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- 1 1784.1 UPenn Bans Ball Playing Near Open University Windows
- 2 1822.3 Cricket Clubs, "Other Ball Clubs" Welcomed at Philadelphia PA Facility
- 3 1822.4 Trap Ball Advertised at Inn
- 4 1829.1 Philadelphians Play Ball
- 5 1829.5 Town Ball Takes Off in Philadelphia?
- 6 1830.18 At PA Ballfield, Man Asks English Question, Receives American Answer
- 7 1830s.24 Union Cricket Club Gains Strength in Philadelphia PA
- 8 1831.1 A Ball Club Forms in Philadelphia; It Later Adopts Base Ball, and Lasts to 1887
- 9 1832.1 Union Cricket Club of Philadelphia Forms
- 10 1834.5 Cricket Play Begins at Haverford College
- 11 1837.6 Olympic Ball Club Constitution Requires Umpires
- 12 1838.11 On a Day Trip to Camden NJ, Philly Man Documents Olympic Club
- 13 1840c.3 Influx of English Immigrants Brings "Rough Form" of Cricket to NE and Philadelphia PA?
- 14 1841.8 Philadelphia Cricket Club Issues Challenge for Matches at $50 to $100
- 15 1842c.7 Cricket and Town Ball Recalled in Philadelphia PA
- 16 1842c.9 Haverford Students Form Cricket Team of Americans
- 17 1843.8 Man Flashes Large Wad at New York-Philly Cricket Match, Is Then Nabbed for Robbery
- 18 1847.8 Soldier Recalls Town-ball
- 19 1848.8 Cricket Flourishes at Haverford College PA
- 20 1850s.3 Cricket Club in Philadelphia, "Young America CC," Started for US-Born Only
- 21 1857.29 Six-Player Town-ball Teams Play for Gold in Philly
- 22 1858.50 New York Game Reaches Philadelphia
- 23 1859.10 Philadelphia Man Interested in Forming MA Game Club
- 24 1859.20 Two More BB Clubs Issue Rules
- 25 1860.13 Town Ball Hangs on in Philadelphia
- 26 1860.16 Mercantile BB Club of Philadelphia Subject to Light Poetry
- 27 1860.62 Athletic Club Takes the Field
- 28 1860.64 The First Enclosed Ballpark
- 29 1860.65 The Grand Excursion, Part II
- 30 1860.68 Philly Teams Try to Organize
- 31 1862.5 Brooklynites and Philadelphians Play Series of Games
- 32 1862.55 They Do It Differently in Philadelphia
- 33 1864.39 Helping the Sanitary Commission
1784.1 UPenn Bans Ball Playing Near Open University Windows
"[The college] yard is intended for the exercise and recreation of the youth . . . [but don't] "play ball against any of the wall of the University, whilst the windows are open."
RULES for the Good Government and Discipline of the SCHOOL in the UNIVERSITY of PENNSYLVANIA (Francis Bailey, Philadelphia PA, 1784). Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It, p. 239 (ref #41.)
Does it sound like hand ball ("fives") may be the troublesome type of play?
1822.3 Cricket Clubs, "Other Ball Clubs" Welcomed at Philadelphia PA Facility
In an advertisement about an outdoor recreation establishment run by John Carter Jr. on the western bank of the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia PA is included the sentence "Gentlemen are informed that the grounds are so disposed as to afford sufficient room and accommodation for quoit and cricket and other ball clubs." It doesn't say what these "other ball clubs" are playing. Saturday Evening Post, June 22, 1822, Vol. 1, Issue 47, page 003. Submitted by Bill Wagner 1/24/2007.
1822.4 Trap Ball Advertised at Inn
"TRAP BALL. This entertaining game and pleasing exercise may be enjoyed every Monday afternoon, at the Traveller's Rest, in Broad Street, between Chestnut and Walnut. Traps, Bats, and Balls may be had for select parties or promiscuous companies at any time. Refreshments of the first quality at the Bar."
