Monday, December 9, 2013

Examples of 1890s Harvard - Yale Ribbons

           These are pretty tough to locate; we have always had a fondness for them.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

1890s Richard Harding Davis Photo / Mrs. Walter Camp

This photo of Richard Harding Davis (1864 -1916), from the first half of the 1890s, is inscribed to Mrs. Walter Camp.  Davis corresponded with both Walter Camp and his wife, sometimes writing to either one on the same day. Much of this correspondence still exists in various archives and collections and we were lucky enough to have obtained photocopies of letters of interest to us, specifically from the Special Collections Library of The University of Virginia.
Davis and his brother were visiting the Camp’s home in Connecticut when they came up for the Yale bowl dedication in 1914. After this visit Davis in the attached letter states “I scouted around and was greatly flattered to find myself among your friends (referring to the photo he sent to Mrs. Camp that was hanging with other photos in their home). I hate to think when that picture was taken.” (He likely sent this in the early 1890s in return for the Camps having sent him a photo of Walter and his son (another letter in the collection references this). It was very exciting  for Jacob and I to have tied this photo and this letter together during our research.  

The Camp home on Gill Street where the photo hung. The Camps resided here from 1888 - 1905.

Recounting Davis, Bill Edwards said of him “He was one of the leaders at Lehigh (Davis actually scored their first touchdown) who first organized that University’s football team. He was a truly remarkable player. What he did in football is well known to the men of his day. He loved the game; he wrote about the game; he did much to help the game.” 

Davis is considered to this day to be the "Father of Lehigh Football."

From his biography, The Reporter Who Would Be King: A Biography of Richard Harding Davis: 

“At the turn of the century, Richard Harding Davis was the most dashing man in America. 'His stalwart good looks were as familiar to us as those of our own football captain; we knew his face as we knew the face of the President of the United States, but we infinitely preferred Davis’s”, wrote Booth Tarkington. Of all the great people of every continent, this was the one we most desired to see.
The real – life model for the debonair escort of the Gibson Girl, Davis was so celebrated a war correspondent that a war hardly seemed a war if he didn’t cover it.
Describing the desperate charge of his friend Theodore Roosevelt in the Spanish – American War, he produced both a classic of battle reportage and a legend in American history…
Writers like Jack London, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis and Ernest Hemingway tried to emulate him in their lives and writing.”

Randolph Hearst, taking advantage of Davis' fame, paid him $500.00 to write a single newspaper article on the Yale – Princeton football contest of 1895 (today that would equate to roughly fourteen thousand dollars). 



This letter reads:
Nov 22nd 

My Dear Walter, 

I must congratulate you on your “Bowl”, and on the way you gave everyone a chance to see, and be seen. For that spectacle of seventy thousand human beings rising in the air was one thing I always will remember. We had a splendid lunch, and were only sorry that we came so late that we missed a chance to talk to you all.

I scouted around and was greatly flattered to find myself (referring to the photograph he had sent and inscribed to Mrs. Camp) among your friends. I hate to think when that picture was taken.

I paid my respects to you this morning in the Tribune. Again let me say thank you for taking so much trouble over us we are deeply grateful. I don’t know how much I really owe you for the tickets, but count upon you to tell me their real cost. Their value to me in the fun and excitement could not be put into dollars.

With all good wishes always, 

Faithfully yours 

Richard Harding Davis

A special thank you to the people at the Special Collections Library of The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, for their assistance.

Friday, November 15, 2013

c 1870 Foot Ball Game Stereoview

              C.1870 American "Foot Ball Game" stereoview  (Kicking Game / Association Foot Ball). Keene, New Hampshire, Keene High School, Academy Building. Originally an academy, this building was leased as the High School in 1853 and was demolished and replaced in 1875/76.
Several links are attached with further photos and information (the identity of the building and related links were sent to us from Eric Desmond, Milford, MA).

