Thursday, December 31, 2020

Arthur Poe / Part 2 / Princeton Football Team Photos

                                                               Arthur Poe class photo, 1900 

                     1898 Princeton Team photo. Poe seated to captain Hillerbrand's right.

Close-up from the 1898 photo

                                                     1899 Princeton team photo

                                                       Close up of the 1899 team photo

1899 team photo. This is the only version of this photo we have seen.

                                                         Close up of 1899 team photo

The 1899 photo above, which is roughly 5" x 7", was on an album page with four other Princeton photos. This page was for sale in Germany and was priced at a hefty $2000.00 US. I asked the two owners if they would entertain an offer (I felt this was six to eight times what it should have been priced at the time), however, they felt strongly that it was worth the asking price as it had early campus photos. A year later I contacted them again and asked if they were willing to consider an offer and again was told no. I contacted them annually for two more years, and in the end said that I would be surprised if they had had any other interest and told them what I would be willing to pay, reminding them I would continue to get in touch with them at the same time of the year, every year. They relented.

I believe this to be the area adjacent to the football field (the room pictured is open to the outdoors) where players could be treated during the games (Photo from the sheet above).

A written  description of such an area, taken from Football Days, quoting Harvard doctor, W.M. Conant: "I had a house built under the grandstand where every man from our team was stripped, rubbed dry and put into a new suit of clothes, also given a certain amount of hot drink as seemed necessary. This was a thing which had never been done before, and in my opinion had a large influence in deciding the game in Harvard's favor; as the men went out upon the field in the second half almost as fresh as when they started the first half.” 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Arthur Poe / Part 1 / Charms, Medals And Awards

Arthur Poe's silver match safe awarded to team members following the 1899 Princeton victory over Yale

Arthur Poe, Princeton ’00, a first team All-American in 1899, made the decisive scores that beat Yale two years running. The matches between these two institutions were the biggest games in football; the most significant the most anticipated and overwhelmingly the most well attended of any college football games at the time. In 1898 Poe ran ninety yards for a touchdown after grabbing the ball out of Yale’s Durstine’s arms (it was not picking up a fumble and returning it for a touchdown as is re-stated in many sources) for the only score of the game. In the 1899 game, with the score 10 to 6 in Yale’s favor and under a minute of play left, Poe volunteered to try a drop-kick even though he had never kicked in a college game previously (both Princeton kickers were already out of the game; all but three players who had started the game had been replaced (Pell, Edwards and Poe)). Poe dropped back to the 35-yard line and made a perfect drop kick (as stated in news reports of the time) winning the game for Princeton, over Yale by the score of 11 to 10.

Poe’s version was a bit different: “The pass from center came back perfectly which is more than anyone could truthfully say for the rest of the play...The ball bounded a little too high off the ground as I dropped it and I got under it too much, raising it high into the air almost like a punt. It came down just about a foot over the crossbar and about a yard inside the upright. I wasn’t sure it was good until I turned to the referee and saw him raise his arms and heard him say ‘goal.’…Then everything broke loose….All I remember after that was being seized by a crowd of undergraduates and alumni who rushed onto the field, and hearing my brother Net (Neilson) shout: ‘You damned lucky kid, you have licked them again.”

The kick, Poe wrote in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, was “the first I had ever attempted in a game, though I had practiced a great deal. The week of the Yale game Big Bill Edwards and I had a contest with Alex Moffat ’84, who had kicked four goals in one game against Harvard or Yale… Alex and I tried a number from different distances and I beat him much to his humiliation. Wheeler and Hutchinson, our two drop kickers, had been succeeded by substitutes so there was no one left with experience in a game…Palmer and I were wearing light weight shoes to increase our speed. There was no toe box to the shoes, so I kicked with my instep.”

Poe’s fame was immense as a result of that kick and this lasted for the entirety of his life. From the Nassau Herald, 1900, is a quote I always liked: “The game was fast and furious, and to Arthur Poe we owe one of the happiest moments of our lives, when in the last desperate half minute he turned unmerited defeat into well-earned victory. Imagine the size of Arthur’s mail for the three weeks following. He gave lady Burr complete control of his correspondence and Carl was kept busy making photographs and composing replies, most of which began like this: ‘Mr. Poe directs me to thank you for the lock of hair. He prizes it highly and regrets that another engagement will prevent his presence at Cadwalader Park, Friday evening.””

