Antebellum and Civil War America, 1784-1865

 
 

Sports

By Omar Alicea, John Bramble, and Gurney Bullard Jr.  
Students, University of North Carolina at Pembroke  

Sports in the United States of America during the antebellum era consisted of many competitive events. From 1784 to 1865 Americans had the desire to compete and bet. Horse racing was one of the most popular events of this time and was growing at a fast rate. Ralph Hickok states in The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History: "The number of races by 1830 increased from 56 meets on 46 tracks to 153 meets on 106 tracks by 1839." In 1845 horse racing was so popular that an estimate of 70,000 to 100,000 spectators were at the North/South race held in Long Island N.Y. Total bets for a race in this time ranged from a thousand dollars to over a million. Another event is ten pin, better known as bowling. Herbert Manchester reported that the sport originated near taverns in alleys up north by Germans. Not many wages were placed on this event since it was played mostly for the challenge between two competitors. Yachting was also a growing sport and involved mostly the upper-class members of society. The New York Yacht Club was founded in 1844, and later yacht clubs sprang up all over the eastern seaboard.  Many of the yachting competitions were played not only for the large amounts of wagers, but for the national recognition. Another competitive event was billiards, which is known as pool today. The first recorded U.S. match was when Michael Phelan and Ralph Benjamin competed for 1,000 dollars. Phelan in 1850 published his book Billiards without Masters emphasizing the science of the game and in 1865 established the American Billiards Association. Americans, mostly in the south, were also interested in the fighting of chickens. All classes of society attended cockfights, where many bets were placed. According to Hickok, New York led the way in outlawing cockfighting in 1856, but its practice was still prevalent in society (111). Finally, boxing was a growing sport. The first recorded professional match took place in 1816, and boxing was offered as a self-defense course throughout the 1820s. Boxing became popular in 1849 when Tom Hyer and Yankee Sullivan fought. Hyers's victory was the first sports story ever wired over the telegraph to a newspaper. Wages were placed, but since it wasn't that popular they weren't very much. These are but a few of the sports played in the antebellum period of the United States. Others were baseball, skating, hunting, and cricket.  

Bibliography

Hickok, Ralph.  The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History. New York: Facts on File, 1992. PN GV567 .H518 1992 
This dated book covers the history of North American sports and sport figures.  A person researching antebellum America will find information on numerous sports, such as boxing, yachting, cockfighting, billiards, ten pin, and athletes of this period.  Ralph Hickok also wrote Who Was Who in American Sports.
Manchester, Herbert. Four Centuries of Sport in America: 1490-1890. 
New York: Blom, 1968. GV 583 .M83 
Although dated, Four Centuries of Sport in America covers the history of sport in America in great detail. It describes how, when, where, and who were participating in the sports. In one example, Manchester goes into how the Morgan breed of horse came about. In another part of the book, Manchester explains the coverage of sporting events in weekly and monthly papers. Herbert Manchester also wrote three other books, including two on sports and one called William Armstrong Fairburn: A Factor in Human Progress.
Muste, John M.  A Brief History of American Sports. New York: Hill & Wang, 1993. 
This was an informative work of sports history. Starting with the first English settlers in the seventeenth century, it thoroughly  goes through the history and appreciation of sports.  It describes all of the new and old sports, plus the strengths and skills needed in them. John Muste has also written Say That We Saw Spain Die; Literary Consequences of the Spanish Civil War.