         The airborne ball is circled; this is better viewed with a stereo viewer as the ball is quite clear

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Everett J. Lake / Worcester Polytechnic


Cabinet card of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute football team of 1889.  Everett J. Lake (back row, 4th from the left) graduated from WPI in 1890 and then attended Harvard where he continued to play football in 1890, '91 and '92. He was a Walter Camp All-American in 1891. Lake co-coached the Crimson in 1893. He was to become the Governor of Connecticut in 1920.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Congratulations To The Boston Red Sox

                       Jacob and Big Papi (2013 World Series MVP) around 2005

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Glenn "Pop" Warner / 1948 Stagg Coaching Award

The Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award, presented by the American Football Coaches Association  to Glenn "Pop" Scobey Warner in 1948. This is awarded to the “individual, group or institution whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football." A significant award for one of the most significant figures in American football.
A large and heavy trophy; bronze plaques mounted on wood.
1948 was an unusual year in that three individuals were presented with this award, Gilmour Dobie, Robert Zuppke and Glenn Warner.

Zuppke (Illinois), pictured below, was so proud of his award he displayed it at public showings of his paintings.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Unusual Turn of the Century Pads

Early wool and leather pads. Wool fully intact. It is likely that there was a small flap or epaulette over each shoulder that was attached by the remnants of a strap on each side. We rarely pick up pads, but these were way too fine and  unusual to pass up. There is one numerical marking on one section of the leather but no manufacturer's markings are evident.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Winchester Osgood


        Outstanding c. 1894 albumin cabinet photo of Osgood with an unusual bare-arm pose.

More appropriate than giving a straight Wikipedia style biography, since it exists, is a first hand, period tribute to Winchester Dana Osgood, by George Woodruff (played football for Yale in the 1880s and his longest coaching stint was at Penn from 1892 through 1901). This was published in the book Football Days, written by Bill Edwards. 

“When my thoughts turn to the scores of manly football players I have known intimately, Win Osgood claims, if not first place, at least a unique place, among my memories. As a player he has never been surpassed in his specialty of making long and brilliant runs, not only around, but through the ranks of his opponents. After one of his seventy or eighty yard runs his path was always marked by a zigzag line of opposing tacklers just collecting their wits and slowly starting to get up from the ground. None of them was ever hurt, but they seemed temporarily stunned as though, when they struck Osgood’s mighty legs, they received an electric shock.

While at Cornell in 1892, Osgood made, by his own prowess, two or three touchdowns against each of the strong Yale, Harvard and Princeton elevens, and in the Harvard – Pennsylvania game at Philadelphia in 1894, he thrilled the spectators with his runs more than I have ever seen any man do in any other one game.

But I would belittle my own sense of Osgood’s real worth if I confined myself to expatiating on his brilliant physical achievements.

His moral worth and gentle bravery were to me the chief points in him that arouse true admiration. When I, as coach of Penn’s football team discovered that Osgood had quietly matriculated at Pennsylvania, without letting anybody know of his intention, I naturally cultivated his friendship, in order to get from him his value as a player; but I found he was of even more value as a moral force among players and students. In this way he helped me as much as by his play, because, to my mind, a football team is good or bad according to whether the bad elements or the good, both of which are in every set of men, predominate.

In the winter of 1896, Osgood nearly persuaded me to go with him on his expedition to help the Cubans, and I have often regretted not having been with him through that experience.

He went as a Major of Artillery to be sure, but not for the title, nor the adventure only, but I am sure for the love of freedom and overwhelming sympathy for the oppressed. He said to me “The Cubans may not be very lovely, but they are humans and their cause is lovely”.

When Osgood, with almost foolhardy bravery, sat on his horse directing his dilapidated artillery fire in Cuba, and thus conspicuous, made himself even more marked by wearing a white sombrero, he was not playing the part of the fool; he was following his natural impulse to exert a moral force on his comrades who could understand little but liberty and bravery.

When the Angel of Death gave him the accolade of nobility by touching his brow in the form of a Mauser bullet, Win Osgood simply welcomed his friend by gently breathing “Well”, a word typical of the man, and even in death, it is reported, continued to sit erect upon his horse”. 

