1891 Williston Football Team
Amos Alonzo Stagg’s first paid coaching position was at Williston Seminary, a Preparatory school in Easthampton Massachusetts where he coached both football and baseball in 1890 and 1891. Stagg was also Williston’s first non-playing coach. His coaching was limited to one day a week at Williston due to travel time from Springfield to Easthampton as well as demands on his time at the YMCA. He coached at Williston while simultaneously coaching at the International YMCA College in Springfield.
This 1891 team was accused, justifiably, for having employed “ringers” or “emergency men” to play for them. As it so happens this was not an isolated or even necessarily a rare occurrence at the time and was not limited to one sport or one prep or boarding school or to one rivalry.
A rival boarding school, Suffield School (Suffield Literary Institution) had lost a game to Williston in October of 1891 after a ringer was brought into the game and significantly ran up the score. This player by the name of Bond, who was not an enrolled student, was never to be heard from again. A quote from a Suffield School editorial at that time regarding the game, and hopefully, a rematch, stated with pride that they would once again play against Williston "as formerly, with our own men”.
I had initially believed this photo to be Williams College as there are individuals who played for Williams in this photo. Recently however, we also found a player on the Amherst football team of 1892 who is in this photo. The riddle was solved by Jacob, utilizing the Williston archives, where the identical photo can be seen. Players after graduation went directly from Williston to play for college or university teams.
Early football photos with African Americans are quite difficult to come by, particularly pre 1900, and this is certainly one of the earliest that we have seen. Williston was integrated by the 1870s and African Americans were members of the athletic teams by the 1880s.
This near mint albumin measures 13 3/8” x 10 1/8”.