1878-1899: Sports and Recreation: Chronology

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1878-1899: Sports and Recreation: Chronology




  • The Chautauqua movement, organized in 1874, begins a literary and scientific circle for home study; some seven thousand persons enroll during its first year.
  • The National Archery Association is founded at Crawfordsville, Indiana.
  • 2 Apr. President Rutherford B. Hayes inaugurates the annual Easter egg roll on the White House lawn.
  • 8 June The New York Athletic Club forms the National Association of Amateur Athletes of America, governing the organization of track and field in the United States.
  • 10 Oct. Jimmy McLaughlin rides the winners in three horse races in Nashville, Tennessee.


  • Baseball owners introduce a reserve clause to control movement of players from team to team.
  • Madison Square Garden opens to the public in New York City. The original structure was a railroad depot on Twenty-sixth Street.
  • 2 Jan. The Northwestern League, a minor baseball league, is formed.


  • William Muldoon, inventor of the medicine ball, wins the heavyweight wrestling championship.
  • Patrick Paddy Ryan becomes the world heavyweight bare-knuckle boxer after defeating the defender, Joe Goss of England, in an eighty-seven-round bout near Colliers Station, West Virginia.
  • Chautauquan, the monthly magazine of the Chautauqua movement, begins publication.
  • 29 May W. P. Wurtz of Yale University wins the first intercollegiate bicycle race, riding two miles in 7:57.
  • 31 May The first National Meet of American Bicyclists is held in Newport, Rhode Island.


  • The United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) is created. Rules of play are set and adopted worldwide.
  • Richard D. Sears wins the first USLTA mens singles title. He holds the title for the next six consecutive years.
  • The American Association of Base Ball Clubs forms as a rival to the National League in major league baseball.
  • 5 Oct. The International Cotton Exposition opens in Atlanta.
  • 15 Oct. The first American fishing journal, American Angler, owned and edited by William C. Harris, is published in Philadelphia.
  • 9-10 Nov. The U.S. yacht Mischief wins two straight races from the Canadian challenger Atalanta in the Americas Cup.


  • The American Association of Base Ball Clubs agrees with the National League to mutual recognition of reserved baseball players and exclusive territorial rights.
  • The National Croquet Association and U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association are formed to revise and to standardize rules of their respective games.
  • 7 Feb. Bare-knuckle boxer John L. Sullivan knocks out Patrick Paddy Ryan in nine rounds in Mississippi City, Mississippi.
  • 24 June Richard Higham, a baseball umpire, is expelled from the National League for dishonesty.
  • 5 Sept. The first Labor Day celebration and parade, sponsored by the Knights of Labor, is held in New York City.
  • 25 Sept. The Providence and Worcester teams play major league baseballs first doubleheader.


  • Yale University wins the first national college football championship. Yales record is 8 wins, 0 losses, and 0 ties.
  • Hugh H. Baxter of the New York Athletic Club sets a world record by pole vaulting 11 feet, 1/2 inch.
  • The first recorded U.S. cycling championship occurs in Springfield, Massachusetts; G. M. Hendrie wins the title.
  • 17 May Buffalo Bill Codys Wild West Show opens in Omaha, Nebraska, and features mock stagecoach robberies and Indian attacks.
  • 2 June The first baseball game played under electric lights occurs in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Fort Wayne team beats Quincy 1911 in seven innings.
  • 7-8 June Amherst, Brown, Harvard, Trinity, and Yale compete in the first intercollegiate tennis tournament; J. S. Clark (Harvard) wins the singles title.
  • 16 June The New York Giants hold the first Ladies Day game, during which all women are allowed into the stadium free.
  • 1 Aug. The Southern Exposition opens in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • 22 Oct. The first New York Horse Show is held at Gilmores Gardens and becomes an annual event.


  • LaMarcus Thompson builds his Switchback Railway Coaster at Coney Island, New York. This early roller coaster is so popular that Thompsons receipts exceed $600 a day.
  • Charles H. Sherrill Jr., of Yale University and the New York Athletic Club, becomes the first sprinter to employ the crouch start.
  • The National League follows the lead of the American Association of Base Ball Clubs and adopts the percentage system to determine pennant winners.
  • Greyhound racing is introduced in Philadelphia.
  • Moses Fleetwood Walker and Welday Walker are the first African Americans to play major league baseball. They play one season for Toledo in the American Association of Base Ball Clubs.
  • 27 Nov. The University of Pennsylvania defeats Wesleyan College 1610 in the first intercollegiate polo match.