Osgood was an accomplished and award winning athlete, and although we tend to know him best for his football exploits, he competed in wrestling, field and track, boxing, crew and gymnastics as well.


                                             1890s Sheet music memorializing Osgood.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Langdon Lea , William Church Cabinet Card (Inscribed)

We originally owned three copies of this cabinet card and decided on keeping this one for our collection. It is inscribed from Langdon Lea "yours sincerely, "The Kid", and was kept by the grandchildren of William W. Church, as is described on the reverse in red pencil. Church, a Princeton All-American (1896) and Langdon Lea, Princeton, three time All-American (1893, 94, 95). Lea is pictured on the 1894  Mayo Cut Plug set of cards.
For more information and photos on Lea we would recommend the website
 Pach Bros receipt to W.W. Church for twelve photos of self for $3.00, that may have been for the pictured cabinet card and the others mentioned in the write-up above.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

An Interview with a Football Legend

About two years ago I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Pete Varney, a man best known for catching the two point conversion after time had run out in the most famous of all  Harvard – Yale games, the 1968 “Harvard Beats Yale 29 – 29” tie. A documentary made about this rivalry and this game in particular came out in 2008. Harvard Beats Yale, 29 - 29 was a fascinating and well done piece that fans and historians of the game can earnestly appreciate.

I was most impressed by Varney’s modesty and concern and high hopes for those that he has coached. Varney is a sportsman in the truest and finest sense of the word.

I would like to share the following excerpts from my interview with Coach Varney.

J.L.:  As a player, how intense was the Harvard-Yale rivalry during your playing days?

Varney:  Well, it was something that every player looks forward to after they’re admitted to Harvard. They know their chief rival is Yale, so you want an opportunity to play in the game, number one. And, number two, you want to beat them. It’s something you always remember. Yeah, we beat Yale, that game was great, great game.’ It’s a conversation piece for the rest of your life with your teammates. 

J.L.:  During the game in 1968, Yale was up 29-13 with about two minutes left. Do you remember your feelings in those final two minutes or what your teammates were saying to rally everyone together? What was going on in the last couple moments?

Varney:  Quite honestly, Yale had dominated the game up to the last two minutes; they were just running all over us. The only thing that kept us in the game was turnovers. Calvin Hill I think had five for the game. The full-back Levi had a turnover late in the game. It just seemed like momentum had changed; and it was only for the last two minutes of the game. Everything seemed surreal. Everything seemed like a tidal wave. It was nothing you could control - it just happened. But that’s the reason I think everyone says Harvard won 29-29. Because, I think, if the game had continued, and the flow of the game had continued the way it was, just in the last two minutes, that we would have won. There was something magical and mystical about it, that everything just went our way.

JL:  When you think back to that two-point conversation at the end, do you still get as excited about it?

Varney:  It’s always better to be remembered as the guy who caught it then as the guy who missed it, that’s for sure (laughs). It was a play that we had run a hundred times that season successfully. Basically, even though I was as big as I was, I was like 240, they used to split me out so I was away from the interior line of scrimmage. I was split out like a wide receiver. What they were trying to do was use my size as an advantage over whoever was going to be covering me. And, again, we had run it since day one of the season up until that day. Frank Champy actually came to the huddle - the guy who was quarterbacking then- said, ‘we’re gonna use this, get open, I’m coming to you’. So, after I caught it, I was relaxed, but up until I caught it, it was kind of a tense moment.

JL:  Most people remember you for your part in the 29-29 Harvard win, but you were also a prolific baseball player, and you still have a lot of records at Harvard and also led Harvard to the NCAA Division I World Series league. You were drafted to play in the majors seven times, and were the number one pick three of those times. What’s the story with being drafted so many times and your reluctance to going to the major leagues?

