Archive for the ‘Early Football Programs’ Category

Abner J. Epstein Football Programs

September 28, 2018

We have previously written about vintage football programs done by talented and well known illustrators, namely, John Held, Jr., Winslow Williams, Willard Mullin, Ellison Hoover and Gib Crockett. Not surprisingly, most produced their work during the Art Deco period.

The beautiful 1928 Cornell vs. Dartmouth Football Program

Another fabulous program is the Cornell vs. Dartmouth program from 1928, illustrated by Abner J. Epstein. Epstein lived from 1910-1982 and illustrated for, among others The New Yorker and Esquire.  Graduating from Dartmouth in 1931, Abner Dean (his pen name) studied at the National Academy of Design. Dean also authored several illustrated books: And on the Eighth Day; It’s a Long Way to Heaven; and What Am I doing Here?

This football program illustration was done when Dean was a freshman at the college, thus it is signed with his birth name rather than his future pen name. Notice the expressive nature of the eyes on all three people featured on the cover. Absolutely brilliant.

We have a nice selection of vintage football programs on our website:

Rodin’s “The Thinker” College Football Program Cover

May 1, 2014

This vintage 1948 Harvard v. Dartmouth football program has an interesting cover illustration. Dartmouth’s mascot at the time was the Indian. The theme for this Harvard home game program cover was the Dartmouth mascot holding the pose of Rodin’s “The Thinker”, and he is pondering play formations for the game.

Harvard Dartmouth 1948

Dartmouth v. Harvard is one of the oldest rivalries in college football, dating back to 1882. The cover was done by longtime Harvard illustrator A.B. Savrann, who illustrated covers in the 1930s and 1940s and signed his name on them as “Sav”.

We have a nice selection of vintage college football programs on our website:

Two Yalies at the Fence

June 1, 2011

One of Yale’s football traditions is to picture their football captain sitting on the Yale Fence. This lovely 1897 Yale v. Princeton program captures the tradition with an unusual twist.

Yale Princeton 1897-1

Yale had co-captains in 1897 and don’t they look fantastic snuggled up together on the fence!

Yale Princeton 1897-2

The football shaped program was fairly common during this era.

Yale Princeton 1897-3

For a nice selection of vintage football programs, visit our website:

The Dog Ate My Homework

June 1, 2010

Buyers of vintage football programs should always carefully take condition into account when assessing the value of a program. In today’s post we look at some programs in less than ideal condition.

Look closely at this Harvard v. Yale program which apparently had a rodent chew through more than half the program on the lower right, although “chunk torn out of the lower right edge that penetrates over halfway into the program” sounds better, don’t you think?

On first blush this rare Harvard v. Yale 1879 program doesn’t look so bad. Until you flip it and see the scorch marks!

“Dark marks are scorch marks from having been exposed to a house fire at one point.”

While programs in such poor condition generally don’t fetch a lot of money, the 1879 Harvard v. Yale program is such a rare bird that it sold for almost $1,500 even with its scorch marks. Like real estate the value of old football programs is based on condition, condition and condition at the end of the day, but true scarcity also matters.

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Rutgers v. Yale Football Program 1873

January 1, 2010

As collectors and dealers in old football programs we love the thrill of a new discovery. So it was recently when we stumbled upon a program for sale on eBay for a Rutgers v. Yale Football Program from a game play in 1873 at Hamilton Park in New Haven, CT.

Hamilton Park was the site of many early Yale games (and thus many early football games in the U.S.). Remember that the Harvard v. Yale 1881 program was played at Hamilton Park as was the Columbia v. Yale Program of 1872.  This latter program is the oldest program we have ever seen come up for sale, making this Rutgers v. Yale Program the second oldest we’ve seen.

As students of early football history know, Rutgers was involved in the first football game played, which occurred against Princeton in 1869, although no program is believe to have existed for this game.

The program is a simple four page affair and list the players on both teams inside and is 5 3/4 x 4 inches in size.

As far as definitively declaring this the second oldest, we remain wary as collecting is a constant process of discovery and “never say never”. This program does predate another known early program which was Eton v. Yale of 1873. This game occurred in October, beating the Eton game by two months as it was played in December.

The program was listed at a very high price and thus did not sell, so we have no way to determine its true value at this time.

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Early College Football Program – Princeton v. Stevens 1875

October 17, 2009

This very rare Princeton v. Stevens college program from 1875 sold recently at auction for $600. The program is four pages and this particular program has come apart. Never-the-less, an 1875 program in any condition is quite rare.

Princeton Stevens 1875

This game was played at Princeton. The Stevens Institute of Technology is a college based in Hoboken, New Jersey founded in 1870, specializing in the sciences.

Stevens Princeton 1875-2

Other early football programs:

Harvard v. Yale Program 1881

Columbia v. Yale Program 1872

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1897-1899 “Big Game” Stanford v. California Programs

July 2, 2009

Stanford v. California is one of the oldest rivalries in college football, first played in 1892. A program from their fifth meeting, held in 1897, sold at auction recently for an impressive $3,640.


The game was played in Recreation Park in San Francisco and Stanford won by a score of 28-0. The two teams met on Thanksgiving day between 1896-1899.

The 1898 program sold in 2006 for $1,600 and was also played at Recreation park in San Francisco

Stanford Cal 1898


The Thanksgiving game played in 1899 was also played in San Francisco at the field located at Sixteenth and Folsom. This program sold in 2006 for $1,600.

