Wednesday, November 24, 2077

Visit our new blog on antique Roller Polo and Hockey memorabilia beginning in late 2019:

Friday, October 25, 2019

James Naismith Tintype 1885 McGill Football

This is a pretty special football piece, the significance of which I think I would have trouble overstating.  A rarity in every regard, James Naismith photographed posed in his football uniform in 1885 at McGill University. A football tintype is fairly rare, and one of a well-known sitter is unheard of. This tintype is possibly unique in this regard. Naismith was the inventor of basketball, and likely the first to devise head and ear protection in football.

The 1885 McGill Football team, Naismith seated at far right wearing the same long sleeve white canvas lace up vest, pants and belt as in the tintype (Note: tintype images are reversed). Permission to use this Notman team photo was granted under written license obtained through the McGill University Archives.
See related blog entries on tintypes (August 11, 2014, November 3, 2014 and October 19, 2016).

Monday, August 5, 2019

1893 Harvard Leather Uniform Having Belonged to Edgar Wrightington

In the 1890s there was a push for innovation in football, each team hoping to get the edge on the competition. This usually consisted of new types of plays on offense, such as mass plays like the Flying Wedge, which was introduced in 1892.  In 1893 however, Harvard showed up for their contest with Yale wearing leather suits, rather than the expected canvas vest and canvas or moleskin pants. These suits consisted of leather vests and pants, joined by an elastic waistband, and although three distinct parts, are often referred to as a one piece uniform.
The suits were made in Boston by Sommers tailors, at a cost of $125.00 per suit; twelve uniforms were made in total. There was a public controversy (in the papers)   concerning payment for the uniforms between team Manager White and Captain Waters, resolved when an alumni stepped in to pay the tailor in full out of his own pocket in January of 1894.
The theory behind the leather uniform in contemporary accounts was twofold. The first was that leather would be harder to grab a hold of in order to tackle a player, and the second would be the surprise factor of a leather uniform.
Relative to the uniform’s surprise factor, the following was published in the Daily Inter Ocean, November 26, 1893, titled, “Yale Rosin Did It/Leather Suits Could Not Save Harvard the Game”.
“The fact that Harvard was to wear these suits had been kept a secret and it only leaked out an hour before the game was called. This was too late for the crowd to catch on, but the Yale eleven were quick to act. An order was sent out for a big supply of rosin and when the sons of Eli went on the field they were covered with rosin. This was done with the hope that they would stick to their rivals, and that they did so is proved by the score. “ Yale beat Harvard 6 – 0.
Before the start of the game Frank Hinkey of Yale argued  that he believed the leather uniforms should not be allowed, but since nothing in the rule book specifically prohibited them, they were allowed to be worn.
The following excerpt is taken from “The History of Football at Harvard, 1874 – 1948”, Morris Bealle, 1948, and gives a most accurate accounting of the first appearance of this uniform, as William H. Lewis contributed materials to this book and had direct input into this commentary.
“William H. Lewis, Harvard’s All-American center on the team, disagrees with what the University Magazine said about these suits. He says ‘I do not think the suits surprised or dismayed Yale at all. I was informed that the Yale team procured some resin which they used on their hands so that they could hold on to the Harvard players when they tackled them’. I recall that the suits were made by a fashionable tailor of that day – Sommers on Park Street in Boston – at a cost of $125.00 a suit. Most of the team did not like these suits. I did, and used mine quite a while when I was coaching for some years afterward”.
The following is also from Bealle’s book, that has "borrowed" heavily in content and wording from “The H Book of Harvard Athletics, 1852 – 1922, published in 1923.
“One of the principal reasons for equipping the team with these suits was said to be to lessen the weight a player would have to carry in case it rained. Harvard had played Cornell at Manhattan Field in New York earlier in the season on a muddy field with rain falling throughout the game. Someone hit upon the bright idea of weighing the players in uniform before they went on the field and again after the game. It was found that there was an average increase of weight of some twenty-five pounds, in contrast of an average loss of five to eight pounds on a dry day, depending on whether the day was warm or cold. This meant that the heavily-padded moleskin trousers and canvas jackets in vogue in those days had absorbed about thirty to thirty-five pounds of water and mud.
Immediate steps were taken to avoid this increase in weight and it was found that a high grade of thin leather, hand finishes but containing no oil, grease or other sticky substance, would meet the situation. On a later test these suits were found to absorb only a pound of water and weighed only five pounds.”
These suits were not popular with the Harvard players and fell out of favor with them almost immediately. Manufacturers of sporting equipment tried to capitalize on these uniforms by offering them in their catalogs as custom-made articles starting in 1894, and for roughly 3 years after. The advertised cost of these vests and pants were exorbitant, and any potential benefits were questionable. The 1894 Spalding catalog lists canvas jackets/vests for between $1.00 and $1.50 depending on quality. Canvas pants were priced between $1.00 and $2.50. This, compared to a leather suit (vest and pants with the elastic belt) priced at $30.00. This alone would account for the absolute dearth of sales. Consider $30.00, when the average salary in major cities in the mid to late 1890s was $12.50 a week.
Edgar Wrightington devised his own innovation and had swatches of leather adhered/glued to his vest that would pull away from the uniform when grasped by opponents. These swatches attached to his leather vest are visible in the 1893 Harvard team photo. The glue marks from the swatches are still visible on the front of the vest today. An example pictured in this posting below.

