William L. Clements Library

Past Exhibit

The Games We Played: Sports in Nineteenth Century America

June 13, 2011 — October 7, 2011

Curated by Emiko Hastings

This exhibition offers a sampling of books, manuscripts, prints, photographs and other materials to illustrate the many sports played in 19th century America. Broadly defined, the theme of sports includes team sports, leisure activities, and other outdoor amusements like hunting and camping. In the 19th century, as life became increasingly urban and industrialized, activities like hunting, fishing, and running went from essential subsistence skills to entertainments reserved for leisure time. Some of the most popular sports today, including baseball, basketball, and football, were first developed in the 19th century. By the end of the 19th century, many sports had become formalized with the establishment of clubs, governing bodies, and official rulebooks.