The First Ivy League Program?

The first Ivy League college football program is the 1956 program issued for Dartmouth vs. The University of Pennsylvania. The game was held at Franklin Field, Philadelphia on October 6, 1956.

Balderdash, our regular readers might exclaim. Perhaps the author is smoking from the Dartmouth Indian’s pipe?

Penn Dartmouth 1956

Perhaps we are being bit technical. After all, we have previously published a write-up on the recently discovered Columbia v. Yale 1872 program.

The Ivy League was formed in 1954 when the president’s of the eight colleges formally agreed to become known as “The Ivy League”. “The President’s Agreement of 1954” established the Ivy League and the program for this game, featured here, gives an interesting account of the history. Although the agreement was in 1954, the first official season the teams played as the Ivy League was 1956.

The program announces in an article written by the longtime sports editor of The Philadelphia Bulletin, Edwin J. Pollock, that “The Ivy League, which begins its first formal season on Franklin Field today, is a group of early American educational institutions which have united for a common purpose – preservation of the life and liberty of intercollegiate football.” The author goes on to detail the “decay of principles”, abuses and other problems that college football developed since its inception. By forming the ivy league, “they were and are leaders in a corrective movement of which the formal Ivy Football League is a manifestation.”

He continues, “The Ivy League is not a grouping of colleges with a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude or a desire to dictate, dominate or rule intercollegiate football. Their intent, as this observer sees it, is merely to lead the way back…The Ivies haven’t picked up their marbles to go off to play among themselves in quietude and solitude. The members are committed to play each other member every season, but they are permitted to schedule up to two non-league opponents each year.”

This historic program also includes a picture of the Ivy League trophy and an article about its creation. The Ivy League Football Trophy was donated to the league by the Pennsylvania Class of 1925. The article states that the trophy was formally put into play the previous night October 5, 1956. The trophy is a silver bowl around which are the coats of arms of the eight schools. Surmounting it is a bronze replica of sculpture created by Dr. R. Tain McKenzie called “The Onslaught”. The original sculpture is housed in Hutchinson Gymnasium at Penn and captures a thrilling instant of hard scrimmage. It depicts a Harvard-Penn game of the 1890s. 

While this program lays claim to be the inaugural for the new “Ivy League”, its claim is dubious. Brown beat Columbia on the opening day of the season 20-0 on October 29th 1956!

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