SC 1899

Each of the programs was originally issued with a tie-string (seen in the 1897 program) to hold it together through the two punched holes.

We have a nice selection of Stanford California vintage programs in stock at

Harvard v. Yale Football Program 1881

September 5, 2008

A copy of this rare Harvard v. Yale Football Program sold at auction this month for a bit less than $800. This is nowhere near the price that an 1876 similar style of program sold for early this year, for a little under $4,000.  Both games were played at Hamilton Park.

The program was in less than ideal condition, with writing on the front as seen and some foxing and yellowing on the back.


The program measures 4 1/16″ x 5.5″ tall when folded. It is on a single sheet of cardstock. The front reads, “Harvard vs. Yale/Foot Ball Match/Hamilton Park,/Saturday, Nov. 12, 1881” The interior of the card features the line up for Harvard on the left and Yale on the right. Rushers for Harvard include Manning, Cabot, Houston, Kendall, Appleton, Perrin and Thacher. Quarter Back is Mason. Half Backs are Henry and Keith. Back is Edmunds. For Yale, Rushers are Knapp, Tompkins, Lamb, Farwell, and Beck. QB is Badger with Richards and Camp as Half Backs. Back is Bacon. The back of the card has a blank for referee and judges

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The Oldest Known Football Program?

February 10, 2008

columbia yale 1872


Thanks to one of our readers, this program was brought to our attention recently. Auctioned off in May 2007 for almost $24,000. The description below is from the Heritage Galleries sale catalog. It is a program from 1872 featuring a game between Columbia and Yale. This is the first game Yale ever played and the first between two ivy league colleges. He put the question mark after our title, because in this business, you never know what will turn up to potentially be older.


The Oldest Known Football Program. Presented here for the most serious and dedicated collectors of early football memorabilia is a piece that even the top experts in the field didn’t know existed. Those familiar with the recently published book “Inside the Program: A History of College Football” by Ed Bearg and Thomas Rudebusch know that the authors claim that the 1873 program for a game between Yale and Eton, part of the collection of the College Football Hall of Fame, is the oldest known, and they’re certainly to be forgiven for this misconception. This remarkable specimen had for many decades remained hidden in the personal scrapbook of Nathan P. Tyler, who attended Yale from 1872 to 1876 and was fortunate enough to witness the school’s very first intercollegiate football match, the seventh college football game in American history.

Predating the Hall of Fame’s program by twelve and a half months, this astounding artifact is small in stature but monumental in importance and collecting appeal. In marvelous nineteenth century calligraphic style, the cover announces, “Foot Ball, Columbia vs. Yale, Hamilton Park, Nov. 16, 1872.” The creator of the program “Benham, Printer” takes credit at the bottom margin. The two interior pages list the members of the Columbia and Yale squads respectively, twenty men to a side. The back page lists the names of the two referees, four judges, and unused lines to record the scorers of the nine possible goals, as the first side to five would be declared the victor.

In fact, the hotly contested battle yielded only three scores, all of them to Yale, earning them a victory in their inaugural game much to the delight of the four hundred students and New Haven townspeople who were in attendance that day. Tim Cohane recounted the scene in his 1951 book, “The Yale Football Story.” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York 1951):

“Jim Platt got the game under way with a long kick toward the Columbia goal. After fifteen minutes of play, Tommy Sherman (who subbed for an injured Schaff) booted a goal. The second goal, which took an hour, was registered by Lew Irwin. Irwin also kicked the third after fifty minutes of play. Columbia lacked the precision the injured Schaff had drilled into Yale, and was shut out, three goals to nothing, when darkness closed in and stopped the activity. At dinner that night, the rival players compared bruises and toasted each other. The evening in later stages became hilarious to the point where shattered crockery and glassware decimated the modest profits from the gate receipts.”

Much like the plates and glasses that day, all programs and other ephemera deriving from that historic gridiron event have been lost to the ages, save one. Measuring just 4.5×5.5″ when opened, this tiny keepsake stands as the sole survivor, almost surely the oldest American football artifact in existence. A band of toning upon the front cover and very minor paper loss due to scrapbook removal on the verso must be noted and then instantly forgiven in light of the tremendous rarity and importance of this piece. As our catalog imagery should indicate, the program presents marvelously, remaining in splendid condition for a paper collectible over thirteen decades in age. For all of these reasons, one could easily argue that this is the most significant piece of football memorabilia to be offered to the collecting public in recent memory.

The 1873 Eton-Yale program (henceforth known as the second oldest program) is below. Eton is the English team from Eton College in the United Kingdom. This game was played on December 6th, 1873 at Hamilton Park in New Haven.


The Earliest Ivy League Football Programs

January 2, 2008

We know the first game between ivy league schools when when Columbia met Yale on November 16, 1872 at Hamilton Park near New Haven, Connecticut.

As far as the first program printed for a football game, we estimate that the first was for the Harvard-Yale game also played at Hamilton Park on November 13th, 1875. This was the first time Harvard played Yale in a Football game and the first time any two college teams worm uniforms to play the game. This simple four page program listed the last names of the Harvard Players in red and the Yale Players in blue and had a space for the name of the referee and space to keep track of goals and the time of each goal. The images below are from an 1876 program, but is substantially identical to the 1875 program. An original 1876 program sold at auction recently for almost $4,000!

 harvard yale

Note the Yale player Camp ’80. This is Walter Camp, the “father” of American football who played for Yale in these early years.

harvard yale 2

 Early turn of the century Harvard-Yale programs:

harvard yale 1897


harvard yale 1904