Saturday Evening Post [running ad, summer 1822]. Provided by Richard Hershberger, email of June 26, 2007. The location is Philadelphia PA.
1829.1 Philadelphians Play Ball
A group of Philadelphians who may eventually organize as the Olympic Ball Club begin playing town ball in Philadelphia, PA, but are prohibited from doing so within the city limits by ordinances dating to Colonial times. A site in Camden, New Jersey is used to avoid breaking the laws in Philadelphia. Caution: this unsourced item, retained from the original chronology of 70 items, has been seriously questioned by a researcher familiar with Philadelphia ballplaying. This group may correspond to the eighteen ropemakers whose ball play is cited in “A Word Fitly Spoken,” published in The American Sunday School Magazine of January 1830, pp. 3-5.
1829.5 Town Ball Takes Off in Philadelphia?
A group of young rope makers is reported to have played a game of ball in 1829 at 18th and Race Streets.
William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 114. Ryczek cites a 2006 email from Richard Hershberger as the source of the location of the game. He identifies this game as perhaps the earliest known form of town ball, but Hershberger is unconvinced (see Warning, below).
Citing the makeup of these players as differing from that of early town ball players' reports, and seeing the 1829 account as more of a morality tale than a reliable report, Richard Hershberger (email of 10/31/12) discounts this item as an account of the origins of Philadelphia town ball.
In 1831 two organized groups, which later merged, played town ball: for a succinct history of the origins of Philadelphia town ball, see Richard Hershberger, "A Reconstruction of Philadelphia Town Ball," Base Ball, volume 1 number 2 (Fall 2007), pp 28-29.
Can we find the source of this 1829 account?
1830.18 At PA Ballfield, Man Asks English Question, Receives American Answer
"I have spent an hour in a beautiful grove in this borough [West Chester PA] witnessing the sports of its denizens. All attorneys, editors, physicians, were engaged in playing ball, while the Judge of the County was seated calmly by, preserving an account of the game! I asked a very respectable gentleman to whom I had been introduced, who were the principal men in the town present; and he answered, that there were no principal men in the town all were equalized, or attained no superiority save that of exertions fro the public weal . . ."Adams Sentinel (Gettysburg PA; August 10, 1830), page 7, as taken from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Posted to 19CBB in October 2008 by John Thorn.
1830s.24 Union Cricket Club Gains Strength in Philadelphia PA
"No city took to the sport [cricket] with more avidity than Philadelphia where the game had been played since the 1830s by the Union Club"
William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning, McFarland, 2009), page 105. No source is cited. Ryczek goes on to say that Englishmen who moved to work in the city's wool industry was one root cause of cricket's success there.
1831.1 A Ball Club Forms in Philadelphia; It Later Adopts Base Ball, and Lasts to 1887
The Olympic Ball Club of Philadelphia unites with a group of ball players based in Camden, NJ
Orem writes: "An association of Town Ball players began playing at Camden, New Jersey on Market Street in the Spring of 1831."
Orem says, without citing a source, that "On the first day but four players appeared, so the game was "Cat Ball," called in some parts of New England at the time "Two Old Cat." Later accounts report that the club formed in 1833, although J. M. Ward  also dated the formation of the club to 1831.
Orem notes that "so great was the prejudice of the general public against the game at the time that the players were frequently censured by their friends for indulging in such a childish amusement."
* * *
In January 2017, Richard Hershberger reported (19CBB posting) that after more than five decades, the club disbanded in 1887 -- see Supplemental Text, below.
The Olympic Club played Town Ball until it switched to modern base ball in 1860. See Chronology entry 1860.64.
* * *
For a reconstruction of the rules of Philadelphia town ball, see Hershberger, below. Games were played under the term "town ball" in Cincinnati as well as Philadelphia and a number of southern locations (for an unedited map of 23 locations with references to town ball, conduct an Enhanced Search for <town ball>.
* * *
The club is credited with several firsts in American baserunning games:
 1833: first game played between two established clubs -- see Chronology entry 1833c.12.