Varney:  It was kind of different back then. Back then, every six months, if you did not sign while being drafted, you were thrown back into the pool. There was no rule that said you had to wait three years of college until after your junior year, as there is now, or until the age of 21. So the rules changed since then. In 1966, I got drafted by the Kansas City Athletics –and that was Charlie Finley- he offered me a contract. I said no and went to Deerfield Academy. That was in September. In January of ’67, I was drafted again. So every six months you were drafted if you didn’t sign. So, back then, the rule was that every six months, if you didn’t sign, you went back into the pool and teams could draft you. I think the rule was changed in the late 1990s. In the 1990s, basically the NCAA and the major league teams got together and said that throwing these kids back into the draft every six months was not good for the colleges because the colleges were signing kids to four year scholarships. So, the NCAA, the colleges, wanted some protection. If I’m going to invest some money in this scholarship in this kid, I want him for four years. Well, the only way we could do that is to compromise. Some of the NCAA and the major league people come together and said, ok, we’re going to wait until after junior year, if they don’t sign. As soon as they enter college, they have to either go until the end of their junior year or turn 21. So that’s the way the rule changed.
It is interesting, everybody remembers me for the 29-29 game, and nobody remembers my baseball career. So there’s the commentary on my baseball career.

J.L.:  So what was it like to play for the White Sox and Braves?

Varney: Well, I mean, it was a thrill. It’s something everybody wants to do. I describe my career as having a cup of coffee and not having the time to add the cream or sugar in it. But, again, it was a highlight. Your first at bat, your first hit, your first home run, all highlights of your career, stuff you’ll never forget. You’ve reached a pinnacle of your profession. You’re one of 1200 people in the world that are playing major league baseball, so it’s quite an honor. I wish it had lasted a little bit longer, but so be it.

J.L.:  So, you played professional baseball, but did you ever have any desire to play professional football as well?

Varney:  No. I knew from day one that I really wanted to be a baseball player. Played football, loved football, loved the camaraderie of it, loved the physicalness of it, loved every aspect of it. But, I get a workout with Dallas, and they offer me $5,000 to sign out of college and I say, ‘no, I’m going to go play baseball.” I just always assumed in my own mind that I was going to be a baseball player, not a football player.

J.L.:  After your professional playing career, you became a coach. You went to Narragansett High School briefly and then came to Brandeis. How did you decide to become a coach?

Varney:  I wanted to pursue my professional career playing baseball, and always in the back of my mind I wanted to be a coach. I loved my coaches in high school. They were always tough on me, kind of tough-love stuff. I wanted to do the same thing. I love baseball, I love kids, I love working with kids, I love teaching the game, and I just thought it was a natural fit for me. I probably could have done a lot of other things and made a lot more money, but, for me, I’ve been very happy with what I’ve been doing.

J.L.:  Did you have any coaches at Harvard or while playing baseball professionally that influenced you to become a coach, or was it just you wanting to become a coach on your own?

Varney:  Well, again, since high school, my high school football coaches, my high school basketball  coaches, my high school baseball coaches -  I’ve always respected them and admired what they were doing, how they were doing it and thought, ‘I would like to be doing that.’

J.L.:  You’ve been coaching at Brandeis for 29 years, and you’ve brought the Judges (Baseball) to the postseason in 20 of those seasons. What are some of your favorite memories, or favorite memory, from Brandeis?

Varney:  I think it’s when I get together with the alumni, we have a golf tournament. It’s one of the things we do. Seeing the kids come back and seeing the camaraderie they have with each other, that’s important to me. It’s important to me that they’ve done very well in their lives and with their families and the occupations that they’ve chosen. I have seven kids that are now college head coaches, which is pretty impressive. I’m happy for them, and that they wanted to go into the same profession as me. I think that’s pretty cool. I have a lot of high school coaches and teachers now who’ve been through the program… Whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it well, and that kind of sparks a little bit of pride in me, that the kids have gone through Brandeis and gotten their education and have gone on and been successful in life, in their family life and professional careers. 

J.L.:  So, I asked you about your favorite memory from Brandeis, but what is your favorite memory from your entire sports past?

