16th and again on October 26th, the second match of the year between Harvard and Tufts was played on Wednesday, October 27. The College Elevens met at College Hill in Medford (the first match having been played on Jarvis Field at Harvard in June, won by Tufts) late on a very windy fall day, the game starting at 3:30. The game consisted of three thirty minute periods; however the game ended early due to darkness in the last half hour.
The Crimson were dressed in dark trousers and white shirts, the Tufts men dressed in their “broad-striped” long sleeved jerseys and white trousers. This stereoview is the companion view to the Tufts team stereoview in our blog entry dated March 23, 2014. This match was played in the rugby-style football manner as was their earlier match, therefore this game was only the second rugby-style football game played between American colleges, the June match being the first. Harvard won this match, despite notable disputes, by a score of one goal to nothing. The Springfield Republican reported "the wind and a "false call" gave the Harvards the game, it was admitted on both sides that the Tufts boys did the best playing".
In 1875 Harvard played four games, two against Tufts, one against All-Canada and one against Yale. Tufts played only the two games against Harvard in 1875. Apparently their win in June against Harvard dissuaded teams from playing against them and was the reason the Boston YMCA forfeited their scheduled game.
Playing for Harvard: Faucon, ’75, Hall, ’76, Seamans, Herrick, Cushing , Cate, Curtis, Keys, ’77, Wetherbee, Lombard, ’78 and Blanchard, ’79.
Playing for Tufts: Aldrich (Captain), Headle, Dwinnell, Fletcher, Eddy, ’76, Whithead, Harrington, Branch, ’77, Campbell, ’78, Perry, Fuller, ’79.
This is a significant and historic photograph. Football photographs from this period are scarce and this stereoview is an incredibly rare example. This is the earliest photo of a game in progress known to our hobby.
Friday, October 25, 2019
This is a pretty special football piece, the significance of which I think I would have trouble overstating. A rarity in every regard, James Naismith photographed posed in his football uniform in 1885 at McGill University. A football tintype is fairly rare, and one of a well-known sitter is unheard of. This tintype is possibly unique in this regard. Naismith was the inventor of basketball, and likely the first to devise head and ear protection in football.
The 1885 McGill Football team, Naismith seated at far right wearing the same long sleeve white canvas lace up vest, pants and belt as in the tintype (Note: tintype images are reversed). Permission to use this Notman team photo was granted under written license obtained through the McGill University Archives.
See related blog entries on tintypes (August 11, 2014, November 3, 2014 and October 19, 2016).
Monday, August 5, 2019
In the 1890s there was a push for innovation in football, each team hoping to get the edge on the competition. This usually consisted of new types of plays on offense, such as mass plays like the Flying Wedge, which was introduced in 1892. In 1893 however, Harvard showed up for their contest with Yale wearing leather suits, rather than the expected canvas vest and canvas or moleskin pants. These suits consisted of leather vests and pants, joined by an elastic waistband, and although three distinct parts, are often referred to as a one piece uniform.
The suits were made in Boston by Sommers tailors, at a cost of $125.00 per suit; twelve uniforms were made in total. There was a public controversy (in the papers) concerning payment for the uniforms between team Manager White and Captain Waters, resolved when an alumni stepped in to pay the tailor in full out of his own pocket in January of 1894.
The theory behind the leather uniform in contemporary accounts was twofold. The first was that leather would be harder to grab a hold of in order to tackle a player, and the second would be the surprise factor of a leather uniform.
Relative to the uniform’s surprise factor, the following was published in the Daily Inter Ocean, November 26, 1893, titled, “Yale Rosin Did It/Leather Suits Could Not Save Harvard the Game”.
“The fact that Harvard was to wear these suits had been kept a secret and it only leaked out an hour before the game was called. This was too late for the crowd to catch on, but the Yale eleven were quick to act. An order was sent out for a big supply of rosin and when the sons of Eli went on the field they were covered with rosin. This was done with the hope that they would stick to their rivals, and that they did so is proved by the score. “ Yale beat Harvard 6 – 0.
Before the start of the game Frank Hinkey of Yale argued that he believed the leather uniforms should not be allowed, but since nothing in the rule book specifically prohibited them, they were allowed to be worn.
The following excerpt is taken from “The History of Football at Harvard, 1874 – 1948”, Morris Bealle, 1948, and gives a most accurate accounting of the first appearance of this uniform, as William H. Lewis contributed materials to this book and had direct input into this commentary.