  • Annie Oakley, famous for her marksmanship, joins Buffalo Bills Wild West Show.
  • 24 Jan. The Worlds Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition opens in New Orleans. It is the largest worlds fair yet held in the United States.
  • 22 May Tecumseh, ridden by Jimmy McLaughlin, wins the thirteenth annual Preakness Stakes in Maryland.
  • 14-16 Sept. Puritan of the United States defeats Genesta of England in the Americas Cup.
  • 20 Dec. William B. Curtis accomplishes a weight-lifting feat of incredible proportions by reportedly lifting 3,239 pounds with harness.


  • The first international polo match is held between England and the United States at Newport, Rhode Island; England wins, 104 and 142.
  • 1 Jan. The Valley Hunt Club stages the first Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California.
  • 28 Oct. The Statue of Liberty is dedicated in New York Harbor amid great rejoicings; President Grover Cleveland presides over the celebrations.


  • Ellen F. Hansell wins the first USLTA womens singles title.
  • The National Association of Amateur Athletes of America becomes the Amateur Athletic Union.
  • 2 May The American Trotting Association organizes in Detroit, Michigan.
  • 26 May Racetrack betting becomes legal in New York State.
  • 17-30 Sept. The American yacht Volunteer successfully defends the Americas Cup against the British challenger Thistle.


  • The Chautauqua College of Liberal Arts, New York, is established for gifted students of the Chautauqua movement.
  • The St. Andrews Club, a prestigious golf club, is established in Yonkers, New York; other clubs soon open in Boston and Philadelphia.
  • 21 Jan. The Amateur Athletic Union of the United States (AAU) forms, winning control over amateur athletics from unscrupulous promoters. The first AAU track and field championships are also held.
  • 9 June Sir Dixon, ridden by Jimmy McLaughlin, wins the twenty-second Belmont Stakes. McLaughlin is the only jockey in the history of the Belmont to win the race three times in a row on two separate occasions (1882-1884, 1886-1888).


  • A safety bicycle is manufactured for the first time on a large scale.
  • Walter Camp chooses the first All-American football team in Colliers Weekly. He selects eleven college football players as the best in the nation at their positions.
  • 19 Jan. Georgia makes Robert E. Lees birthday a state holiday; Virginia follows the next year.
  • 8 July Bare-knuckle boxing holds its last and most memorable bout when John L. Sullivan knocks out Jake Kilrain in the seventy-fifth round for the U.S. heavyweight championship in Richburg, Mississippi.


  • The Players (Brotherhood) League, with eight teams in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Brooklyn, forms in order to protest the low salaries paid by the National League and American Association of Base Ball Clubs.
  • The Daughters of the American Revolution is founded.
  • John J. Owen, of the Detroit Athletic Club, becomes the first sprinter to run 100 yards in less than 10 seconds (9.8 seconds).
  • George Train sets the around-the-world record in a balloon (67 days, 13:03:03).
  • Sporting Times, the first publication devoted entirely to baseball, debuts.
  • Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks in California are established.
  • The University of Pennsylvania defeats Cornell in the first intercollegiate crosscountry meet.
  • 29 Nov. Navy defeats Army 240 in the first Army-Navy football game, played at West Point, New York.


  • The architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White completes renovations on Madison Square Garden. The new structure is more elegant and features a tower modeled after the Giralda in Seville, Spain.
  • James Naismith, a physical-education instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts, invents the game of basketball, the only popular American game that does not have English origins.
  • The American Association of Base Ball Clubs disbands.
  • 13 May Kingman, ridden by Isaac Murphy, wins the seventeenth annual Kentucky Derby; it is Murphys second consecutive win.
  • 18 Oct. The first international six-day bicycle race in the United States is held at Madison Square Garden. The winner is Hugger Bill Martin. Most of the other competitors end up in the hospital, suffering from exhaustion.


  • The National League increases from eight to eleven teams after the dissolution of the American Association of Base Ball Clubs: East consists of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C.; West includes Chicago, Saint Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Louisville.
  • 12 Feb. The Illinois legislature declares Abraham Lincolns birthday a state holiday; New Jersey, New York, Washington, and Minnesota follow suit four years later.
  • 18 Mar. Jockeys are prohibited from using anything but a regulation whip and spurs on a horse after a jockey uses an electric spur during a race at Guttenberg, New Jersey.
  • 3 June Jefferson Daviss birthday is observed for the first time as an official holiday in Florida.
  • 7 Sept. James J. Gentleman Jim Corbett knocks out John L. Sullivan in the twenty-first round at New Orleans in the first heavyweight tide bout fought with gloves.