Varney:  My entire sports past? Well, to rank them: First career home-run, Larry Ger in Shea Stadium, even though it was against the Yankees. It was when Yankee Stadium was being refurbished. You know, the 29-29 catch. I don’t know you could rank them: one, two, three. High school athletics: all of them. Going to the tech tourney and playing in the Boston Garden. I’ve been very, very, blessed in that all of my life a lot of my memories are revolving around athletics. So, to rank them, I don’t know if that’s fair. I can remember crying right after a basketball game the in the summer at Red Auerbach’s basketball camp. You know, all those memories conjure up emotions that are very positive about athletics. 

J.L.:  Many people consider you to be a celebrity and can recognize your photo. Do you think of yourself as a celebrity?

Varney:  I was part of a very unique experience. I think there are a couple reasons why people remember “the game”   Both teams were undefeated. I think it was the only time in the history of the Harvard-Yale game that both teams were undefeated not only in league play, but in outside play. Both teams were undefeated and it wound up in a tie! If it hadn’t wound up in a tie, I don’t know if people would remember it as much as if one team had really beat the other team. So that’s the significance of the game, I think. I’m very reluctant. A lot of people have come to me for over 40-some years about the game and sometimes I don’t feel very good about it because I think I was a small part of that game. A lot of people did a lot of great things in that game that season. It happened to be one particular moment in time, that’s all. I enjoy my relationship with my former teammates; it was a great thrill, obviously, but to think I’m a celebrity? No, I don’t think that at all. They still charge me a buck ninety-nine for coffee at Dunkin Donuts.

J.L.:  You’ve been interviewed many times before this. Is there anything else that hasn’t gotten out in those interviews about your sports legacy or your coaching that you’d like to say?

Varney:  Nope. Like I said, I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been very fortunate to have some very good student-athletes over the years. I’ve been very proud of what they’ve accomplished. I haven’t accomplished anything in my 29 years here [at Brandeis]. Haven’t caught a ball, hit a ball, thrown a ball. I’m very happy that I’ve had, hopefully, some positive influence over some young men over the years.

Pete Varney scoring Harvard's historic 2-point conversion

Friday, August 30, 2013

Important Luckman to Halas Telegram


George Halas, co-founder of the National Football League, eight-time NFL Champion and owner and coach of the Chicago Bears, relentlessly pursued Sid Luckman to play football for him in the late 1930s.
Luckman’s achievements at quarterback are numerous; he completed twelve seasons with the Chicago Bears, earned four NFL Championships, was voted to five-time All Pro, became the NFL MVP 1943, threw for 14,686 yards career passing and became a HOF inductee in 1965. 

Luckman’s abilities are perhaps best assessed by Bob Zuppke, the most well-known coach Illinois has ever seen, who said of Luckman, “He was the smartest football player I ever saw, and that goes for college and pro.” 

Halas had seen and followed Luckman’s play for Columbia and set his sights squarely on him. Luckman, however, was quite insistent during much of the back and forth with Halas that he had no interest in playing professional football. This pursuit of Luckman took place in person, in writing, by telegram and through intermediaries such as Lou Little, Luckman’s coach at Columbia. 

The pictured telegram from Luckman to Halas was part of this great story.  

Addressed to George S. Halas, President Chicago bears Football Team, 37 South Wabash Ave CHGO, and dated Jun 14, 1939. It reads:  

“Sorry but will require a little more time before final decision. Other plans not related to football still make it impracticable to say yes to you terms at this time. Many Thanks, Sid Luckman.” 

At this time, Luckman was still contemplating working in a family business and had reservations about his Ivy League background preparing him for what he knew to be a rough pro game. 

As Luckman related the story, Halas (what would have been soon after receipt of this telegram) visited Sid and wife Estelle at their apartment in New York for dinner. After the meal Halas presented a contract to Luckman that he then signed, as he considered the terms “fair and equitable”.  Halas made a toast after the signing, stating to Luckman that “You and Jesus Christ are the only two people I would ever pay that much money to.”

