Football got an early start in America, “Colonists kicked and threw inflated bladders or sawdust-filled leather balls around long before they decided to fire on the whites of the redcoats’ blue eyes.”
“(B)y the latter part of the 18th Century, football had found its way onto the college campuses. Infrequent matches joined fisticuffs (and) wrestling”.
As happened at England schools, each American school developed its own form of the sport. “Early games appear to have had much in common with the traditional ‘mob football’ played in England. The games remained largely unorganized until the 19th century, when intramural games of football began to be played on college campuses.” (Smith)
At Princeton, they were playing a version called ‘ballown’ by 1820. At Harvard, the entire freshman and sophomore classes constituted sides for ‘rushes’ in which a soccer ball was used.
Yale and others each had individual variations. Yale students by 1840 were staging soccer rushes on the New Haven Green. The American style of play resembled circa medieval. The young gentlemen attacked each other in most ungentlemanly ways. (PFRA Research)
“The New York Evening Post was moved to observe that one such game would ‘make the same impression on the public mind as a bull fight. Boys and young men knocked each other down, tore off each other’s clothing. Eyes were bunged, faces blacked and bloody, and shirts and coats torn to rags.’” (PFRA Research)
A notable football-related moment at Yale was when Hiram Bingham Jr, who demonstrated skill not only in academic pursuits but in sporting achievements as well, became the first student to kick a football over the old courthouse on the New Haven green (it became known as the ‘Bingham Kick’).
This wasn’t his only athletic achievement. On one college vacation he paddled a canoe down the Connecticut River from the Canadian border, three hundred miles to Long Island Sound.
“These pursuits satisfied not only his sense of adventure but, more importantly, his need for achievement and attention from others. It was also, however, a reflection of the age in general, when a young man was expected to compete and achieve success.” (Rennie)
His parents had worried from an early age, that ‘he does not often enough think of his Savior,’ and that he was growing up without being governed by ‘the principles and feelings of a renewed nature’ – which presumably meant he did not at all times have a proper sense of guilt.” (Bingham)
Hiram Bingham Jr was the son of Rev. Hiram Bingham, who with Rev. Asa Thurston led the first company of missionaries to thes Islands in 1820. With his parents and sisters he came to America in 1840 and prepared for college at New Haven.
The younger Bingham was born in Honolulu, August 16, 1831, in the old Mission home which still stands on King street; he was probably the first Hawaii-born Yale graduate.
He entered Yale University in 1850. By this time, he had reached his full height of six feet four inches. The liberal arts course at Yale was of four years’ duration.
In the first three years, the students took Greek, Latin, Mathematics and a smattering of Geography, History, Science, Astronomy, English Expression and Rhetoric.
The Senior year concentrated more on Metaphysics, Ethics, Natural Theology and Moral Philosophy. The course was structured ‘not to teach that which is peculiar to any one of the professions, but to lay the foundation which is common to them all’.
By the 1850s Yale was becoming increasingly conservative. Its identity with the religious life of the country was also waning. Bingham won first prize for his studies in Astronomy in 1853.
At this stage, there was no conflict between science and religion. Charles Darwin did not publish his Origin of the Species until 1859. Not until the following year did public debate erupt when on June 30, 1860 Thomas Henry Huxley, defender of Darwinism, confronted Bishop Samuel Wilberforce. (Rennie)
At his commencement in 1853, Bingham delivered an honors oration, ‘Civilization and Destiny of the Hawaiian Islands.’
Hiram studied theology at Andover Seminary and in October 1856 was ordained and married to Minerva Clarissa Brewster, a teacher in Northampton. He took a missionary post in the Gilbert Islands, in the western Pacific.
The couple worked there until they returned to Hawai‘i in 1875, where their son was born. Hiram III graduated from Yale in 1898 and later became Yale’s first professor of South American history, gaining worldwide fame for his exploration of Machu Picchu. (Yale Alumni Mag)