 1837: first team to play in uniforms -- see Chronology entry 1837.14.
 1969: First interracial game -- See Chronology entry 1869.3.
* * *
[Orem, Preston D., Baseball (1845-1881) From the Newspaper Accounts(self-published, Altadena CA, 1961), page 4.]
Constitution of the Olympic Ball Club of Philadelphia [private printing, 1838]. Parts reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 5-8.
Richard Hershberger, "A Reconstruction of Philadelphia Town Ball," Base Ball, Volume 1 number 2 (Fall 2007), pp. 28-43. Online as of 2017 at:
For a little more on the game of town ball, see http://protoball.org/Town_Ball.
The "firsts" tentatively listed above are for the US play of baserunning games other than cricket. Further analysis is needed to confirm or disconfirm its elements.
Protoball would welcome an analysis of the US history of town ball and its variants.
It seems plausible that town ball was being played years earlier in the Philadelphia. Newspaper accounts refer to cricket "and other ball games" being played locally as as early as 1822. See Chronology entry 1822.3.
Is it accurate to call this a "town ball" club? When was it formed? Dean Sullivan dates it to 1837, while J. M. Ward [Ward's Base Ball Book, page 18] sets 1831 as the date of formation. The constitution was revised in 1837, but the Olympic Club merged with the Camden Town ball Club in 1833, and that event is regarded as the formation date of the Olympics. The story of the Olympics is covered in "Sporting Gossip," by "the Critic" in an unidentified photocopy found at the Giamatti Research Center at the HOF. What appears to be a continuation of this article is also at the HOF. It is "Evolution of Baseball from 1833 Up to the Present Time," by Horace S. Fogel, and appeared in The Philadelphia Daily Evening Telegraph, March 22-23, 1908.
2 Are we certain that the "firsts" listed in this entry predate the initial appearance of the indicated innovations in American cricket?
1832.1 Union Cricket Club of Philadelphia Forms
Per John Thorn, 6/15/04: Source is Chadwick Scrapbooks, Volume 20. Note: According to a Harold Seymour note, J. M. Ward's Baseball [p. 18] sets a date of 1831 for the beginning of regular club play in Philadelphia.
1834.5 Cricket Play Begins at Haverford College
"The first cricket club of entirely native-born American youth was founded at Haverford College in PA. In a manuscript diary kept by an unknown student during the first two years of the existence of the college, under the date of 1834, occurs this entry: 'About this time a new game was introduced among the students called Cricket. The school was divided into several clubs or associations, each of which was provided with the necessary instruments for playing the game.'"
John A. Lester, ed., , A Century of Philadelphia Cricket [UPenn Press, Philadelphia, 1951], page 11. Lester does not provide a source.
1837.6 Olympic Ball Club Constitution Requires Umpires
The constitution does not shed light on the nature of the game played. Membership was restricted to those above the age of twenty-one. One day per month was set for practice "Club day". Note: Sullivan dates the constitution at 1837, but notes that it was printed in 1838.
The constitution specifies that the club recorder shall act as "umpire", to settle disputes.
Constitution of the Olympic Ball Club of Philadelphia [Philadelphia, John Clark], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 223.
Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825 - 1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 5-8.
1838.11 On a Day Trip to Camden NJ, Philly Man Documents Olympic Club
"Messrs Editors - Feeling desirous the other day of breathing air somewhat purer [than Philadelphia PA's, I took the ferry to Camden]. I took up a stroll into the bordering woods; it being a lovely day, all nature seemed to be in vegetation. A small distance from the woods, I beheld a party of young men (the majority of whom I afterwards distinguished to be Market street merchants) and who styled themselves the "Olympic Club," a title well answering to its name by the manner in which the party amused itself in the recreant pleasure of town ball, and several other games. In my estimation, there is much benefit to be derived from a club of this nature. Young men who are confined to the daily toils of business, and who can get away . . . should avail themselves of the opportunity to become associated with the "Olympic Club." Signed, H.M.O.