                               Marks from where a leather swatch was attached

Wrightington, a halfback, played for Harvard from 1893 through 1896, Captaining the team in 1896 and being named an All-American that same year. He is featured as one of the Harvard players in the 1894 Mayo Cut Plug football card set. He lived his entire life in Massachusetts.
Wrightington was involved in the most controversial of the injuries sustained in the 1894 Harvard - Yale game, referred to in many sources as the “Bloodbath in Hampden Park” (Springfield, Massachusetts). The game is well known for its violent play and extensive injury list, and was the direct cause for Harvard and Yale not playing each other for the next two years (see related blog posting of March 24, 2015).  Period accounts of the game generally suggest that Frank Hinkey was overly aggressive and landed knees first on an already downed Wrightington, breaking his collarbone. Yet, there are other accounts that have Frank Hinkey at least fifteen yards away from the play when it ended. After sifting through all of the contemporary accounts and evidence, including Jim Rodger's (Yale player) first hand account, it's clear that it was Louis Hinkey, Frank’s younger brother who kneed Wrightington in the chest and that Frank did the brotherly thing and covered for him.

My favorite photo of an injured Wrightington, mounted on linen. Possibly six weeks to a month before the Harvard – Yale game in 1894. He was sidelined with knee injuries at the time.

This is the only leather uniform known to the hobby.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Football HOFer Deion Sanders Endorses Bernie Sanders For President

                                        does FootballofYore's creator, Jacob

                                                                ...need we say more?

Monday, June 10, 2019

1903 Princeton Football Mogul Cigarette Insert

Sports and tobacco advertising have gone hand in hand for generations. It is very common when we talk of baseball, but quite rare when we consider late 19th, early 20th century football. Besides the 1894 Mayo Cut Plug card set, very little else in this realm is known to exist. The pictured 1903 Mogul Cigarette "insert" is a significant rarity; we have not seen nor are we aware of another example. This is a 21 panel insert that has 18 panels devoted to Princeton Tigers players and personnel. Princeton was 11-0 in 1903 and was retroactively awarded the National Championship. The insert when unfolded measures and astounding 43" in length, each panel measuring 2" x 3 1/2". Of the 16 players pictured, 6 received All-American honors, including Henry, Davis, Short, Kafer, Miller and Captain John DeWitt. Former star player, head coach "Doc" Hillerbrand is also pictured on one of the panels. S.Anargyros was an importer of Egyptian cigarettes and produced the well-known brands Murad, Helmarand and Mogul, amongst others.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Bart Starr 1934 -2019