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hayward Cushing of Harvard


Hayward Warren Cushing, 1854 - 1934, Harvard '77 and M.S.  Played Harvard football for five years, 1875 through 1879. He played in the first Harvard Yale and first Harvard Princeton games. Played against the likes of Walter Camp, O.D. Thompson, J. Moorehead and Frederick Remington. He was considered the leading player for Harvard in 1877 and one of two leading players in 1878. He became a well known Boston Surgeon.
His brother Livingston Cushing, Harvard class of '79 and L.S., played with him on the 1876, 77, 78 and 79 teams, and was captain in 1877 and 1878.
G.W.Pach 1870s cabinet card.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Beginnings of Amherst Football (Player Cabinet Cards)

We often search for early cabinet cards featuring individual players. Not surprisingly, many (most) important examples of these images may not depict early football players in their actual playing gear, particularly in the case of cabinet cards from the 1870s and early to mid 1880s. For example, if a cabinet card comes from a class album (often the only time you will see an individual’s photograph outside of any existing team portrait), it would normally picture a player in formal attire, or in the cases where they are in uniform it may be that of a sport other than football, such as crew. These cabinet cards are essential research tools in addition to their value as collectible football related ephemera. Obtaining these images is especially relevant and meaningful when researching schools outside of the “big three” of Harvard, Princeton and Yale, and may be your only means in identifying players or early teams. The difficulty however, lies in finding these images, as it can be an extremely difficult task. Oftentimes, when early individual cabinet cards from smaller schools or lesser-known football programs surface, it is doubtful that such likenesses will appear again on the market for a very long time, if they show up at all.
In the 1890s, concurrently with the growing popularity of the game, cabinet cards with football players in uniform became much more common.
Most references on early football will picture a number of such examples of these early cabinet photos.

We would like to share some of these early cabinet photos; individuals who played football during the earliest years of the sport, in this case for Amherst College (from the class of 1879). Amherst organized a college team in 1877 but only played one game against Tufts that year, winning by a score of 8 to 4. Tufts played three games in 1877, losing to Amherst, Harvard and Yale. In 1878, Amherst's first full year of intercollegiate football, most of the individuals pictured below played on the College Fifteen (most colleges were playing 15 men a side); twice against Yale (Walter Camp was their captain), once against Harvard and once against Brown (this was Brown's first intercollegiate game). Several sources include Amherst playing a fifth game in 1878 against Williston, but it is unclear if this was an official or practice game. 

 Charles Appleton Terry, '79. In 1878 he was a Vice President of the Amherst College Foot Ball Association, a member of the College Fifteen and was captain of the '79 Eleven.

 Leroy Watkins Hubbard, '79.  In 1878 he was President of the Amherst College Foot Ball Association, and a member of the '79 Eleven.

 Frank Johnson Goodnow, '79. In 1878 he was a member of the College Fifteen and of the '79 Eleven. Goodnow became the third president of Johns Hopkins University. Previous to this he was appointed to various commissions by Governor Theodore Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft.

Charles Millard Pratt, '79. In 1878 he was a member of the '79 Eleven. He was the first alumnus to donate a building to Amherst College - the Pratt Gymnasium, erected in 1883. It was reconstructed several times, first as the Pratt Museum in 1942 and more recently as the Charles M. Pratt Dormitory, in 2007.


                                           Howard Tracy, '79. In 1878 he was a member of the '79 Eleven.

                 Israel Tripp Deyo, '79. In 1878 he was a member of the College Fifteen and of the '79 Eleven.

      John Jameson Chickering, '79. In 1878 he was a member of the College Fifteen and of the '79 Eleven.

                                James Arthur Wainwright, '79. In 1878 he was a member of the '79 Eleven.

                Henry Evarts Gordon, '79.  In 1878 he was a member of the College Fifteen and of the '79 Eleven.

 Arthur Wilson Wheeler, '79.  In 1878 he was a member of the College Fifteen (also listed separately as a substitute) and of the '79 Eleven. Wheeler died in 1881.