Public Ledger(Philadelphia PA) May 14, 1838. Posted by Richard Hershberger to the 19CBB listserve, April 1, 2009. Subscription search. Richard notes that this becomes the earliest Philly ref to town ball, and pushes back from 1858 the earliest contemporary account of the Olympics. 1838 is also the reported date of the Club's constitution. Note: The writer and editor obviously expected readers to be familiar with town ball, and the name town ball.
1840c.3 Influx of English Immigrants Brings "Rough Form" of Cricket to NE and Philadelphia PA?
Per Rader, p. 90; [no citation given.] Caveat: recent research does not support this assertion. Caution: the evidence for this needs to be obtained.
1841.8 Philadelphia Cricket Club Issues Challenge for Matches at $50 to $100
"The Philadelphia Ledger for November 1, 1841, carried an advertisement from the Wakefield Mills Cricket Club challenging 'the best eleven in the city to play two home-and-home games for from $50 to $100.'"
John Lester, A Century of Philadelphia Cricket [UPenn Press, Philadelphia PA, 1951], page 15.
1842c.7 Cricket and Town Ball Recalled in Philadelphia PA
"The first cricket I ever saw was on a field near Logan Station . . . about 1842. The hosiery weavers at Wakefield Mills [cf #1841.8 above] near by had formed a club under the leadership of Lindley Fisher, a Haverford cricketer. . . . [My brother and I] had played Town Ball, the forerunner of baseball today, at Germantown Academy, and our handling of the ball was appreciated by the Englishmen.
John Lester, A Century of Philadelphia Cricket [UPenn Press, Philadelphia, 1951], page 9. Lester does not provide a source here, but his bibliography lists: Wister, William Rotch, Some Reminiscences of Cricket I Philadelphia Before 1861 [Allen, Philadelphia, 1904].
1842c.9 Haverford Students Form Cricket Team of Americans
"Haverford College [Haverford PA] students, however, played cricket with English hosiery weavers prior to 1842, the year the students formed the first all-American team."
Lester, John A., A Century of Philadelphia Cricket (U of Penn Press, Philadelphia, 1951), pages 9-11; as cited in Gelber, Steven M., "'Their Hands Are All Out Playing:' Business and Amateur Baseball, 1845-1917," Journal of Sport History, Vol. 11, number 1 (Spring 1984), page 15. Lester cites "a manuscript diary kept by an unknown student . . . under the date 1834."
Haverford is about 10 miles NW of downtown Philadelphia.
Iis Lester saying this is the first Haverford all-native team, first US all-native team, or what?
Can we resolve the discrepancy between 1834 and 18"before 1842" as the time that the club formed?
1843.8 Man Flashes Large Wad at New York-Philly Cricket Match, Is Then Nabbed for Robbery
"Important Arrest: A few days since, at the last match game of cricket played near New York, between the New York and Philadelphia competitors for a large sum of money, a person, whose name is William Rushton, from Philadelphia, was present, making large offers to bet upon the result of the game, and exhibiting large sums of money to the spectators for that purpose." This excess evidently led to his later arrest for the robbery of a bank porter on the Brooklyn ferry early in 1843.
"Important Arrest," The Sun [New York? Philadelphia?], August 12, 1843. Accessed via subscription search May 5, 2009.
1847.8 Soldier Recalls Town-ball
"I often think of you and the many pleasant and happy hours I passed at the old Hoffman school house, pelting each other with snow-balls and playing town-ball. [but the balls a soldier plies] are dangerous, and when they strike they leave more painful marks than the ones you used to pitch or throw at me when running to base . . . "
Oswandel, J. Jacob, "Notes of the Mexican War, 1846-1847-1848," (Philadelphia, 1885), page unspecified. Provided by Richard Hershberger, emails of 2/5/2007 and 1/30/2008. Richard notes that Oswandel's home town was Lewistwon PA, and 60 miles northwest of Philly.