  • Ice hockey is introduced in the United States from Canada. Games are played at Yale and at Johns Hopkins Universities.
  • The first intercollegiate relay race is held at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
  • The Chicago Fly Casting Club holds the first national fly-casting tournament.
  • 1 May President Cleveland opens the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America.
  • 14 June Flag Day is observed in Philadelphia by mayoral order.


  • The United States Golf Association (USGA) is established.
  • Harvard and Penn withdraw from the American Intercollegiate Football Association. The University Athletic Club of New York forms a new rules committee with Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale.
  • The Jockey Club is incorporated to encourage the care and training of thoroughbred horses.
  • Hugh Duffy of the Boston Nationals has the highest batting average for a season ever compiled by a major league baseball player (.438).
  • 27 Jan. The California Midwinter International Exposition in San Francisco opens, the first of its kind on the West Coast.
  • 5 May Harvard defeats Columbia in the first intercollegiate fencing match.
  • 16 June The squeeze play is first employed by players on the Yale baseball team in a game against Princeton.
  • 28 June Congress declares the first Monday in September to be national Labor Day.


  • Sea Lion Park, the first enclosed amusement park, opens at Coney Island.
  • C. S. Brown wins the first USGA womens amateur title in Newport, Rhode Island.
  • Field and Stream debuts as a magazine devoted entirely to outdoor sports and recreation, such as fishing, hunting, and camping.
  • Brown defeats Harvard in the first intercollegiate ice hockey game.
  • The American Intercollegiate Football Association disbands.
  • 9 Feb. The Minnesota State School of Agriculture and Mining defeats Hamline College 93 in the first intercollegiate basketball game.
  • 31 Aug. In a game against the Jeannette, Pennsylvania, football team, the Latrobe team pays substitute quarterback John Brallier ten dollars, making him the first professional football player.
  • 9 Sept. The American Bowling Congress (ABC) forms in Beethoven Hall, New York City, to revive waning interest in a once popular sport.
  • 18 Sept. The Cotton States and International Exposition opens in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • 21 Sept. The New York Athletic Club defeats the London Athletic Club in the first international track and field meet held in New York City.
  • 4 Oct. The USGA holds the first U.S. Open golf tournament in Newport, Rhode Island. It is won by Horace Rawlins, an English immigrant working at the Newport Golf Club.
  • 28 Nov. Brothers Charles E. and J. Frank Duryea win the first gasoline-powered automobile race in the United States, the Chicago to Evanston Thanksgiving Day Race.


  • The first national ice hockey league, the Amateur Hockey League, organizes in New York City.
  • 615 Apr. The first modern Olympic Games are held in Athens, Greece. American James B. Connolly wins a gold medal for the triple jump.
  • 7 Nov. Yale, by a margin of thirty-five strokes, defeats Columbia in the first intercollegiate golf tournament.


  • Steeplechase Park, an amusement park built and owned by George C. Tilyou, opens at Coney Island.
  • The first Frontier Day is celebrated by citizens of Cheyenne, Wyoming, at the towns fairgrounds.
  • 17 Mar. Bob Ruby Robert Fitzsimmons wins the world heavyweight boxing title by defeating James J. Corbett in a fourteen-round fight in Carson City, Nevada. This is the first boxing match photographed by a motion-picture camera.
  • 19 Apr. John J. McDermott of New York City wins the first Boston Marathon, with a time of 2:55:10.
  • 1 May The Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition begins in Nashville.


  • The National Basketball League, the first professional league of basketball players begins with teams in Philadelphia, New York, Brooklyn, and southern New Jersey.
  • 7 May Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale compete in the first intercollegiate trapshoot.
  • 1 June The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition starts in Omaha, Nebraska.


  • University of Chicago social scientist Thorstein Bunde Veblen publishes The Theory of the Leisure Class, which claims social decorum and refined tastes can only be acquired with leisure.
  • Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State joins the national park system
  • 7 Mar. Pennsylvania defeats Columbia 20 in the first intercollegiate water polo game.
  • 8 Mar. Pennsylvania, Columbia, and Yale compete in the first intercollegiate swimming meet, which consists of a four-man 200-yard relay race won by Penn in 2:23.
  • 24 Mar. Yale wins the first intercollegiate gymnastics tournament.
  • 1620 Oct. Columbia of the United States defeats Shamrock I of England in the Americas cup

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1878-1899: Sports and Recreation: Chronology

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1878-1899: Sports and Recreation: Chronology