            Charles Lyman Goodrich, '79. Captain of the College Fifteen in 1878, member of the '79 Eleven.

                                                            The back of the cabinet cards.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"On any given Sunday..." Hominy Indians

1927 Hominy Indians vs. NFL Champion New York Giants Game Ball

    This is one of the few “vintage” footballs in our collection. This particular item was the game ball from a little known and mostly forgotten part of football history. A professional team of Indians from various tribes, playing together as the Hominy Indians (from Hominy, Oklahoma), took on the 1927 World Champion New York Giants (basically a post season barnstorming team made up of mostly New York Giants and other notable players) in an exhibition game that many assumed would be rather dominating for the champions. The Giants had just gone 11-1 during the regular season, absolutely dismantling most of their competition. Over their twelve games, the champions scored a total of 197 points and held their opponents to just 20 points over that stretch. The Giants forced a total of nine shutouts, holding teams like the Pottsville Maroons, Frankford Yellow Jackets, Cleveland Bulldogs, and Duluth Eskimos scoreless. The champions doomed some of the most elite offenses in early football in unparalleled fashion (not to mention what the Giants did to these teams' defenses).

The Indians, while unable to boast such an impressive record against NFL teams, had made somewhat of a name for themselves because they traveled up and down the east coast playing football. The squad had never lost any of their football games, and the Indians had earned a devoted following. Still, however, Hominy was not an NFL-caliber team. And few teams, let alone a team composed of unknown and untested players, could seriously contend with the Giants, the champions of the National Football League and presumably greatest team in the country.

The Indians' fate rested with the great John Levi, who Jim Thorpe called "the best athlete" he'd ever seen. It is difficult to discern what from John Levi's biography is fact and what stems from legend. He is perhaps one of the most storied players from the early years of football. It has been said, for example, that Levi could drop-kick the football, which was rounder and heavier than today’s ball, from the 50-yard line and send it through the goal posts. Legend also has it that Levi could pass the ball 100 yards. While there is no way to confirm these tales, what is certain is Levi's importance to the Hominy Indians and the development of football.

Others on the Hominy team besides Levi, including some who had previously been coached by Jim Thorpe on the Oorang Indians (such as Joe Pappio), would also be essential if the Indians were to pull off a miracle against the Giants.

During their exhibition game on December 27, the Indians and Giants engaged in a ferocious contest in front of over 2,000 fans. 

The Hominy squad outlasted the NFL champions and won by a score of 13 to 6, in what became one of the most unexpected upsets in football history.

It is interesting to note that Hominy is the only Indian team to ever defeat an NFL team; not even Carlisle could ever do it. And Hominy did not just take down any NFL squad - they pummeled the champions.

Jacob and I have been corresponding with Art Shoemaker, of Hominy, Oklahoma, who researched the Hominy Indians, and through him, we obtained extensive information on the team.  Art is a wealth of information and is likely the most knowledgeable (and sharing) authority on Hominy and related Indian football. He is a researcher, author and a true gentleman. We sincerely thank him for his time and efforts.

The game ball is in excellent condition. A beautiful piece of history.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Alice Sumner Camp: The Woman Behind the Man

The calling card of Mrs. Walter Camp

Alice Camp
We recently came across some signed material that emanated from Walter Camp. Interestingly, the associated signature on some of these items were not in the hand of the "father of football;" they were signed by another individual (or multiple individuals) signing on Mr. Camp's behalf. It makes sense that Walter Camp sent out secretarially signed items to fans; he was a well-known personality of his day and likely did not want to spend great amounts of time making out autographs.

One theory on the identity of the individual behind the secretarial Camp signatures that Jacob and I came up with was that Mr. Camp had his wife sign these items. And, having a few Alice Camp signatures in our collection, we thought we'd share a few examples of her handwriting here on Football of Yore - in case any secretarially signed examples can indeed be attributed to Alice.