As a researcher, it is always nice to identify first-hand accounts from those that witnessed an event.  Author Joseph Bearns attended every Yale-Princeton match in the 1890s and wrote about two games of particular interest to this posting, those that took place in 1898 and 1899. Bearns, who did not attend either Princeton or Yale, but appreciated the best football being played at the time, became an acknowledged expert on this series and on the individual Princeton and Yale players. Amazingly, Bearns attended 56 of the 57 games played from 1890 through 1949, missing only 1901 due to illness (1917 and 1918 were not played due to the war).

I borrow directly from Bearns account of the ‘98 and ‘99 games:

“Princeton had a fine well-balanced team in 1898 and finally won out (against Yale) by the close score of 6 to 0. Poe (Arthur) making the only touchdown. It was a great victory for Princeton. Poe at right end, Palmer at left end and Edwards at right guard, Hildebrandt at right tackle and Booth at center starred for Princeton. For Yale, DeSaulees and Ely, quarterbacks, and McBride, fullback’ starred. It was reported after the game that Morris Ely, former Poly quarterback, played the entire second half with a broken collarbone.

The following game (in the series) in 1899 at New Haven was one of the most interesting and exciting games of the entire series. The followers of both teams and the general football fans in attendance never dreamed of the dramatic climax that was to mark the finish of this historic struggle. The game was very close throughout and the teams appeared to be about evenly matched in every department. Both had made one touchdown and Sharpe of Yale had made a beautiful field goal. Princeton converted after its touchdown whereas Yale had failed and with about ten minutes remaining to playing the second half, the score was 10 to 6 in favor of Yale.

The Eli team appeared to have the game well in hand. But this Tiger team elected to die hard, although a Yale victory was figured to be certain. After a last desperate effort in the closing minutes of play, the Tigers succeeded in the pigskin down to about the Yale 30-Yard line, with the ball being just about one yard inside of the sideline. I recall time was taken out and it was learned by the teams that there was less than one minute to play. Princeton’s cause looked hopeless and the Yale contingent was already proclaiming victory for this strong Eli outfit, but it was just not to be.

I can remember that it was starting to get dark on this afternoon at Yale Field, New Haven. The Princeton players gathered together to decide what would be the last play of the game, and I heard afterwards, but did not know it to be authentic, that Poe (Arthur) had volunteered to try a drop kick. The angle was so great and the distance so far, it looked as if there was not a chance. I figured that not one person figured it would be successful.

Poe dropped back, the Princeton line held remarkably well, and he drop kicked. I never can forget this drop kick. It was perfect. The ball sailed high, its course true and went between the posts and well over the crossbar. If the ball had gone a few feet to either side it never could have been made. It was declared a field goal by the officials and Poe had accomplished what appeared to be the impossible. The game was over and Princeton had won by a score of 11 to 10. Poe was a hero and I remember the students carrying him on their shoulders around Yale Field for probably half an hour after the game. I have often thought that there was something spiritual about the ending of this game. It is my opinion that this final play was the most decisive ever made on a football field.”

Bearns also named players from the six decades of Princeton – Yale football he was familiar with, that were in his opinion the best at their respective positions (for both Yale and Princeton). He named Arthur Poe to his Princeton “first team” at Right End, with Princeton alternates Trenchard, Cochran, Henry, Stout, Moeser, Lea (Gilbert, Langdon's son) and Davis.

There are many dozens of accounts of both of these games in reference books, and many hundreds from newspapers that I have viewed. A common theme amongst them is that the 1899 game is considered one of the most significant games of the 19th century. As an example, the book Rites of Autumn by Richard Whittingham, in the chapter on the greatest games in college football details only one 19th century game, the 1899 Princeton – Yale game. 

Arthur Poe is widely considered one of the top four ends of the 19th century, along with Gelbert of Penn, Hinkey of Yale and Hallowell of Harvard.

                  Back of the match safe - Princeton Tiger holding football with the score

             Arthur Poe's gold championship charm from the 1899 Princeton - Yale game

                                                 Inscribed "Arthur Poe" , "Right End"

             Arthur Poe's gold cufflinks awarded after the 1899 Princeton - Yale game 

                                  Arthur Poe's silver charm awarded for championship scrub team

Inscribed "Arthur Poe"

Arthur Poe's gold charm awarded after the 1898 championship season

                                                   Inscribed "Arthur Poe" , "R. End"

                                                              Arthur Poe's class pin

What is not commonly known is that all of the Poes wrestled, all being trained, and initially wrestling under John Doyle (a wrestler in his own right) of the Baltimore Athletic Club. Of the sons, Johnny, Neilson and Arthur excelled with some notoriety. One newspaper article from 1903 cited Doyle’s years as an instructor at the Baltimore Athletic Club and St. Leos Gymnasium and credited him in the headline as “Tutor of Famous Poe Family of Princeton Athletes” and in the articles body, that he “guided them in their athletic careers.” It was not uncommon in the 1890s to see newspaper articles covering athletic contests where one of the Poes was victorious in wrestling competitions, wrestling either for the BAC or for Princeton.  Arthur was a top wrestler in two weight classes at Princeton.

