Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Exceedingly Rare and Important 1868 Princeton Baseball / Football Silk

Printed in October of 1868 and worn by the Princeton Baseball Team as well as members of the student body, there is a great certainty that these ribbons were first worn at the Princeton vs. Athletics game of October 31, 1868. “Such badges, arranged for by the Class of 1869, were much in evidence” in October of 1868, at the time of President McCosh’s inauguration. McCosh was also in attendance at this baseball match. It is also likely that these were worn in April and May of 1869 when Princeton played the Athletics, Philadelphia and then the Atlantics. 

There is an interesting history behind this ribbon. George K. Ward, listed as having played in baseball games for the Nassaus/Princeton in 1866, '67, '68, '69 and '70, had a certain preoccupation with the Princeton Baseball Team ribbons and the team/school colors. An excerpt from his writings in 1869, taken from the book Athletics at Princeton – A History, 1901 is as follows:

It is also likely that these silks were worn at the first Princeton – Rutgers football matches in 1869 and I am currently looking for a reference stating this, that, I believe I had come across some time back. It does make sense that they would have been worn by those playing and those in attendance, as an expression of pride in Princeton's newly recognized colors. We also know that at the Princeton - Yale football game of 1873 (Princeton's only game of that year), Henry Moffatt "wearing an orange badge with the word "Princeton" printed in black"..."started the game by kicking off for the visitors, sending the round, black rubber ball into Yale territory" (Football: The Ivy League Origin of An American Obsession, Bernstein).

Baseball silks are scarce and are very desirable for advanced baseball collections, and this ribbon in particular has the probable additional football association, making it an important silk and a significant addition to our collection.  

For a related blog posting see our July 7, 2013 entry. Photos are of Princeton All-American William Church's orange and black ribbons that were worn by him in the 1890s; from his personal scrapbook.

From the National Baseball Hall of Fame is the following article on silk baseball ribbons.

A second reference from another blog page that deals with a 19th century collage of these ribbons.