Elysian Fields Update
Draft Version 1.1, 1/15/2023
An Interesting Stage in Early Base Ball History – Hundreds of Games at Hoboken’s Elysian Fields from 1845 Onward
SABR Local Grant application- Research Pillar
Elysian Fields and the Early Evolution of Modern Base Ball
Name of SABR community engaged with project
SABR Origins Committee and the SABR Nineteenth Century Committee. With likely participation of members of the SABR Elysian Field Chapter (northern New Jersey) and the SABR Casey Stengel Chapter (New York City)
Primary Point of Contact
Thomas Gilbert, email@example.com, (917) 974-6842
Secondary Points of Contact
Other members of the Elysian Fields (EF) Steering Committee:
Bruce Allardice, firstname.lastname@example.org, (630)207-7632
Jonathan Popovich, email@example.com, (862)226-9870
John Zinn, firstname.lastname@example.org, (973) 857-1028
Larry McCray, Lmccray@mit.edu, (617) 388-5772
The Project will endeavor to identify and collect copies of all material available on the founding, development, use, and decline of the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey for baseball use and other ballplaying activities. Elysian Fields was developed by the Stevens family of New York and Hoboken on their land on the Hudson River west of Manhattan. The initial purpose of Elysian Fields was a commercial enterprise of the Stevens Family. It evolved into an open park that became popular with residents of New York. It was a relatively easy ferry ride from New York City’s Hudson waterfront to Hoboken it in the 1840s and 1850s it was a prime recreational location for a rapidly growing New York City with diminishing open land. While there was no fee charged for admission the grounds the Stevens family did control the ferries from New York to Hoboken and they were a lucrative endeavor for them. They also owned much of the land that is present day Hoboken and Elysian Fields became an effective marketing tool to sell their land. By the mid-1840s the Elysian Fields had become one of the main locales for amateur baseball clubs to practice and play their games. This continued into the early 1870s, but is in a state of baseball decline as baseball parks opened in Brooklyn and Central Park opened for Manhattanites in 1858.
The Knickerbocker Club decided to obtain access to EF in 1845, a few days after adopting its playing rules. It was to play about 200 games there in the next decade. Several other Manhattan clubs soon followed suit
While there is a great deal known about the Elysian Fields during its operations, there are numerous issues related to the grounds that are still open questions. The Project seeks to fill in missing details about the grounds through research on the Stevens Family and how they decided to develop the Elysian Fields, development of a timeline for the various activities hosted at the grounds, how the Stevens family financed to Elysian Fields, the family’s involvement with the development of Hoboken as it relates to the Elysian Fields, and how various members of the family were involved. The main objective is to discern how the facility affected the refinement and spread of early baseball: other authors are now undertaking a fresh look at the evolution of the facility itself.
As clubs came to call Elysian Fields their home ground home and set up clubhouses on the grounds, what was the arrangements between the ball clubs and the Stevens family Do any documents still exist about these relationships, how did the New York-based clubs come to settle on the Elysian Fields as their main game field. Do club documents still exist describing to club discussions about the issue or financial record of the club’s use of Elysian Field buildings for ongoing use for meetings, equipment storage, and the like.. Were there requests by the clubs for the Elysian Fields to develop additional features for club use that were declined? Were there disagreements between clubs and the Stevens family?
In addition to seeking answers to these questions (and other surprises that may pop up during the research) the project will look for mare definitive data on the decline of the Elysian Fields in the latter part of the nineteenth century, how the grounds changed over the years, other nearby facilities that were developed to compete with the Elysian Fields and the Stevens family decisions to use the land for other purposes. These questions also tie to the evolution of baseball in New York City and Brooklyn as they became the center of baseball as it marched toward professionalism.
The previous paragraphs demonstrate that there remains much for us to learn about this early location for baseball. To seek answers we propose to use members of the Origins Committee, the Nineteenth Century Committee, and other interested SABR members to seek data and collect sources and ephemera involving the Elysian Fields. To start we have identified a considerable number of potential sources to be explored in this effort. The following appears on the Protoball website.
Backdrop to this request: Last fall Davids Award winner Peter Mancuso, chair of the SABR 19th Century Committee, posted some news to selected Origins Era and Pro Era researchers. That soon swelled to an extended exchange of mail traffic about EF, which included many of SABR’s published authors, including MLB Official Historian John Thorn, How Baseball Happened author Thomas Gilbert, the exciting new researcher Jonathan Popovich, EF researcher Irwin Chusid, leading origins researchers Bruce Allardice and Bob Tholkes, and others. We pooled what we know about EF, and began to see what we still need to learn.
Protoball.org, built by SABR staff and later carried on Retrosheet.org, has collected those email exchanges, and other existing data sets relating to EF, including a fine September 2022 EF bibliography from Bob Bailey, vice chair of the 19th Century Committee. Tom Gilbert contributed an EF timeline of XX events at the Hoboken site, and others have added YY other entries to it. .Bruce Allardice, editor of the SABR Origins Newsletter, has featured newly-gathered EF facts in recent issues .This material is being collected for a new EF page on Protoball. The proposed Local Grants project is intended to focus on today’s key remaining research needs, as identified by the group.
