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.