1848.8 Cricket Flourishes at Haverford College PA
"The College was closed in 1845. When it reopened in 1848, cricket sprang up again under the leadership of an English tutor in Dr. Lyons' school nearby. Two cricket clubs, the Delian and the Lycaean, were formed, and then a third the Dorian."
John Lester, A Century of Philadelphia Cricket [UPenn Press, Philadelphia, 1951], page 11. Lester does not provide a source.
1850s.3 Cricket Club in Philadelphia, "Young America CC," Started for US-Born Only
John Lester, ed., A Century of Cricket in Philadelphia [University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 1951], page 23.
Can we determine the year the club formed? Was it a junior clcub?
1857.29 Six-Player Town-ball Teams Play for Gold in Philly
[A] "TOWN BALL. - The young men of Philadelphia are determined to keep the ball rolling . . . On Friday, 20th ult. (10/20/1857 we think) the United States Club met on their grounds, corner of 61st and Hazel streets . . . each individual did his utmost to gain the prize, at handsome gold ring, which was eventually awarded to Mr. T. W. Taylor, his score of 26 being the highest." Each team had six players, and the team Taylor played on won, 117 to 82.
[B] "In 1858, a Philadelphia correspondent with the pen name 'Excelsior' wrote to the New York Clipper . . . about early ball play in New York, , and called town ball, the Philadelphia favorite, 'comparatively unknown in New York.'"
[A] New York Clipper (November 1857--as handwritten in clippings collection; 1857, but no date is given).
[B] John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Schuster, 2011), page 26. The date of this Clipper account is not noted.
Do we now know any more about this event? Was it an intramural game? Was a six-player side common in Philadelphia town ball? Was a gold ring a typical prize for winning?
1858.50 New York Game Reaches Philadelphia
[A] "Although the Minerva Club was established in 1857, it members lived a quiet and largely unpublicized existence. The first report of the New York game of baseball in the city was an item noting an 1858 Thanksgiving Day match between two teams composed of members of the Pennsylvania Tigers Social Base Ball and Quoit Club."
[B] Also: "PENN TIGERS BASE BALL CLUB. - The Two Nines of this club played their first match on Monday, 13th inst, at Philadelphia, Boyce's party beating Broadhead's by only one run, the totals being 24 and 23."
Unidentified clipping in the Mears collection; by context it may have appeared in late spring of 1859.
[A] William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 115. His source for the 1858 game is the New York Clipper, November 27, 1858.
[B] From Craig Waff's Games Tab 1.0.
"The quoits part seems to have dropped out of usage pretty quickly, and they changed their name to the Winona BBC the following year. The Winonas disbanded in 1864, bequeathing their trophies to the Keystones."
1859.10 Philadelphia Man Interested in Forming MA Game Club
"We have already several clubs in the neighborhood who I presume play the same game as the New York clubs, which the New York Tribune call a "baby game" if as the article in the Tribune to-day indicates your Massachusetts game is the best we shall be glad to introduce it here."
Letter from William Stokes, Philadelphia to Geo H. Stoddard, Pres., Excelsior Ball Club, Upton Mass, October 18, 1859. From the Mills Commission files at the HOF Giamatti Center.
1859.20 Two More BB Clubs Issue Rules
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 224, lists new rules in 1859 for the Harlem BB Club in NY and the Mercantile BB Club in Philadelphia.
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 224
1860.13 Town Ball Hangs on in Philadelphia
The New York Clipper of August 11, 1860, page 132, carries accounts of two July town ball games in Philadelphia PA,  one involving the Olympics and  another involving two second-team elevens.
New York Clipper August 11, 1860, page 132
Richard Hershberger comments: "This is interesting on several counts. This is firm evidence that that the Olympics did not completely give up town ball the previous May , as is usually reported. It also shows that not only were there at least two other clubs playing town ball, but that there was enough interest for them to field second teams." Richard Hershberger posting to 19CBB, 1/31/2008.
1860.16 Mercantile BB Club of Philadelphia Subject to Light Poetry
Owed 2 Base Ball in Three Can't-Oh's! (McLaughlin Bros, Philadelphia, 1860) per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 222.
