American Collections blog

27 posts categorized "Sports"

23 June 2014

World War One: Inter-Allied Games

Inter-Allied-Games

Tentative Programme for the Inter-Allied Games Dedication Day. Public Domain Mark

Public Domain Mark
These works are free of known copyright restrictions. - See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/americas/2014/06/new-exhibition-enduring-war.html#sthash.qtQ45UqO.dpuf Public Domain Mark
These works are free of known copyright restrictions. - See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/americas/2014/06/new-exhibition-enduring-war.html#sthash.qtQ45UqO.dpuf

We opened our free Folio Gallery exhibition, Enduring War: grief, grit and humour (19 June-12 October) last week.  The exhibition is international in scope, although naturally enough, its focus is British. That said, we have included a number of Canadian items, as well as West Indian material: Phil has already blogged on Squidge. We had a number of US items lined up (the United States entered the war in 1917, as you know), but the demands of the space and exhibition storyline meant that they were returned to the stacks.  However, we can take advantage of this, and begin an ongoing series of items that didn't make it into the gallery.

The first of which is shown above, a programme for the Inter-Allied sports day that took place in France, 22 June6 July 1919.  It is a recent acquisition, and we also hold a volume  summarizing the organisation and the results from the games at RG.2014.b.13 (a digitised copy from Cornell is available via the Internet Archive).

The games were an inclusive event, and included tug-of-war to soccer, tennis, basketball, fencing, water polo, boxing and equestrian events, as well as track and field, many of which took place at Pershing Stadium at Vincennes, France.  Constructed by the US military in cooperation with the YMCA, the stadium was gifted by the Americasn people to France after the games. According to the editors of the companion volume, 'the games were played before crowds so immense that the number of spectators could not have been increased except by the use of aeroplanes or observation balloons.'

Indeed, the games were not limited to terra firma, but included an 'Aeroplane Parade' as a grand finale.  The planes flew in formation, west to east over the stadium, dropping parachutes with the flag of each nation participating in the fly past (France, Italy, Belgium and the US).  The five American planes included a captured Fokker, which was due to 'climb to a good altitude and engage in combat with two [US] spads].'

It didn't quite work out like that. The captured Fokker instead fell from the sky and crash landed at the nearby racetrack (with the unhurt captain displaying 'splendid airmanship in his enforced landing'). The crowd tore the plane to pieces for souvenirs.  A handwritten note on the tentative programme reads, 'I saw this plane drop. This is a piece of it. don't lose it or cut it.'

The note was ignored, and the piece is not present (fear not, it wasn't there when we acquired it either). 

To make up for this, if you can come to the Folio Gallery before 12 October, you can instead see a fragment of a Zeppelin, picked up in Essex, as well as progammes for other sporting events that took place during the war.

[MJS]

 

25 July 2013

The New York Cosmos

Leyton Orient

'The last football match I saw was Everton versus Wembley.'...

I don't often go to football matches, and this was my best effort to blend in on Wednesday, when I headed to watch Leyton Orient in east London for a friend's birthday. Once it was suggested that Wimbledon was a more likely match (and it was suggested that I saw Vinny Jones [not Vince]), I realised that I really was out of my depth and kept my mouth shut.

My companions, though, had noticed, and suggested that they explain the offside rule to me (although years of hanging around goal as a 'defender' at school chatting to the keeper had already impressed this regulation on me).  How, they asked, could they put it in terms of the American Revolution? Quick as a flash, another Orient supporter in the seats in front turned round:

'It's like Washington crossing the Delaware too early.'

It was very apt, because we were watching the O's inflict a 2-1 defeat on their visitors: the New York Cosmos.

Photo
Having nothing to do with Jerry Seinfeld's neighbour, the Cosmos are a revivified version of the team that snagged Pelé in 1971 for nearly 5 million dollars, and also signed Franz 'Der Kaiser' Beckenbauer (who led West Germany to World Cup victory in 1974), Giorgio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto during Warner Bros period of ownership. For a while, the Cosmos were 'the hottest ticket in town, with politicians and movie stars attending games. Cosmos players became mainstays of the hedonistic club scene at Studio 54' (from the blurb of Gavin Newsham, Once in a Lifetime: the extraordinary story of the New York Cosmos (2006), Shelfmark YK.2008.a.455; there is also a documentary film by the same name). It didn't last, and the glamour and turnstile takings faded after Pelé left the team in 1977. It disbanded in 1985.

But now they are back (and can boast a number of Brazilian, or Brazilian-born players on their roster, including the 28-times-capped-for-Spain Senna). A new 25,000-seat stadium is billed for Long Island.

Read more in Gary Hopkins, Star-Spangled Soccer: the selling, marketing and management of soccer in the USA (2010) Shelfmark YK.2012.a.8506, or visit our football pages.

[M.J.S.]