An Addendum, below, lays out what we now know about EF, and what we would like to learn.
The project leadership will continue to add potential sources of information as new research points us to other sources.
Part of the protocol for researchers involved with the project is to make clear copies of all articles, newspaper clippings, book chapters, and similar material to be included in the project’s effort to become the most complete resource for information on Elysian Fields in existence. More on the development and use of such an Archive later in this application.
In addition to written and published data, we will seek photographic and illustrative images of the Elysian Fields and events at the grounds. We currently know of seven images of Elysian Fields. These are generally lithographs of important baseball games held on the grounds. But we intend to seek images of other activities at the Elysian Fields that may give us a more complete picture of Elysian Fields activities. There may also be maps showing the development of the grounds, planning documents, and material in the Stevens family documents at various locations in the Hoboken-area. We would attempt to get the best resolution digital image to include in the Archive. This may broaden our understanding of uses of the Elysian Fields during its existence.
The end-product of the project is to create a digital archive of all known information on the Elysian Fields. The archive will include copies or locations of all Elysian Fields references. For all the material on the Elysian Fields that we collect the archive would include copies of articles, papers, documents from archives, and other sources organized for placement in an on-line digital resource available to all SABR members, much like the current Research Resources on the SABR website. In addition we will include high-resolution images of lithographs, photos, maps, plats, and other visual items that come from the project’s research.
If recent experience is matched, both new articles in SABR newsletters and contributions of key EF data sets to open base ball websites can be expected.
We believe that this has the potential to be the most complete reference resource on the Elysian Fields available. If posted on the SABR website itself, the organization can determine how it might be made available to non-SABR members (free-access, fees for making copies, or fees for images controlled by SABR).
Project Plan of Work
The intent is to engage members of the Origins Committee, Nineteenth Century Committee, and other interested SABR members in seeking out and reviewing resources potentially containing data on Elysian Fields. The volunteers would be assigned either specific material identified as being potentially related to the Elysian Fields. The volunteers would be tasked with visiting the institutions hold these resources and systematically going through the material making notes and copies of all items found related to the Elysian Fields. The Primary Point of Contact would be responsible for making assignments and following-up with volunteer to ensure the research is done timely, and the material collected is sent to the Primary Point of Contact. The Primary Point of Contact would also be responsible to report at least monthly to the chairs of the Origin and Nineteenth Century Committees on progress and current status of the project.
The EF Project would also use the Origins and Nineteenth Century Committee Newsletters to recruit additional volunteers and provide the membership with updates on project progress to date. They would also use various means of contact provided by SABR to alert the membership of the project and recruit more researchers.
We anticipate that the bulk of the material available will be located in the Hoboken and New York City areas. Therefore SABR members living in the area would be assigned tasks requiring travel to local sites to review material. For material readily available on line, any interested SABR member could be assigned that task.
We do not believe that there will much difficulty securing copies of the material we find. But there may be some issues of copyrights and the like for images or distribution of materials or placing the material online. If these questions arise we will defer to all policies set by the SABR Board regarding the material’s use.
EF Project’s Fulfillment of SABR’s research pillar
In line with the Research Pillar description, the project aims to create a database of known information and related data on the Elysian Fields. This data will be primarily digital or in a form that can be digitized for inclusion in an online database available to SABR members.
Does this project fulfill any of SABR’s other pillars? Check all that apply
⧠' Future of the Game
Are you partnering with other organizations on this project?
If Yes, who?
Will the project require dealing with legal questions such as copyright, trademarks, licensing, municipal permits, etc.? Explain.
Placing a few items in an online Archive may raise copyright issues, particularly if SABR charges a fee for non-members to access the Archive. The leadership of the project will follow all SABR policies on such issues.
Does the Project currently have funding from other sources?
If yes, how much?
How much SABR grant funding are you requesting for this project.
Please include and estimated itemized budget for the project. If appropriate, include cost sharing in cash or in kind from partners and other sources.
It is intended that the entire SABR grant amount be used only to pay for copies of material secured from volunteers’ research. We would seek the best resolution on images and the clearest resolution on copies of printed data.
[[Budget not conceived yet. My queries about the cost of making a video didn’t pan out yet. A blind stab: $600 for Video, $150 for digitization of key data bases, $50 for access to pay sites, research and travel costs contributed by members, no in-person meetings Warning: I live in the 2010 economy and believe a Snickers bar probably costs a quarter.]]
If funding is received, when is the project expected to begin
March 1, 2023. The first action necessary is the recruitment of volunteers for the project. Once the project is approved we will refine the previously developed resource list to identify sources available on line and sources requiring visiting the local site. Once additional volunteers begin to join the project the Steering Group will make assignments and begin coordinating the volunteers’ work.
If funding is received, what is the estimated completion date?
The nature of any research project rarely collects all available data. At some point in the future new resources may become known or be made available to researchers. But the intent of this project is to finish the collection of all data by volunteers through December 31, 2023. If more sources are available we can apply for more funding in subsequent years. When organized all material will be sent to SABR for posting on the website. If SABR does not desire to post the material we will post it to a site related to the Origins or Nineteenth Century Committees, for example, Protoball.org.