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Prints of American Football


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American football has ancient roots, for variations of "football" were played during the Han Dynasty in China (206 BC--25 AD), by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and in Japan during the sixth century. The earliest modern form of the game was played in Great Britain in the twelfth century. This game was very popular but fell into royal disfavor, being banned several times in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In 1349, the game was prohibited by a royal edict "because it cooperated with other favorite amusements to impede the progress of archery." This early game was close to the modern game of soccer, or as most of the world still calls it, (association) football. The core of this game involved two teams each trying to kick a ball across a goal line. The nature of the field, number of players, and other rules varied considerably. Until the early nineteenth century the various forms of football each prohibited carrying the ball, but "according to a possibly apocryphal story" in 1823 William Webb Ellis, a student at the Rugby School, disregarded this rule by picking up the ball and running across the goal line. By the mid-nineteenth century a separate branch of the game, which allowed the ball to be carried, had developed.

In America, a version of football with teams consisting of many players was played by Civil War troops. In 1869, the first collegiate game was played between Princeton and Rutgers, using rules closer to soccer than to modern American football. Harvard, with its own set of rules, abstained from competition with other colleges, but in 1874 played two games against McGill University of Montreal. One of these games was played using Harvard rules and the other using the Canadian rules based on the rugby version of the game. The Harvard players preferred the rugby-like rules, and so altered their own format to allow for carrying the ball. In 1876, representatives from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton formed the Intercollegiate Football Association, and their new code of rules combined features of both rugby and soccer. American football descends from this version of the game.

The following are all uncolored wood-engravings issued in New York City in Harper's Weekly,, except as noted. They are in very good condition, except as noted.


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