“William H. Lewis, Harvard’s All-American center on the team, disagrees with what the University Magazine said about these suits. He says ‘I do not think the suits surprised or dismayed Yale at all. I was informed that the Yale team procured some resin which they used on their hands so that they could hold on to the Harvard players when they tackled them’. I recall that the suits were made by a fashionable tailor of that day – Sommers on Park Street in Boston – at a cost of $125.00 a suit. Most of the team did not like these suits. I did, and used mine quite a while when I was coaching for some years afterward”.
The following is also from Bealle’s book, that has "borrowed" heavily in content and wording from “The H Book of Harvard Athletics, 1852 – 1922, published in 1923.
“One of the principal reasons for equipping the team with these suits was said to be to lessen the weight a player would have to carry in case it rained. Harvard had played Cornell at Manhattan Field in New York earlier in the season on a muddy field with rain falling throughout the game. Someone hit upon the bright idea of weighing the players in uniform before they went on the field and again after the game. It was found that there was an average increase of weight of some twenty-five pounds, in contrast of an average loss of five to eight pounds on a dry day, depending on whether the day was warm or cold. This meant that the heavily-padded moleskin trousers and canvas jackets in vogue in those days had absorbed about thirty to thirty-five pounds of water and mud.
Immediate steps were taken to avoid this increase in weight and it was found that a high grade of thin leather, hand finishes but containing no oil, grease or other sticky substance, would meet the situation. On a later test these suits were found to absorb only a pound of water and weighed only five pounds.”
These suits were not popular with the Harvard players and fell out of favor with them almost immediately. Manufacturers of sporting equipment tried to capitalize on these uniforms by offering them in their catalogs as custom-made articles starting in 1894, and for roughly 3 years after. The advertised cost of these vests and pants were exorbitant, and any potential benefits were questionable. The 1894 Spalding catalog lists canvas jackets/vests for between $1.00 and $1.50 depending on quality. Canvas pants were priced between $1.00 and $2.50. This, compared to a leather suit (vest and pants with the elastic belt) priced at $30.00. This alone would account for the absolute dearth of sales. Consider $30.00, when the average salary in major cities in the mid to late 1890s was $12.50 a week.
Edgar Wrightington devised his own innovation and had swatches of leather adhered/glued to his vest that would pull away from the uniform when grasped by opponents. These swatches attached to his leather vest are visible in the 1893 Harvard team photo. The glue marks from the swatches are still visible on the front of the vest today. An example pictured in this posting below.
Marks from where a leather swatch was attached
Wrightington, a halfback, played for Harvard from 1893 through 1896, Captaining the team in 1896 and being named an All-American that same year. He is featured as one of the Harvard players in the 1894 Mayo Cut Plug football card set. He lived his entire life in Massachusetts.
Wrightington was involved in the most controversial of the injuries sustained in the 1894 Harvard - Yale game, referred to in many sources as the “Bloodbath in Hampden Park” (Springfield, Massachusetts). The game is well known for its violent play and extensive injury list, and was the direct cause for Harvard and Yale not playing each other for the next two years (see related blog posting of March 24, 2015). Period accounts of the game generally suggest that Frank Hinkey was overly aggressive and landed knees first on an already downed Wrightington, breaking his collarbone. Yet, there are other accounts that have Frank Hinkey at least fifteen yards away from the play when it ended. After sifting through all of the contemporary accounts and evidence, including Jim Rodger's (Yale player) first hand account, it's clear that it was Louis Hinkey, Frank’s younger brother who kneed Wrightington in the chest and that Frank did the brotherly thing and covered for him.
My favorite photo of an injured Wrightington, mounted on linen. Possibly six weeks to a month before the Harvard – Yale game in 1894. He was sidelined with knee injuries at the time.
This is the only leather uniform known to the hobby.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Monday, June 10, 2019
Sports and tobacco advertising have gone hand in hand for generations. It is very common when we talk of baseball, but quite rare when we consider late 19th, early 20th century football. Besides the 1894 Mayo Cut Plug card set, very little else in this realm is known to exist. The pictured 1903 Mogul Cigarette "insert" is a significant rarity; we have not seen nor are we aware of another example. This is a 21 panel insert that has 18 panels devoted to Princeton Tigers players and personnel. Princeton was 11-0 in 1903 and was retroactively awarded the National Championship. The insert when unfolded measures an astounding 43" in length, each panel measuring 2" x 3 1/2". Of the 16 players pictured, 6 received All-American honors, including Henry, Davis, Short, Kafer, Miller and Captain John DeWitt. Former star player, head coach "Doc" Hillerbrand is also pictured on one of the panels. S.Anargyros was an importer of Egyptian cigarettes and produced the well-known brands Murad, Helmarand and Mogul, amongst others.