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Future President Lincoln Plays Town Ball, Joins Hopping Contests

Salience Noteworthy
Tags Famous
City/State/Country: IL, United States
Game Town Ball
Immediacy of Report Retrospective
Age of Players Adult

James Gurley (Gourley?) knew Abraham Lincoln from 1834, when Lincoln was 25. In 1866 he gave an informal interview to William Herndon, the late President's biographer and former law partner in Springfield IL. His 1866 recollection:

"We played the old-fashioned game of town ball - jumped - ran - fought and danced. Lincoln played town ball - he hopped well - in 3 hops he would go 40.2 [feet?] on a dead level. . . . He was a good player - could catch a ball."





Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln (U Illinois Press, 1998), page 451.

See also Beveridge, Albert J., Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1858 (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1928), Volume I, page 298.  The author provides source for this info as: "James Gourley's" statement, later established as 1866. Weik MSS. Per John Thorn, 7/9/04.


There is some ambiguity about the city intended in this recollection.  Springfield IL and New Salem IL seem mostly likely locations.


A previous Protoball entry, listed as #1840s.16: "He [Abraham Lincoln in the 1840s] joined with gusto in outdoor sports foot-races, jumping and hopping contests, town ball, wrestling . . . "  Source:  a limited online version of the 1997 book edited by Douglas L Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, Herndon's Informants (U of Illinois Press, 1997 or 1998). Posted to 19CBB on 12/11/2007 by Richard Hershberger. Richard notes that the index to the book promises several other references to Lincoln's ballplaying but [Jan. 2008] reports that the ones he has found are unspecific.. Note: can we chase this book down and collect those references?

Earlier versions of this find were submitted by Richard Hershberger (2007) and John Thorn (2004).  

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Submitted by Steve Gietschier
Submission Note email of 12/12/2017.


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