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The birth of football at Wabash

One thing all Wabash men have in common is their love of a football game on a sunny autumn day. This passion was born at the very beginning of the football program at Wabash. These images record that birth and also show that football and fanatic have always been linked at Old Wabash.

These scans were all made from a great scrapbook compiled by Caleb Mills’ grandson, Blackford Condit [W1892]. If you are quick on the draw with the math, you will note that there is a six year gap between this game and his graduation as he was a first year preparatory school student in a full collegiate course that took six years

As you can see from the results listed in their first game, Wabash played Franklin to a tie. This was followed two weeks later by another game which Wabash won. It was decided that Wabash needed a yell and a school color…the color heliotrope (a pinkish red) was suggested when a full throated student shouted, “Heliotrope Hell! We want blood!!” and scarlet was selected instead.

This next image is of a piece of the first scarlet ribbon ever worn by a Wabash athlete. It is in great shape and what a delight it was to see it in that scrapbook.

Next we have the State Champions of 1886. Look at the ball, it is distinctly different from the footballs of today. Hanging on the wall to the left of the photo below is the State Championship banner won by this team.

Long since lost, the banner hung for years in the reading room of the Yandes Library. In the image below there are four banners in the upper part of this image.

Here are some excerpts from an article in the Wabash magazine, “The final game of Foot-ball for the State Championship and field medal was played at Indianapolis…The result was a glorious victory for Wabash, which gives us the State Championship…Our team meant business from the word go. And improved with each game, and the last one they played like professionals. Hanover had a strong and well-drilled team, which had been shown by her former victories, but when she met Wabash, she was out-run, out-kicked and out-schemed, and as a result and “official” score of 23 to 4…The day was fine, and about seventy-five students and several of the Professors accompanied to encourage and cheer the boys and enjoy the game…In the evening our team was banqueted at the Bates Hotel by the admirers, which was a very enjoyable event; and after attending the opera, they returned on the midnight train, and were met at the depot by the students en masse with brass band. They were marched down to the College, and after serenading the Faculty and having a general jubilee, they disbanded.”

As we can see this was a rousing start to a long and passionate tradition at Wabash…an unbridled love of the game of football.

Best,
Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College
 
 
 
 
 
  1. Wow! An extraordinary story. It says as much about early football as it does about Wabash.

  2. Mark Decaroli '91

    Thankfully scarlet was chosen as the school color. I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed a Coke and fries as much from the “Heliotrope Inn”.

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