Friday, January 24, 2014

Early Walter Camp Cabinet Card c.1878


Early Walter Camp cabinet card taken by Pach circa 1878. An exceedingly rare and wonderful photo of the “Father of American Football”, while at Yale. Camp is pictured in his baseball uniform, having played baseball for five years and football for seven years in college. One of the best individual cabinet photos of Camp we have knowledge of. 


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Phillips Andover Academy Team Photos 1878/1879

 The 1878 "Second Foot Ball Eleven" , 6"x 8" albumin, players identified on mat.

The 1879 "First Eleven",  6" x 8" albumin, players identified on mat. Both photos belonged to Henry D. Barry (pictured in both). On the back of this photo in script it says that "Barry, 29 Prospect" paid "$1.25" for this photo, "framed". PAA was a feeder school for the Ivy League, and Yale in particular.
It is very difficult to find football photos from the 1870s, and these two are nice examples.

The same as photo above, from 1879, pictured in "Phillips Academy Andover: On Diamond, Track and Field"

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Early Yale Bowl Trolley Sign

Paper on board with iron hangers and measuring two foot by one foot, this two sided Yale Bowl sign had a second life as a sign to the circus held at the Bowl. This sign was likely from the thirties or forties.
Due to the location of the Yale Bowl, trolleys were the primary means of transportation to football games for many of the 60,000 fans. New Haven had a large fleet of trolleys specifically to bring fans from downtown New Haven to the Bowl.

Open cars at the Yale Bowl. The last trip for trolleys to the Yale Bowl was on November 22, 1947. (George Baehr Collection, Shore Line Trolley Museum)

Connecticut Company's barn (George Baehr Collection, Shore Line Trolley Museum)

                     Riding to the Game (Cliff Scofield Collection, Shore Line Trolley Museum)

               A special thanks to Michael Schreiber, curator of the Shore Line Trolley Museum.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

WWII Veteran Reunited with Silver Football

 I recently came across an interesting football charm. Initially, however, I thought it was a rather routine find. After all, numerous silver charms appear in online auctions every day, and they’re usually of no legitimate collecting significance. I noticed that this particular charm was identified, with its owner’s name written in full. It was a championship charm award awarded to a “George Rote” in 1944 – the seller described it as a “WW2” era item but neglected to include Rote’s name in the title or description. The letters “JH” were also written on the charm, which I presumed to stand for some high school. I would usually overlook a football medallion like this one, but I decided, on a whim, to do spend a few minutes on Google researching the charm before heading to bed.

An article published online just four days after the auction’s listing indicated that only one week before, George Rote was honored and elected into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, sharing his place with athletes like heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier, Super Bowl MVP Joe Namath, and golfing legend Arnold Palmer. Furthermore, in 1945, “[Rote] was named to the Pennsylvania all-state team as quarterback at John Harris [high school],” becoming one of the first all-state quarterbacks in Pennsylvania. Rote was so stellar at football that he even received a football scholarship to Temple University that same year. Shortly after this achievement, however, Rote was drafted into the U.S. army in ‘46 to serve abroad. I found a brief autobiography by Rote that reads:

“Drafted into US Army - Feb. 1946 with Basic Training at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD and Chemical Warfare School training at Edgewood Arsenel, MD. Assigned at Camp Kilmer, NJ for overseas transfer to Japan via ship from New York through Panama Canal, Hawaii, and to Yokohama, Japan. Assigned to General Headquarters Divn. Special Services in Tokyo. Played football and basketball there for Division Teams, and also helped run the intermural programs for GHQ Divn. Honorably discharged from the Army at Ft. Lawton, WA in August 1947.”

I had a fast decision to make before the auction ended, and so I purchased the charm (for a reasonable price) – not to resell or collect – but to return to the WWII veteran.

After winning the auction, I contacted Mr. Rote to inform him of the charm and to ask for a correct shipping address. I had no idea what he would say when I called him. I had a lot of questions. I wanted to know how he had lost his charm, for instance. Or if the charm was lost at all. And if he even remembered it.

I tried calling Rote after the auction ended, but the phone rang twice and then stopped ringing. It sounded like he’d hung up on me, but it turns out I had an outdated number. After a bit more searching, I found the correct number and, the next day, tried calling again. This time, someone answered.

“Is this George Rote?,” I asked.
“Yes,” the voice replied.
“From John Harris High, class of ’45?”
“That’s me.”

I explained who I was, how I’d come across the football charm, and, most importantly, that I wanted to get it back to him. At first, Mr. Rote was a little confused. I think I threw a lot at him at once, and he needed a few moments to take it in. 

He certainly remembered his charm, but he had no idea how someone else had come across it. Mr. Rote was incredibly thankful that I was returning his medallion. I think there was some initial hesitation or distrust in his voice, as if Mr. Rote was afraid that I was trying to scam him or hold his charm hostage. I tried to delicately convey my sincerity, however, and I think he lightened up. He started to ask a lot about me – my interests, hobbies, etc. – and of course collecting vintage football came up. I explained that I was initially interested in his charm because I thought it might've been something I could collect…which he found hysterical. 

He scoffed, “how come you collect things like that?” We both laughed. I’m still not sure how to answer that question.

A few weeks went by, and Mr. Rote eventually received his charm. He called me when it arrived, and at this time I learned a bit more about its origins. Mr. Rote explained to me that his father, Harry Rote, was the coach of his high school football team. Harry Rote’s championship football charm from 1944 – which matched the charm that I sent over - had been sitting in a shadow box in the Rotes’ living room for many years. Mr. Rote’s charm, up until that point, was nowhere to be found, as this was the medallion that I returned.
It had been so long since Mr. Rote had seen his charm that he forgot it even existed. Mr. Rote’s father passed away in 1964 – 20 years after they won the championship together. I felt unbelievably pleased to learn that Mr. Rote’s charm had been reunited with his father’s football, right where it belonged.

In an interview for the Simi Valley Acorn, George Rote discussed the impact of his father on his sporting career:
“Because of him I introduced all six of my kids to sports,” Rote said. “Sports was my life. I enjoyed it, and I played them well. It’s a good learning experience, so that’s why my kids played.”
Furthermore, Rote’s father encouraged him to become a coach. Mr. Rote indeed followed in his father's footsteps.
“My dad was a coach and teacher at John Harris High School when I was there,” Rote said. “He inspired me to become one.”

More on George Rote can be found here:

And here:

A plaque signifying George Rote's induction into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
George Rote playing basketball in at John Harris high school.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

William Church Over-Sized Cabinet Card / Signature Exemplars

An over-sized cabinet card of Princeton All-American William Church (mid 1890s), inscribed and signed. Card measures approximately 8 1/2 x 5 1/4. If you follow this blog you know we have a large collection of Church/Princeton related football ephemera.
Pictured below is a return receipt sent by Church to B.L.Jackson in 1894. Church signed the receipt and practiced variations of his signature along the border of the receipt another ten times. As unique a compilation of signature exemplars as we have seen.