Alice Camp was a football legend of sorts and spent countless hours with her husband on and off the field, thoroughly invested in the game and the players. She was referred to as "Mrs. Walter" by the Yale players who were often guests at her home. She was recognized for her significant contributions and was even listed as a co-coach on the 25th reunion dinner program of the 1888 Yale Football team. There is an abundance of information on Mrs. Camp should one decide to delve a little deeper.

The first example of her handwriting is on her calling card, and the other is a short note to James Cowan, complete with her full signature, Alice Sumner Camp, inviting Sawyer for tea and to meet with a "Mrs. Bates."

Both examples we are posting emanated from the collection of James Cowan Sawyer, the son of a former governor of New Hampshire. Sawyer attended Phillips Academy in Andover where he was the manager of the football team in 1889. Sawyer later attended Yale, where he was the manager of the freshman football team, assistant manager of the University Football Association, and held many other positions with various clubs and associations.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

1881 Football Team Tintype (Identified)

At just over a half-plate in size, this tintype measures 5 ½” by 5 1/8” and is set into in a mat frame measuring 7 ½” square. Football tintypes are far from common, and this particular example is of a rare size and is in near mint condition. This is the only example we have come across of a football team pictured on a tintype, and it is unusual and fortunate that the sitters are identified. Pictured is the 1881 Dorchester (Massachusetts) High School team. The owner of the photo, Walter R. Wheeler, signed and dated the front right upper corner of the mat. Wheeler was in the class of ’83, as were his teammates Thomas Fox and George I. Robinson, Jr. On the reverse side is written, “Foot Ball Eleven D.H.S. 1881”, as well as the names of the team members, their position by location on the field (what a great thing to have included) and a commentary on their record.  “We played five games - were not defeated – two of the games were draw and one the other side backed out”. 

An important piece that offers a unique photographic window into early American football. 

This is certainly one of my favorite early pieces in our collection.  
Sources utilized in researching this photo included: 

School document 22-1883, Annual report of the School Committee of the City of Boston 1883 (Published 1884).
Smith, Melvin I. (2008). Evolvements of Early American Foot Ball: Through the 1890/91 Season. Author House, Bloomington, IN. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

O.D. Thompson of Yale

This cabinet card of Oliver David Thompson proved took us many years to find.

Thompson, Yale class of '79, played football in 1875, 1876, 1877 and 1878. He also captained both crew and track in his time at the university.  Walter Camp (who was a teammate) named Thompson one of the "leading players of the game" for the period of 1876-1879.

The first "legal" forward pass in football (Camp to Thompson) occurred on November 30, 1876.  The following is an excerpt from Athletics at Princeton detailing the play: 

"The kick-off was made by Baker at twenty five minutes past two o'clock, but the ball was quickly returned to centre of the field by Princeton's half backs. It was then caught by Downer, who was downed. McCosh was "snived" on by Camp who, when tackled, threw the ball forward to Thompson. Princeton at once cried foul and ceased to prevent the touchdown. Much dissatisfaction was aroused against the referee, who, instead of deciding the question, actually tossed up a coin, and Yale was allowed the touchdown, from which Bigelow kicked the goal."

Thompson was instrumental in the development of professional football and is also remembered for having paid William "Pudge" Heffelfinger the sum of $500.00 to play for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club in 1892. This sum made Heffelfinger the earliest player documented to have been paid to play (i.e. of professional status) - a fact uncovered some seven decades following Thompson's payment. Payments in one form or another to players during this period may have been somewhat common, it is just that no documentation of this exists. Heffelfinger's own words support this. In discussions that took place between 1948 and 1954 with sports writer John McCallum, Heffelfinger said of the $500 payment for playing against Pittsburg -  "Until then, they usually paid us off using silver pocket watches".

The most fragile piece in our collection is this cover of an "Illustrated Regatta Program" from 1879. Among the illustrations is O.D. Thompson (along with Henry Waters Taft - brother to President Taft). This is a partial scan of the cover.
Circa 1878 cabinet photo below shows the Yale Crew team with Thompson (center).
Thompson captained the team in 1878 and 1879.