           Above two photos are Arthur Poe's wrestling medals from the Baltimore Athletic Club. Bottom medal dated 1893.

Above four photos are the front and back of two of Arthur Poe's wrestling medals at Princeton. Note the two different weight classes.

Poe’s  winning run in 1898 and kick against the Elis in 1899 were featured in a heavily illustrated poetic volume by M'Cready Sykes, entitled "Poe's Run and Other Poems."

 Poe married Anne Emerson King, sister of fellow Princeton football player Phil King. It was one of their two daughters, Ella Poe Burling, a Washington D.C. socialite, whose estate sold in 2004, after her passing, through Weschlers, an auction house also in D.C. Ella had inherited her father’s belongings, including all of his football and wrestling charms, medals and awards and these were all bought at Weschlers by a single individual, an antiques dealer in Alexandria, Virginia. These were put away and stored in a safe for a dozen years; only a pocket compass of Poe’s from the collection was sold off. One night a few years back Jacob called me after midnight, having found an advertisement for the shop online, picturing Poe’s 1899 charm. We contacted the shop the next day and purchased the charm, knowing it was a pretty significant item. After getting the charm in hand, four or five days passed before I was contacted by the owner of the shop who asked me a question I wasn’t prepared to hear - “what about the rest of the pieces”. What pieces? We only knew of the one charm. I was forwarded photos of Arthur Poe’s 1896 Scrub Championship charm, his 1898 Champions charm, his class pin, his Princeton gold cufflinks awarded to him after the 1899 game and his Baltimore Athletic Club and Princeton wrestling medals. Over the next two days we reached an agreement on prices for each piece and were able to keep it all together. The only piece we found and bought separately was Poe’s 1899 silver match safe, awarded to team members commemorating the 1899 win over Yale. We know of one other of these Princeton match safes, having belonged to William Roper, originally coming out of Heritage auctions in 2011 and recently coming up at auction again in October of last year.

Associated blog posting - October 5, 2020

Saturday, November 14, 2020

1899 Lafayette Gold Football Charm H.E. Trout


1899 Lafayette charm belonging to H.E. Trout (Harry Edgar), '03. Trout played for four years on the varsity team, captaining in 1902. Besides playing left guard , he was known to often kick the goals. Trout was a powerhouse; in one article he was referred to as the "tower of strength for the maroon and white". Certainly one of the most attractive of the early football charms with the maroon and white enameling. A rare charm. Lafayette went 12 and 1 on the season, registering 10 shutouts. The charm lists two of its wins and scores against UPenn and Cornell.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tommy Heinsohn 1934 - 2020


Legendary basketball player, coach and broadcaster. He will be sorely missed in New England. Heinsohn and Jacob, from an article in a sports publication, 2003.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Circa 1910 Melon Ball


This was my first attempt at a full restoration of a vintage football. I found this up in Maine and it was hard as a rock and folded in thirds. Worst case - and what better ball to see what I could do with it. Working on it off and on over a number of months, loosening up and treating the leather (with a non silicone treatment), it became pliable enough to then fill with fiberfill. The last step in the process was lacing, which took the better part of an hour, being my first time. It came out darn nicely. Finished it last week. The ball measures 22" in the short circumference and 27 3/4 over the long circumference.

Friday, October 23, 2020

1894 University Of Pennsylvania Football Pinback

Really nice and rare composite photo pin. 1894 team members including Gelbert, Bull, Wharton, Knipe, Woodruff, Brooke and most other team members. Measuring 1 3/4" in diameter and total length with ribbon 3 3/4". 

This pinback is a true convex front and flat back

                                          Back of pin with manufacturer and 1894 patent date


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

1903 Princeton Football Pinback

1903 Princeton football team with Captain John DeWitt holding the football (middle seated row). DeWitt was a two time All-American and won the silver medal in the hammer throw at the 1904 summer games in St. Louis. Princeton finished the season with an 11-0 record and were the consensus National Champions (Helms, Parke Davis). Pinback, labelled on reverse Whitehead & Hoag, measures 2 1/8" in diameter, total length with ribbon 8 3/8".