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Today's Tidbits... 1894 Footballists and Their Armor
Newspapers of the 1890s periodically had articles explaining football basics for the many Americans who had never seen a game. Still played mainly by college boys, the game had not reached many dusty little towns. An offshoot of the articles describing the nature of play were those concerning football players' equipment or armor. So, here are the images in the order they appear in the article ‘Footballists,’ from the October 20, 1894, issue of the Cincinnati Post.
First on the docket is the illustration of period headgear, which premiered several years earlier. Presumably, there was a similar padded guard for the right ear.
The well-protected player wore headgear and a nose guard to protect his schnozz and teeth.
Moving down the body, a canvas vest and quilted pads on the pants helped ensure the players survived the afternoon.
The fields of the day ranged from polo grounds to cow pastures to campus lawns where bumps and potholes abounded. With the aid of taped ankles, ankle braces came in handy.
Next were the shoulder caps. It is unclear whether these were supposed to protect the shoulder from bruising or keep a previously dislocated shoulder in place. However, the first mention of players wearing leather pads on their shoulders came several weeks after the publication of this article.
Period publications seldom mentioned abdomen protectors; that's my gut feeling, anyway.
A second image might have done the trick if the earlier image did not convince players to wear a nose guard. Note the use of "mask" to describe the forerunner of the face mask.
Many men stepped onto the field without a wrist guard, but few did so without leather cleats tacked on the bottom of their boots. And those who cared little about their noses but wanted to retain most of their teeth could bite into a standalone mouthpiece.
Name a player who did not want their elbows and forearms strengthened. Even Popeye would have approved of the latter.
And last but not least was the shin guard. Football's original rules from rugby mentioned only a few illegal acts, but one of them was hacking or kicking the opponent in the shins. I don't think much hacking was going on by 1894, but players regularly wore the cane-ribbed shin guards until 1910.
Footballists of the day had many choices to gird themselves from the damages of a football contest. Few wore more than a few of these elements in 1894, but they became increasingly common in the next several years due to the game's turn to mass and momentum plays.
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