The Oneida Football Club

On this edition of the Soccer History USA podcast I discuss the Oneida Football Club of Boston. During the research for this episode I discovered a curious discrepancy. The usual date given for the formation of the Oneida Football Club is, as I state at the start of the podcast: 1862. It is this date that is inscribed on the monument to the Oneidas that was placed on Boston Common, the site of most of their games, in 1925.

However, according to James D’Wolf Lovett, one of the club’s original members, the organization formed one year later in 1863. Lovett’s book Old Boston Boys and the Games they Played was published in 1906, before the monument was erected. In addition, the first confirmed match involving the Oneidas comes from a report in the Boston Daily Advertiser published on November 9, 1863. Researcher Melvin Smith in his compilation of U.S. football games and clubs called Evolvements of Early American Football lists the Oneidas as having played at least three matches during the 1862/63 season. Smith defines a season as running from August 1 – July 31 of any given year. He gives only the month (November) for one of the matches and no dating information for the other two.

What do I make of this? It’s probably just a mistake on the part of Lovett, as he was writing about the events more than forty years after they took place. Nevertheless this small question also serves to illustrate the challenges involved in researching the history of early American football in all its forms. A general lack of source material, or sources that were produced many years after the fact can make it difficult to confirm even something as simple as the year a club was founded.

Originally posted July 2013.

Further Reading

Stephen Hardy, How Boston Played. Sport, Recreation, and Community 1865-1915 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1982).

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “Saints and their Bodies” The Atlantic Monthly vol. 1, no. 5 (March 1958): 582-595. Available at “Making of America” Cornell University Libraries.

Winthrop S. Scudder, An Historical Sketch of the Oneida Football Club of Boston 1862-1865. Available at Hathi Trust Digital Library.

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