Types

People

  • Ralph Benjamin
  • George Crowinshield
  • Tom Hyer
  • Michael Phelan
  • Yankee Sullivan
Events 

1801: First real yacht  
1816: First boxing match  
1845: North/South race  
1849: First sports story wired over the telegraph to a newspaper. 
1858: First billiards match  
1865: American Billiards Association founded 

 
Places 

  • Union Race Track, Long Island, New York
  • New York, New York
  • Salem, Massachusetts
 

 


 

Baseball

By Omar Alicea
Student, University of North Carolina at Pembroke 
 
In the antebellum era many sports rose in popularity, such as baseball.  This elite game of bat and ball had originally developed from other well-known sports.  Its origins began with the eighteenth century English cricket, and then from many others.  One of the nineteenth-century ball games that led to baseball was old cat.  According to Herbert Manchester in Four Centuries of Sports in America: "In one old cat there would be only one base besides home base, and perhaps only one or two batters who tried to get to and from the base on each hit" (123).  Other nineteenth-century games consisted of town ball, and rounders. By 1839 the first set of rules resembling those of today's baseball were drawn up by Abner Doubleday.  These new rules said that there should be a diamond to enclose the bases and that eleven men should play on a side.  By 1842 many players would gather for a game, and sometimes some would even go scouting to find other players.  In 1845 a volunteer firefighter in New York City by the name of Alexander J. Cartwright established a new set of rules and organized the first baseball club, the Knickerbockers.  Duncan F. Curry became president of this organization.  Cartwright's new rules are the basis of today’s baseball games.  Some of the new standards required that four bases be set 90 feet apart, placed the batter in a box beside the home plate, made the bases flat, and ruled out plugging, which meant you could hit the runner with the ball to put him out.  In 1846 the first recorded baseball game between the Knickerbockers and the New York team was played. The Knickerbockers lost twenty three to one.   By 1854 other clubs, such as the Eagle and the Empire of New York and the Excelsior of Brooklyn, started to organize.  By 1855 the Union of Morrisania, the Atlantic of Brooklyn, and the Eckford of Brooklyn were founded.   
 

Bibliography 

Voigt, David Quentin. American Baseball. University Park: Pennsylvania State Press, 1983. PN GV863.A1 V65 1983 
This informative source consisted of a short history of baseball. It describes the other related sports from which America's game originated. It covered only the major points and people since it was a brief history.  David Quentin has also written America Through Baseball.
Hickok, Ralph.  The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History. New York: Facts on File, 1992. PN GV567 .H518 1992 
This secondary source covers the history of North American sports and sport figures.  A person researching antebellum America will find information on numerous sports, such as boxing, yachting, cockfighting, billiards, and ten pin, as well as athletes of this period.  Ralph Hickok also wrote Who Was Who in American Sports.
Manchester, Herbert. Four Centuries of Sport in America: 1490-1890. 
New York: Blom, 1968. GV 583 .M83 
Although dated, Four Centuries of Sport in America covers the history of sports in America in great detail. Herbert Manchester also wrote three other books, including two on sports and one called William Armstrong Fairburn: A Factor in Human Progress.
Muste, John M.  A Brief History of American Sports. New York: Hill & Wang, 1993. 
This was an informative work of sports history. Starting with the first English settlers in the seventeenth century, it thoroughly goes through the history and appreciation of sports.  It described all of the new and old sports plus the strengths and skills needed in them. John Muste has also written Say That We Saw Spain Die; Literary Consequences of the Spanish Civil War.
People 
  • Alexander J. Cartwright 
  • Abner Doubleday 
  • Duncan F. Curry 
Chronology 

1839: first set of rules   
1845: first organized baseball club 
1846: first recorded game 
1854: clubs founded 
(Empire of New York)    
(Eagle of New York )   
(Excelsior of Brooklyn)   
1855: clubs founded   
(Union of Morrisania)   
(Atlantic of Brooklyn)   
(Eckford of Brooklyn)   
   
Place 

  • Brooklyn, N.Y 
 

 



 