A true gentleman and one of the all-time greats. Jacob was fortunate to have met Starr on two occasions, and of all of the athletes he met over the years, Starr was clearly one of his favorites. Photo of Jacob and Bart Starr. 2003.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Roxbury Latin School Football Elevens 1883 and 1884

Front row, left to right, Joseph Hamblen Sears, Edmund Channing Stowell, Francis Call Woodman (Captain), Wilder Dwight Bancroft, Arthur Pierce Butler and Oliver Fairfield Wadsworth.
Back row, left to right, John Balch, Thomas Williams Slocum, Franklin Greene Balch, Asaph Churchill and Elliot Hardon.

Front row, left to right, Charles Garrison, Robert Beverly Hale, Elliot Hardon, Moses Williams and Robert Sever Hale.
Back row, left to right, Garceau, George Lewis Batchelder, Thomas Williams Slocum, Hunneman, George Snell Mandell and Bernard Coffin Weld.

Two rare and wonderful oversized albumin cabinet photographs of the Roxbury Latin School Football Elevens for the years 1883 and 1884.  Sight measurements for the 1883 albumin is 16 3/8” x 11 7/8”, and for the 1884 photograph 16 5/8” x 12 ¼”.

We in the hobby are more familiar with schools in New England like Phillips Exeter or Phillips Andover, in large part due to a much greater availability of photographs and ephemera that has become available over the years and to the two school’s well-documented rivalry. In contrast, Roxbury Latin material rarely becomes available in the marketplace. We should however, take note of Roxbury Latin, its football history and its place as an Ivy League feeder school and give it its proper due.
Roxbury Latin is the oldest school in continuous existence in North America, founded in 1645 (as a point of comparison Andover was founded in 1778 and Exeter was established in 1781).
Roxbury Latin was playing the collegiate football game since 1882, and previous to this played the carrying game in the mid-1860s, the Boston Rules game in the mid-1870s and the American Rugby game from 1876 to 1881. In the 1880s an Interscholastic Athletic Association was formed inclusive of Roxbury Latin, St. Mark’s and Hopkinson. It is believed this was the earliest example of such an organization amongst schools at this level of play.
Roxbury sent the overwhelming majority of its students during the 1880s to Harvard.  In fact, of those in the photographs that were able to complete their schooling at Roxbury, over ninety percent went on to attend Harvard.
The following Roxbury players from these two photographs went on to play for the Harvard Varsity Eleven (note: Harvard banned football for the year 1885):
Joseph Hamblen Sears, Harvard ’89, played on the Harvard varsity in 1886, 1887 and 1888. Sears was one of the leading players of the period. He captained the Harvard Eleven in 1888.
Francis Call Woodman, Harvard ’88 and LS, played for the Harvard Eleven in 1886, 1887 and 1888.
Wilbur Dwight Bancroft, Harvard ’88, played for the varsity Eleven in 1887.
Arthur Pierce Butler, Harvard ’88, played for the Varsity Eleven in 1886 and 1887 and also rowed crew these same two years.
Bernard Coffin Weld, Harvard ’89, was the manager of the varsity Eleven in 1888.
Other varsity sports were played by:
 Franklin Greene Balch, Harvard,’88, competed for varsity track in 1888 and crew in 1887.
George Lewis Batchelder, Harvard ’88, was on the varsity track team in 1891 and 1892.

Interesting note: William Burnet Wright, the original owner of the 1891 Yale match safe pictured in our blog posting of September 4, 2018, graduated from the Roxbury Latin School, in 1888. He graduated from Yale in 1892.

I would like to profusely thank and credit The Roxbury Latin School, and Christopher Heaton (Archivist, Librarian, Faculty Member of the History Department and Assistant Coach of the Cross Country/Track & Field) specifically, for furnishing me with copies of team photographs from the 1880s, with all team members identified. Additionally, he also sent me a spreadsheet with the colleges that RLS students moved on to, with their class years. This information was invaluable.