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George S. Billmeyer; All American Football Player in 1869

First Day of Issue Stamp; 100 Years Intercollegiate Football, 1869-1969 (S. H. Smith Collection, with Enlarged View of Stamp positioned to cover part of a 1969 address)
First Day of Issue Stamp; 100 Years Intercollegiate Football, 1869-1969 (S. H. Smith Collection, with Enlarged View of Stamp positioned to cover part of a 1969 address)

The first date of issue of this First Class 6-Cent Postage Stamp was in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  Recognized as the site of college football’s first game November 6th, 1869; between Princeton and Rutgers.

In my post last Wednesday you learned that George S. Billmeyer was a player in this first college football game while he attended college in Princeton, New Jersey.  In the rules of the day, two men from each team played immediately in front of the opponents’ goal; they were know as “captains of the enemy’s goal.”  For Princeton, in that first football game, George S. Billmeyer and Homer D. Boughner were the “captains of the enemy’s goal.”

An article in the September 15th, 1969, issue of Sports Illustrated on The First 100 Years of College Football began as follows:

It is recorded that the first intercollegiate football game was held at New Brunswick on Nov. 6, 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton and that Rutgers won 6-4, the scoring and playing rules being considerably different than they are today. What is not known are the names of the heroes of that game, for, surely, in a sense, they were the first All-Americas.

Reading that Sports Illustrated article gave me the idea for the title for this post; George S. Billmeyer might have been one of the All American Football Players in 1869, if such an honor had existed back then.

Related posts include:

Continue reading for the 1st of 2 parts on the first college football game, played in 1869.



Before I get into details about the first college football game in 1869, I have to comment on the 6-Cent First Class Postage during 1969.  I wondered what the postage rate was 100-years earlier, during the first game in 1869; it was 3-Cents.  Here is the amazing fact, First Class postage stayed at 3-Cents (or less) until 1958.  That is a far cry from the expected 2014 rate increase to 49-Cents for a First Class Letter.

An excellent scholarly article concerning the first college football game in 1869 was written in 1909 by Parke H. Davis, a member of the Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee.  At that time, upon the 40th Anniversary of the first game, he had the ability to interview players from that game.

The First Intercollegiate Football Game, by Parke H. Davis was published on pages 183 through 187 of The Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 15, 1909; Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.  Accompanying the article, Parke H. Davis included a Copyrighted Photo Layout of The Princeton Football Team of 1869.

Parke H. Davis used class photos to assemble the photo layout.  His layout includes the same George S. Billmeyer photo that I obtained from the Princeton University Archives.  All players except three men are shown in small ovals or squares.  The three men in large ovals are: George W. Mann ’72, George S. Billmeyer ’71 and William S. Gummere ’70.

Sophomore George W. Mann is not mentioned elsewhere in the article.  A rematch game was played on November 13, 1869 at Princeton, where Rutgers was defeated 8 goals to none; was George W. Mann a leading scorer in that game?

Junior George S. Billmeyer is noted in the article as being a captain of the enemy’s goal.  What additional reason was there for George to be placed in a large oval?

Senior William S. Gummere was captain of the football team; he was appropriately placed in the center large oval in the photo layout.  William was also a leading player on the Princeton Baseball Team.  Intercollegiate Baseball games had been played since 1859.  Princeton had beaten their rival Rutgers by a large score in baseball, resulting in Rutgers players organizing and electing William J. Leggett to issue a challenge to Princeton for new type of athletic contest.

The Princeton players selected William S. Gummere as their captain.  Gummere and Leggett got together and devised the rules for the new type of athletic contest, which resembled a cross between rugby and soccer.  William S. Gummere later became Chief Justice of the State of New Jersey.

The following are the rules of the first college football game.  The rules are quoted from The First Intercollegiate Football Game, by Parke H. Davis, published in The Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 15, 1909, page 184; Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

The rules for this contest are interesting, and being the first set of football rules formulated in this country, of course are of great historical importance in the game.  They are as follows:

1. Grounds must be 360 feet long and 225 feet wide.

2. Goals must be 8 paces.

3. Each side shall number 25 players.

4. No throwing or running with the ball; if either it is a foul and the ball then must be thrown perpendicularly in the air by the side causing the foul.

5. No holding the ball or free kicks allowed.

6. A ball passed beyond the boundary by the side of the goal shall be kicked on from the boundary by the side who has that goal.

7. A ball passing beyond the limit on the side of the field shall be kicked on horizontally to the boundary by the side which kicked it out.

8. No tripping or holding of players.

9. The winner of the first toss has the choice of position; the winner of the second toss has the first kick-off.

10. There shall be four judges and two referees.

As you can see, these rules hardly have any resemblance to modern football rules.  However these are the rules from with the modern game of American football evolved over time.  For example in 1875, a rule was added permitting running with the ball and tackling above the waist.  An egg-shaped, leather-covered ball was also specified in the rules that same year; previously any available ball was allowed.

In 1876, the number of players on the field from each team was lowered from 25 to 15.  That same year a crossbar was added to the goal posts; it’s height specified at 10 feet, which is the same to the present day.

In 1880, the rugby style scrummage was replaced by the scrimmage and the number of players on the field from each team was lowered to 11.  In 1882, the rule of using yards and downs was added; requiring a team to make 5 yards in 3 downs.

In 1906 the forward pass was legalized; 37 years after the first college football game!  And it took until 1912 for the rules refinement to the present system we now have: 4 downs to make 10 yards.

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