Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics

By Ronald A. Smith | Go to book overview

I

The English Background
of Early American
Collegiate Sport

THE SUPERINTENDENT OF the Boston, Concord, and Montreal Railroad, James Elkins, was enjoying the company of Yale College's James Whiton, a junior and member of the Yale Boat Club in 1852. They might well have been discussing whether the underground railroad would be suppressed by the Fugitive Slave Act passed two years before and whether the attempt to prevent blacks in southern states from achieving their freedom northward would be successful. Elkins, though, was likely more interested in the freedom to pursue his own dream—a profitable above-ground line which would increase his passenger traffic as the railway passed from Boston to Montreal through the vacation lands of New Hampshire. The impending north-south confrontation was likely far from the minds of the young man from Yale, who was to become the first recipient of a Ph.D. in America, and the striving magnate in America's dominating nineteenth-century enterprise. While superintendent Elkins thought of the smooth water of the Winnipesaukee River as it entered New Hampshire's largest lake by the same name, he suggested to Yale's Whiton: "If you will get up a regatta on the Lake between Yale and Harvard, I will pay all the bills." 1

The eight-day, all-expenses-paid trip was consummated with a Harvard victory over Yale in America's first intercollegiate contest.

-3-

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