01 May 2013

Getting our skates on: Team Americas gets playoff fever

Stanley Cup holders 1911, Ottawa (HS8510 23753)
The 1911 Stanley Cup holders, Ottawa. Photographed by A. G. Pittaway [shelfmark HS85/10, copy. num. 23753]

Public Domain Mark
These works are free of known copyright restrictions.

After a dramatic season on and off the ice the NHL playoffs start tonight. Since long before I was a curator I've taken an interest in most North American team sports and so I'm the one in the office who's been losing sleep to the NBA playoffs and, from tonight, the NHL.

The impending playoffs also reminded me that the Picturing Canada project has digitised a number of hockey photographs I should share on the blog. Included in this are photographs of the 1909 and 1911 winning teams from Ottawa, taken by local photographer Alfred George Pittaway who it would seem specialised in sports-related photography.

Stanley Cup holders 1909, Ottawa (HS8510 20618)
The 1909 Stanley Cup holders, Ottawa. Photographed by A. G. Pittaway [shelfmark HS85/10, copy. num. 20618]

Sports feature quite heavily in the collection, with everything from lacrosse and hockey to rugby and football photographed (alas, no cricket). Hockey though is unusual as a number of the photographs in the collection have more joviality in them than the usual photos of games in process or deeply serious team photos. It's also the only sport in the collection represented by women, as seen below (although I bet that assertion comes back to bite me). As with many sports the Library holds a surprising amount of material relating to hockey and its various influencing games, although that's a post for another time.

Canadian Hockey Girl, Benched (HS8510 15498)
'Canadian Hockey Girl, Benched'. Photographed by W. E. Maw [shelfmark HS85/10, copy. num. 15498]

While all of this is very interesting I'd be surprised if any hockey fans reading this will be too concerned with researching the history of the sport in coming weeks. That said, there are historically significant notes dotted through this year, not least with two Original Six members facing off when Boston and Toronto meet. So, good luck to all your teams, enjoy the end of season spectacle and I hope you've enjoyed these glimpses into hockey's past.

[PJH]

18 January 2013

George Catlin's 'Indian Ball'

Catlin 003
'Ball Players', by G. Catlin [plate 21, shelfmark: 74/651.b.8]

Public Domain Mark
This work is free of known copyright restrictions.

Lacrosse was something of an unknown to me until my student days, but given my fondness for most things with an origin in the Americas I've maintained a passive interest in it since. I'm often struck by the fact that many UK-based Lacrosse players are unaware of its origins as a sport played, under various names, by many Native American communities prior to contact with Europeans.

However, I must confess I was somewhat vague on the exact style and form the sport took in Native American communities until I was enlightened earlier this week by George Catlin's, 'North American Indian Portfolio' [1844, BL Shelfmark: 74/651.b.8]. Catlin's work contains a wonderful plate of a game of 'Indian Ball' (to use the author's terminology) in full swing and with hundreds of participants competing on the field of play.

It comes as little surprise that Lacrosse has been much adapted to fit the norms and values of the community it was appropriated to and much of Catlin's account of the games he witnessed illustrates the scale of change. As well as the volume of players the game was also much greater in length (often lasting up to a day) and higher in score (most games ran up to at least 100 goals).

Catlin 002
'Ball Play' by G. Catlin [plate 23, shelfmark 74/651.b.8]

Public Domain Mark
This work is free of known copyright restrictions.

Catlin also notes that the games were an important way for communities to compete with one another and, as a result, individuals were known to find as much fame for their exploits on the sporting field as others found at war (the illustration at the top of the post is a testament to this). Another unique by-product of this import was that wives were also allowed onto the field of play in order to 'encourage' their husbands to defend the honor and possessions of their community more effectively.

I won't claim to know that the Library's collections are a fantastic resource on the history of Lacrosse but Catlin's work provides extensive notes on its Native American heritage. There are also supplementary materials, such as writings by Jean de Brébeuf who is attributed with using the term 'la crosse' when describing the Native American game. An 1877 reprint of 'Hurons et Iroquois' is available at shelfmark 4864.bbb.6 while the work of the Jesuits in Canada is recorded in various items, including a French digest at shelfmark G.4260.

[PJH]

14 August 2012

Team Americas looks forward to a great Fall events programme

We've been feeling decidedly down in the mouth after the Olympics - we’ve all enjoyed the last couple of weeks so much that it was inevitable that things would suddenly feel a bit flat. But we’ve now perked up considerably since we find ourselves not only very busy but with a lot to look forward to over the next couple of months. Matt and Carole are wearing their Beat hats as they prepare for the arrival of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road manuscript scroll in early October - how exciting is that! And then there is the accompanying programme of events, featuring a preview screening of Walter Salles’ new film of On the Road, and an evening with Amiri Baraka to mention just two. The full programme can be found on the BL’s website under events (check under each month), and details of the exhibition will be up very soon.