1860.62 Athletic Club Takes the Field
"A match game of base ball will be played on Saturday afternoon between the Athletic and Pennsylvania Clubs, on the grounds of the former at Camac's Woods, the play to commence at 2 1/2 o'clock, precisely. This is the first match of the Athletic..."
Philadelphia Inquirer, Sep. 21, 1860
"Athletic" proved to be the most durable club name in baseball.
1860.64 The First Enclosed Ballpark
In a review of candidates for the title of first enclosed ballpark, Jerrold Casway nominates St. George Cricket Grounds, Camac's Woods, Philadelphia. The site was first enclosed for cricket in 1859 and used for baseball on July 24, 1860.
Jerrold Casway, "The First Enclosed Ballpark-- Olympics of Philadelphia vs. St. George", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 32-33
1860.65 The Grand Excursion, Part II
After traveling previously through New York state, the Excelsior Club of South Brooklyn traveled to Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Craig Waff, "The Grand Excursion, Part II-- Excelsiors of Brooklyn vs. Excelsiors of Baltimore and vs. a Picked Nine of Philadelphia", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 34-35
1860.68 Philly Teams Try to Organize
"BASE BALL. A CONVENTION OF DELEGATES from various clubs met last week in Philadelphia for the purpose of adopting a code of laws, and to form an association for the State of Pennsylvania. The Winona, Pennsylvania, Continental, Keystone, and Germantown Clubs were represented. Without transacting any important business, the Convention adjourned to the 15th inst."
Wilkes' Spirit of the Times, Feb. 11, 1860
No further coverage of this effort has been located.
1862.5 Brooklynites and Philadelphians Play Series of Games
Various assortments of leading players from Brooklyn and Philadelphia vied in both cities in 1862. Philadelphia sent an all-star assortment north in June, where it lost to Newark and to select nines in Brooklyn's eastern and western districts, but beat an aggregation of Hoboken players. Two select Brooklyn nines headed south and played two all-Philly sides in early July.
At the end of August, the Mutual club traveled to Philadelphia, winning 2 of 3 against Phila clubs. In October, the Eckford traveled to Philadelphia for a week of play against individual local clubs, and also played an "amalgamated nine" of locals, winning all games played.
Sources: various, including overviews at "Philadelphia vs. Brooklyn," Wilkes Spirit, July 12, 1862, and "Base Ball Match," Philadelphia Inquirer, October 22, 1862.
1862.55 They Do It Differently in Philadelphia
"THE GRAND MATCHES IN PHILADELPHIA. BROOKLYN VS. PHILADELPHIA...On the first day's play, there was no chalk line made between the home and 1st and 3rd bases, as the rule requires...It would be well, to,, to mark the home base line of six feet in length on which the striker is required to stand. Every player running the bases should be required to touch them...In cases of foul balls, too, the player running the bases should remain on the base, after he has returned to it, until the ball has been settled in the hands of the pitcher...we would also call the Philadelphians' attention to Section 20 of the rules. It applies to the striker as well as anyone else. (Section 20 deals with obstruction).
[A] New York Clipper, July 12, 1862
1864.39 Helping the Sanitary Commission
"A BALL-PLAYING JUBILEE IN PHILADELPHIA.-- Wednesday, May 25, and the three days following it, are going to be devoted to a regular gala-time in ball-play in the City of Brotherly Love, the 25th inst. being the occasion on which the grand match was suggested to the ball-players of Pennsylvania and New Jersey is to take place-- the contest being one for the benefit of the United States Sanitary Commission-- the contestants being selected nines from the prominent clubs of New Jersey and Pennsylvania."
[A] New York Sunday Mercury, May 15, 1864
[B] Philadelphia Illustrated New Age, May 25, 1864
The United States Sanitary Commission was a private relief agency created by federal legislation on June 18, 1861, to support sick and wounded soldiers of the U.S. Army during the American Civil War. It operated across the North, raised an estimated $25 million in Civil War era revenue and in-kind contributions