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Today's Tidbit... Youth Football in 1895 Boston
While chasing down information on football in old newspapers, the line drawings in articles about top players or games always catch my eye. They are from before newspapers could reliably print half-tone "photographs" on their pages. Even then, the early photographs were still images (e.g., posed players or teams) since it was not until post-WWI that lighter cameras with fast lenses allowed game-action images to replace illustrations on the nation's sports pages.
So it was the illustration below that drew my attention to an October 1895 Boston Globe article about youth football in the Boston area.
The article reminded me that little is written in period newspapers about the youth game, nor have I seen much written about the history of youth football despite it acting as the feedstock for high school, college, and later, professional football.
From that standpoint, it offers a window into the youth game of the time, observing that just as boys played baseball on the commons and in empty lots around town all summer, football-playing youths filled the same spots in the autumn of 1895.
While describing several Boston locations, they mention specific teams practicing at each location. Some represented organized clubs, but most appear to have been informal teams of boys living on or around certain streets, such as Brighton, Huntington, or Massachusetts Avenues. The kids organized their teams, developed plays, and scheduled games against teams from other neighborhoods.
The reporter also spotted groups playing pickup games, with some lacking footballs, so they used handkerchiefs stuffed with grass as a substitute.
The article closes with the promise to create a Juvenile sports section to report youth game scores and provide space for "want ads" submitted by teams looking to schedule games with teams of comparable ages and weights.
Similar sections or messages were in newspapers until the 1940s for youth and semipro teams, after which Pop Warner (founded in 1929), Catholic Youth Organization, and other entities increasingly formalized youth football in many areas.
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