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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: First rugby-football game was played on May 1874

May 20 2020

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: First rugby-football game was played on May 1874

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: First rugby-football game was played on May 1874

(Photo Credit: Notman Composite Photo, courtesy of McGill University Archives. This depicts the third game of the historic McGill-Harvard series of rugby-football, a game played on Oct. 23, 1874 at the Montreal Cricket Grounds.)

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The 1874 McGill-Harvard series, which featured 11 men per side, was played with a round ball and "Boston" rules in the first game. The next day, they played under McGill rules, which included McGill's oval ball and the ability to pick up the ball and run with it.

Some 500 spectators, mostly students, paid 50 cents apiece to watch the teams play and the $250 collected at the gate was used by both teams for a post-game reception and to cover McGill's travelling expenses. The event is recounted by three first-hand sources posted below. One is a reprint of two actual game accounts from The Gazette in Montreal and one from The Harvard Crimson in Cambridge. The other source is from recollections of former McGill student Henry Joseph, who played in that first game, in a piece entitled "How the 1874 McGill-Harvard Football Games Forever Changed Football".

 

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