Billiards

By John Bramble
Student,University of North Carolina at Pembroke 

American billiards became popular during the antebellum period of American history.  In 1808 there were only eight public billiards rooms in New York City, but by 1824 there were close to two dozen billiards rooms.  Ralph Hickok stated in The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History that billiards had a "split personality": "It was played by gentlemen in homes and private clubs, while public billiards rooms were always associated with gambling and various forms of low life" (63).  Michael Phelan helped the rise in popularity of billiards.  In 1850, Phelan published Billiards without Masters, the first book on the science of the game.  Phelan received free publicity for challenging the English billiards champion, John Roberts, to $500 a match. Roberts never responded to Phelan's challenge. Phelan manufactured billiards tables and was the first person to add the diamond markers to the side to assist in aiming.  Phelan established the first monthly publication on billiards, Billiard Cue, which was published in 1856.  The inaugural  American championship was won by Phelan when he defeated Ralph Benjamin in 1858.  Phelan organized the American Billiards Association in 1865. Brunswick pool tables, the leader in the manufacture of pool tables today, was founded  in 1845.  John Brunswick built his first pool table in a Cincinnati wood shop.  Within ten years he had a respectable reputation within the pool industry.  In 1865, John Wesley Hyatt received a patent for a composition billiard ball.  He received $10,000 from a billiard ball company because up to this time ball manufacturers had to use ivory.  The first intercollegiate billiards match took place in 1860 between Harvard and Yale.  The game of billiards is also known as pool.  The term, "pool,"  has a history to it.  One of the popular sports during the antebellum period was horse racing.  This was also popular to people who did not have access to race tracks.  People who could not go to race tracks would congregate in establishments to place bets and learn who won the race by telegraph.  The establishments were soon known as pool rooms.  Since it took quite a while between races, pool rooms installed billiard tables for the people to play while they passed the time.  Thus the name "pool" was born.    The advancements in billiards during the antebellum period let the sport flourish into an American pastime.  
 

Bibliography

Hickok, Ralph.  The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History. New York: Facts on File, 1992. PN GV567 .H518 1992 
This dated book covers the history of North American sports and sport figures.  A person researching antebellum America will find information on numerous sports, such as boxing, yachting, cockfighting, billiards, and ten pin, as wellas athletes of this period.  Ralph Hickok also wrote Who Was Who in American Sports.
Manchester, Herbert. Four Centuries of Sport in America: 1490-1890. 
New York: Blom, 1968. GV 583 .M83 
Although dated, Four Centuries of Sport in America covers the history of sports in America in great detail. Herbert Manchester also wrote three other books, including two on sports and one called William Armstrong Fairburn: A Factor in Human Progress.
Muste, John M.  A Brief History of American Sports. New York: Hill & Wang, 1993. 
This was an informative work of sports history. Starting with the first English settlers in the seventeenth century, it thoroughly goes through the history and appreciation of sports.  It described all of the new and old sports plus the strengths and skills needed in them. John Muste has also written Say That We Saw Spain Die; Literary Consequences of the Spanish Civil War. 
 
Shamos, Mike.  The Origin of the Term "Pool." http://www.sound.net/~jimbarr/pplofkc/origin.html. 
This source gives an overview on how billiards received the name "pool."  This site is very reliable because it comes from The Billiard Archives, and the author Mike Shamos is the curator. 
The History of Brunswick Billiardshttp://www.brunswick-billiards.com/history.htm. 
This World Wide Web site tells the history of how Brunswick pool tables first started out in a small Cincinnati woodshop.  This site should be fairly reliable because it comes from the manufacturer, Brunswick. 
Hickok, Ralph. Billiards in America. http://www.hickoksports.com/history/billiard.shtml#america. 
This World Wide Web site is is new and updated.  You can find the history of almost any sport here.  Hickok has an article on billiards in America here.  Hickok also has published many books, including The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History.

