Athletics and the American Way: Creating “Proper” Men and Women in the Industrial Era Historyis Central—May 19,2007
Today’s Tentative Agenda • Give a quick overview of the period and some ways to conceptualize it. • Focus discussion on smaller number of issues regarding sports, and bring readings into the conversation. • Set the stage for teaching discussions by highlighting primary sources/illustrative quotes. • Just FYI—you’ll get copies of this presentation, so don’t worry about getting all of the quotes, etc.
Our Big Questions: • How are today’s sports “modern,” and how did they get that way? • What are the ideologies behind the creation of leisure spaces and organized sports, particularly school sports? • What were the different lessons sports were intended to teach to different groups?
How Do You Teach this Era? • Does the State give you any direction?
Two Thoughts: 1) Can overwhelm students with narrative of “Massive Changes” 2) This is the creation of the world they know—the “massive changes” don’t seem radical
Our Challenge is to Personalize Three ways to do this (at least) 1) Primary sources related to traditional ways of telling the story --images of tenement houses --Hull House Maps --letters 2) Get better grasp of traditional narratives --More anecdotes in your arsenal --Local history: Getting beyond textbook --Use fiction to help tell story (Upton Sinclair’s The Flivver King)
3) Relate the “Big Stories” to Students’ Existing Interests • Dating • Sports/Leisure • The World Around Them
Your Reactions to, and ThoughtsAbout, the Readings?(What do you want to be sure we discuss?)
“Era of Organized Sport, 1890-1950” • By looking at sporting development can teach about all of the topics we’ve identified: • Wiebe’s “Search for Order” • The “New Woman” • Changing Racial Patterns • Bureaucracies and Organizations • Regionalism • Chandler’s “Visible Hand” • Urbanization, Industrialization, Immigration • Commercialization and Distribution
Characteristics of Modern Sport (and Society) Examples? • Secularism • Equality • Specialization • Rationalism • Bureaucratic Organization • Quantification • Record Keeping
Modern Sports as Urban Games --From Stephen Hardy’s How Boston Played “Simplified, [the argument] suggests that as cities grew in size, population, and density, their inhabitants felt a longing for the outdoor life and recreational pastimes that were being swallowed up by the stultifying regime of the machine age.”
Hardy Continues . . . “Just as things appeared bleakest, however, urban economic, technological, and demographic conditions formed the foundation for an arena of new leisure forms, adapted to the pace and lifestyle of American cities.”
Parks, Amusement Parks, and Playgrounds --How are they different? --What are their purposes? --Why are they located in specific places?
Ideals of Parks in late 1800s • Parks were to be the “lungs of the city.” • 1876 Boston proponent claimed that parks were “reservoirs of oxygen and fresh air. They produce atmospheric currents which sweep through and purify the streets.” • AND “oxygen promoted virtue, ‘as surely as sunlight paints the flowers and ripens the fruits of our gardens.’” Early Central Park Map
What did designers want people to do in parks? • Be inspired and refreshed by nature. --Especially (hopefully) the working class • The model was “receptive recreation.” • According to Olmstead, should be no “harangues or loud outcries,” or parades, marching, music, or games
If Parks represented an elite ideal, Then Playgrounds represented urban political pressure • Workers didn’t want to spend day off traveling across the city to be inspired by nature • Ethnic groups, neighborhood associations, city councilmen and others demanded local playgrounds
Kasson writes that the White City was intended to be the “Embodiment of public order, cultural unity, and civic virtue, and animating vision of American cultural achievement for an age of disorder, strife, and vulgarity.” (18) The Midway was something completely different . . . It was the inspiration for Coney Island.
Stella, Battle of Lights, Coney IslandOriginal Size: 6 ft 4 in x 7 ft 1/4 in
Reginald Marsh, George C. Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park (1936)Marsh—“made the eroticism of Coney Island explicit in a way that the photographer could not. . . Delight[ing] most in the fleshy character of the scene” (94)
Legacy of Coney Island • Kasson suggests “the egalitarian spirit it fostered paradoxically served to reconcile visitors to the inequalities of society at large” (109) • “Beneath the air of liberation, its pressures were profoundly conformist.” (105) • “A harbinger of the new mass culture, Coney Island lost its distinctiveness by the very triumph of its values.” (112) • Was Kasson right to use this as a case study? What might scholars in the future examine to learn about us?
Other topics to explore re: urban athletics (if we have the time later) • Baseball as an urban game • Boxing as an immigrant/ethnic story
Using School Sports to Explore Important Issues Three reasons to focus on school sports: • Advocates left written records of their thoughts and purposes • Doing so highlights nicely other tensions in the era (esp. gender, race, class) • Easier to relate to students’ lives and experiences
Masculinity and School Sports The basic narrative: Based on Oxbridge model --so crew was first real intercollegiate sport --Harvard-Yale, 1852 (Harvard won)
By 1859, had a mini-conference --Yale devoted more resources, trying to show that was a peer to the more prestigious Harvard (this pattern repeated) --as many as 15,000 spectators at races
Baseball was next intercollegiate sport --1859—first game, connected to a regatta --led to controversies over amateurism --students earning money on the side as pros 1893—UVA team
Track and Field became an intercollegiate sport by 1870s --again, tried to improve schools’ and national reputation by competing against Oxford and Cambridge
Football • First game in 1869 • Yale was dominant early on, led by Walter Camp as player and then alumni/advisor • Camp is the father of modern football -- Suggested marking lines on field (gridiron) • First downs, scrimmage lines, • Allowed blocking • Allowed tackling below waist • By 1890s, Yale football was seeing annual profits of more than $50,000
Maturation/Modernization of the game • Faculty committees replaced student control (1880s—1910s) • Formalized rules (and committees to write them) • Athletic Conferences • Professional coaches (with high salaries and expectations)
Debates about the value of Football • Social Darwinists liked it, especially considering the student population at most schools: • Univ. of Wisconsin President, “[football develops] those characteristics that have made the Anglo-Saxon race pre-eminent.” • Side note—if you want to discuss the intersection of race and athletics—youmust talk about the Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries fight on July 4, 1910
Connecting Football and “The Strenuous Life” • Countered effects of a sedentary, bureaucratic life. • Addressed a generation’s fears that they could never match fathers who fought in the Civil War • Countered Victorian restrictions and “feminization” of culture
TR’s Essays: Chicago, 1899 “I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid triumph.”
“The timid man, the lazy man, the man who distrusts his country, the over-civilized man, who has lost the great fighting, masterful virtues, the ignorant man, and the man of dull mind . . . All these, of course, shrink from seeing the nation undertake its new duties; shrink from seeing us build a navy and an army adequate to our needs . . . These are the men who fear the strenuous life, who fear the only national life which is really worth living.”
TR and College Football • What does his essay on “professional sports” tell us about TR’s attitudes toward college athletics?
Critics of Football • Detracted from educational mission (Frederick Jackson Turner made this argument) • Too commercialized • Too brutal and violent • Was unfavorably compared to boxing, because the “right people” were being corrupted by college football