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1903 Phillips Andover Game Images and the Bullock Brothers
A few years ago, I acquired six images from an early 1900s football game but only recently determined where and when the game occurred. As discussed and shown below, four of the six images include William H. Bullock, the younger of two brothers who were pioneers in integrating prep and college football.
The images are unlabeled but contain clues to their identity. For example, the image below shows a game played on a checkerboard football field, with multiple players wearing nose guards (the predecessor of face masks), and a mix of football jerseys and canvas vests. The player to the far left has a P on his right breast, a clue that led to comparing the buildings in the background to period images of Phillips Andover Academy. The combination confirms the game was played on Brother Field at Phillips Andover Academy, a renowned prep school in Andover, Massachusetts, but in what year was the game played?
Football used checkerboard markings on the field from 1903 through 1909 so the game occurred during that period. However, the checkerboard pattern covered only part of field in 1903, covering only the portion between the 25-yard lines. The rest of the field retained the traditional gridiron pattern.
The first image shows the teams playing on a checkerboard pattern, while the second shows a conventional gridiron, so the game had to have occurred in 1903.
Other elements of the second image are notable. Many schools of the time, even those as wealthy as Phillips Andover, did not have bleachers or other stands for spectators. Instead, fans stood around the field, often held back by ropes just beyond the sideline. Of course, if you were not as tall as other spectators, it might have been a challenge to see the action from the sideline, plus many in the crowd wear long coats to keep warm, so it is not a surprise that someone watched the game from a 1903 version of a luxury box. (See the second-floor middle window of the house behind the action.) Just to the right of the action and along the sideline is a student in a white sweater holding the "first down" pole whose chain is six inches off the ground. Chains back then tended to be short and lacked the pennants, bullseyes, or other adornments that increased their visibility.
In the second image, the player closest to us is African American, and William H. Bullock was Andover's star fullback in 1903 and 1904, typically scoring one or two touchdowns per game. Born to formerly enslaved parents, Bullock and his older brother worked their way through Andover and likely did compete against another African-American athlete during their times there.
The goal posts in the background of the third image and the celebrating players and spectators tell us one of the teams scored a touchdown. Football fields did not have end zones until 1912, so spectators in 1903 commonly stood just beyond the goal line, especially at fields lacking bleachers. One of the celebrating players holds his nose guard in his left hand and wears socks with white stripes, and other images indicate he played for the visiting team. Seven teams visited Andover in 1903 with Andover shutting out the University of New Hampshire, Harvard's freshmen, Yale's freshmen, and a few other prep schools, while they beat the Tufts University Jumbos, 15-5. So, since Tufts was the only opponent known to score a touchdown on Andover on Brother Field, Tufts is likely the opponent in these pictures. Unfortunately, while Andover beat seven opponents at home, Andover lost an away game to arch rival Exeter, ruining Andover's otherwise fine season.
The three remaining images show the teams in piles resembling rugby scrums. William Bullock appears in each of these images.
William Bullock graduated from Andover in 1905 before entering Dartmouth. He practiced with the football team during the 1905 and 1906 seasons, proved academically ineligible, before leaving school when his father passed away. Bullock then returned home to support his mother and younger siblings, remaining in the Boston area and staying active in the sporting scene the rest of his life. (More information on William H. Bullock is available here.)
William's older brother, Matthew W. Bullock, gained more fame and fortune but often faced adversity based on his race. Two years older than William, Matthew also starred at Andover and Dartmouth and was the Big Green's first African American football player. Named to Walter Camp's third-team All-America team his junior season, he suffered a broken collarbone on the third play of the Princeton game during his senior season, shortly after several Princeton players hurled racial epithets at him. Dartmouth ended athletic relations with Princeton as a result.
After graduating from Dartmouth, Matthew Bullock went to Harvard Law and coached a high school team and the Massachusetts Agriculture College (now the University of Massachusetts Amherst). As coach of UMass during the 1904, 1907, and 1908 seasons, Matthew Bullock was the first African American to coach football at an integrated or predominantly white college. He went on to a stellar legal, academic, and public service career serving with the 369th Infantry Harlem Hellfighters in France during WWI, as a professor and football coach at Morehouse College, on various government commissions, and as an NAACP board member. (You can find more information on Matthew W. Bullock here.)
This series of images is among the earliest game action photos of an African American player competing in an integrated football game. For William Bullock and his brother Matthew to play for Phillips Andover, a school then among the best in the country on and off the field, speaks volumes about their intellect, athletic ability, and character. They are men to be admired during Black History Month and the other months of the year.
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