In addition to supporting some of the On the Road events/exhibition, our wonderful Eccles Centre for American Studies is sponsoring a fantastic range of autumn talks, including our Summer Scholars series (featuring e.g. Naomi Wood and Sheila Rowbotham, our 2 Eccles Writers in Residence), as well as events with Liza Klaussman (who, incidentally, happens to be Herman Melville’s great-great-great granddaughter!), Andrea Wulf, and Lord Putnam to pick out just a few. And how could we forget that there happens to be a big election coming up in the U.S. in November, and we of course have that covered too. For the full range of Eccles events see http://www.bl.uk/eccles/events.html/.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we’ll be showcasing some of our artists’ books on 4 September at Inspired by Artists' Books, we have David H.Treece speaking about The Meanings of Music in Brazilian Culture for Brazil World Music Day on September 7, and we'll be celebrating Jamaican Independence on October 5th . Finally, the Olympics are still in our thoughts as we look forward not only to Rio, but to our conference Social Change and the Sporting Mega-event on November 5, organised in collaboration with our Brazilian colleagues.

Whew! Hopefully, you’ll find at least some of these events of interest and we hope to see you at the Library in the near future.

08 August 2012

Go USA!

USA

Where are You? Some USA supporters at Stratford.  Photo: M. Shaw

Team Americas has been spending some time watching the Olympics; this included a trip to see the basketball, which was as near-as-dammit the full-on U.S. experience, with a Jumbotron kiss cam, cheerleaders (from the Ukraine) and lots of loud music.  The only thing missing was the hotdogs. Oh, and a U.

[M.J.S.]

29 July 2012

The Long and Winding Road to the Olympics

 IMG_2987

Dove Bikes outside the Olympic Stadium. Photo: M. Shaw

I dropped a few hints on Thursday, but now the dove bikes have flown the coop, I think that I can post the image above from the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Quite some time ago, in a windswept industrial park in Dagenham, Danny Boyle said he didn't want to repeat the unfortunate dove roasting at the Seoul Olympics, so was going to use volunteers instead. I was one.  And Friday, just after Team GB were led into the stadium to the sound of David Bowie and Arctic Monkeys blasted through their first, great hit, I turned on my lights, began to flap and set off around the 'M25' of the Olympic Stadium along with my fellow doves (a more pleasant flock of people would be hard to imagine).

It turned out that there were a series of American links, hence this post. The inspiration for the dove bikes came from the American naturalist, Louis J. Helle, who wrote that, 'Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own'.

The New York costume designer, Suttirat Larlarb, came up with plans for wings that moved as we bobbed up and down, threaded lights along their span, and chose materials that glowed under the stadium UV lights. As she said to the press, 'the bit I’m most proud of is the dove bikes. We had to make incredibly delicate wings that could move very fluidly out of flexible plastic sheet lined with layers of white mesh fabric with fibre-optics laced into it' . Arctic Monkeys also played The Beatles' Come Together, which John Lennon had originally composed during Timothy Leary's abortive gubernatorial run against Ronald Reagan in 1969. Leary had to drop out of the race after his arrest for possession of marijuana. The slogan had been 'Come together, join the party'.

But, perhaps best of all, the whole sequence was set up by Bob Haro, the BMX innovator who took part in the stunt bike scenes in E.T.: the Extraterrestrial. The flying dove bike may have had some Hollywood antecendents. You can catch his new design for an Olympic BMX bike at the Design Museum exhibition, 'Designed to Win', until 18 November. And, in the Library's Entrance Hall and Piazza, there's our Olympex: Collecting the Olympics exhibition.

[M.J.S.]

 

 

 

 

 

27 July 2012

The Siege of Atlanta

Maps_72580_(2302)_f001r

Public Domain Mark 
This work (Map illustrating the Siege of Atlanta, by the U.S. Forces under command of Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman) [Maps 72580.(4)], identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

A slightly tenuous link for this week's Civil War map, which is a plan of the Siege of Atlanta in 1864.  It's a few days after the 148th anniversary of the start of the campaign, the eventual success of which proved to be a great morale boost for the north, and helped to seal Lincoln's 1864 electoral success.  We wouldn't like to suggest that London is under seige (indeed, your correspondent is doing his best to welcome the world to the UK during the opening ceremony this evening), but simply note that Atlanta, like London, is an Olympic city.

Maps_72580_(2302)_f001r_Atlanta-crop
Maps 72580.(4) (detail).  Gone with the Wind comments welcome...

And on the Olympic theme, don't miss the British Library's official (and free) Olympex: Collecting the Olympic Games exhibition or the brilliant Writing Britain exhibition, which is part of the simultaneous Cultural Olympiad, if you are in town during the next few weeks.  And if you are in front of a TV this evening, keep an eye out for a curator rather out of his comfort zone after the Parade of the Athletes.

[M.J.S.]

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