People

  • Ralph Benjamin
  • John Brunswick
  • John W. Hyatt
  • Michael Phelan
  • John Roberts
Events 

1845: first Brunswick pool table built. 
1850: Billiards without Masters published 
1856: Billiard Cue published monthly 
1858: Phelan wins first unofficial American championship 
1860: first intercollegiate billiards match 
1865: American Billiards Association organized 
1865: patent received for composition billiard ball 

Places 

  •  New York City
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
 

 



 

Horse Racing

By Gurney Bullard Jr. 
Student, University of North Carolina at Pembroke 

Horse racing in the United States of America during the antebellum era went through revolutionary developments. Public racing had banned in most of the larger cities of the North to preserve public safety, but the development of  jockey clubs in the North and South kept the sport of horse racing alive. The sport of horse racing included two different types of racing.  Thoroughbred racing involved two horses in a race. Thoroughbreds raced four miles, usually around a round track. Ralph Hickok, author of The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History, points out that the best two out of three “heats” determined the winner (208).  Hickok also explains that one of the earliest intersectional races matched a horse from the North against one from the South (208). It was documented that as many as 60,000 spectators were at the race, which was won by the North.  Trotting, the other type of horse racing, allowed the jockey to ride in saddle or in a buggy and was more popular in the north than in the south. Its difference from thoroughbred racing was that it pitted horse against the clock and distance.  Herbert Manchester, author of Four Centuries of Sport in America, states: “The first known time a horse ever trotted in public for a stake was in 1818” (116). Also, during this time some of the greatest horses were imported or bred in the United States. For example, Justin Morgan was the father of all Morgan horses, which were a popular breed of racing horses.  Another example is  Messenger, who was imported from England.  Manchester  points out: “Of the fifty-two trotting stallions advertised in the Spirit of the Times in 1868, every one was descended from Messenger” (116). 
 

Bibligraphy

Hickok, Ralph.  The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History. New York: Facts on File, 1992. PN GV567 .H518 1992 
This dated book covers the history of North American sports and sport figures.  A person researching antebellum America will find information on numerous sports, such as boxing, yachting, cockfighting, billiards, ten pin, and athletes of this period.  Ralph Hickok also wrote Who Was Who in American Sports.
Manchester, Herbert. Four Centuries of Sport in America: 1490-1890. 
New York: Blom, 1968. GV 583 .M83 
Although dated, Four Centuries of Sport in America covers the history of sport in America in great detail. It describes how, when, where, and who were participating in the sports. In one example, Manchester goes into how the Morgan breed of horse came about. In another part of the book, Manchester explains the coverage of sporting events in weekly and monthly papers. Herbert Manchester also wrote three other books, including two on sports and one called William Armstrong Fairburn: A Factor in Human Progress.
Muste, John M.  A Brief History of American Sports. New York: Hill & Wang, 1993. 
This was an informative work of sports history. Starting with the first English settlers in the seventeenth century, it thoroughly  goes through the history and appreciation of sports.  It describes all of the new and old sports, plus the strengths and skills needed in them. John Muste has also written Say That We Saw Spain Die; Literary Consequences of the Spanish Civil War.
People 
  • Henry Astor
  • Colonel Bond
  • Col. John Crowell
  • William Gibbons
  • James J. Harris
  • Col. William R. Johnson
  • Maj. William Jones
  • William McDonald
  • James McMann
  • Nathaniel Reeves
  • John C. Stevens
  • Robert Tillotson
Horses 
  • American Eclipse
  • Boston
  • Boston Blue
  • Dutchman
  • Fashion
  • Flora Temple
  • Justin Morgan
  • Lecomte
  • Lexington
  • Messenger
  • Post Boy
  • Sir Henry
Events  

1788: Messenger  imported 
1793: Justin Morgan foaled 
1816:  mile record was 1:47 
1818: horse trotted in public for a stake for first time 
1822: American Eclipse defeats Sir Charles 
1823: first North/South race 
1825:  New York Jockey Club formed  
1825:  New York Trotting Club formed 
1836:  second North/South race 
1838:  Hunting Park Association for trotting founded 
1842: third North/South race 
1854: fourth North/South race  

Places 

  • New York
  • Queen County
  • Union Course, Long Island
  • county fairs
  • New Orleans
  • Philadelphia
  • Harlem Lane
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