I didn’t mean to have another football post so soon, but these pictures are like money burning a hole in my pocket. I had the old scrapbooks out so I could retrieve the picture of the 1912 football team and I started looking closely at what else was in the vicinity. I found these. They all seem to be from the same game, but I can’t be sure which one it was. It is VERY early, possibly 1912, and possibly with one of the local high schools. There isn’t any information on the jerseys to help figure it out. (Note that many of the players aren’t wearing helmets.) It also took me a while to understand where they were playing. I knew right away, of course, that they weren’t at Rice so I thought maybe it was a road game. It turns out that in 1912 Rice didn’t yet have a real football field, although they had a rough one for practice. The newly-named Owls played their first season in Houston’s West End Park, which was primarily used for baseball. (I need to do a little work to figure out when they played their first game on campus.) A nice article about the Park, with a nifty aerial shot that lets you see exactly where it was (it looks like where Allen Center is today), is here.
It seems that most of the dark jersey team wore helmets.
So was the wearing of helmets a ‘macho’ thing or was it a financial thing. It was obviously not a rule that day.
Also 1912, was not long after Teddy Roosevelt’s terms as president, and remember he made football clean up its roughness with a threat of some kind — what I’ve forgotten (Fancy That).
I have referenced this and the previous articles in the Wikipedia article about West End Park. I also added a reference to a 1942 “Houston, a history and guide” which seems to suggest that the entire (albeit short) 1912 season was played at that park. That guide references the “Houston Chronicle and Herald” for its descriptions of a couple of the first Rice football games, including one in 1913 in “an oat field” in which Rice won 7-0, after a receiver caught a pass while he “hid in the high oats”.
(I don’t see an author or publisher of this site specifically named, so I left those fields blank in my references in the Wikipedia article.)
Rice played two high school teams to open the season (and history of Rice football) of 1912: Houston High School and Orange (Lutcher Stark) High School. The Houston game was played on Saturday, October 26, and the game versus Orange on Wednesday the 30th.
Looking at the team in the photos with the “black jerseys and khaki pants” indicates the standard uniform of Houston HS. But there is photo evidence of Orange HS wearing the same type/colors of uniform.
But what leads me to lean heavily toward Houston HS as being Rice’s opponent in these photos rests in the photographer and the crowd in attendance at the game.
There seems to be a good turnout of viewers for the game (though not the record crowd of 10,000 at West End Park a couple of years earlier for the UT and A&M showdown) that would have started at no later than about 3PM. Would you expect to see that type of turnout for a game starting at 3PM on a Wednesday against a team from Orange?
No doubt that there was considerable anticipation and notice on campus for the unveiling of the Rice eleven. One would expect that the fledgling team would draw support at the turnstiles from the Rice community at large for their first ever game as they joined the gridiron fray, and Saturday would allow most anyone at Rice to attend.
Along with this newest curiosity and coupled with the fact that Houston HS drew considerable support at their games, makes Houston HS the most likely opponent in this context. A game played “mid-work week” during the day, off campus, against a team from over one hundred miles away would not garner the same turnout.
And as to the photographer, the novelty of this new Rice experience and the ceremonial circumstance of Rice’s first ever game would lure or even compel a Rice shutterbug to the event under the same conditions so as to document the happening. The photographer would be drawn to the game along with the “throngs” and not want to miss history in the making that had the campus abuzz for a Saturday celebration. Wednesday…………… not so much.
My conclusion. You are seeing Rice play football for the first time ever, and Houston HS making a photographic gridiron appearance a few years earlier than some images of them playing at the new “Rice Field”, previously thought to be their earliest efforts in front of a camera.
At second blush……… the top photo is from the 1916 Rice Campanile yearbook. It is part of a montage of football photos located in the “Football” section covering the 1915 football season (and with team photos of previous Rice squads).
As it is just to the right of an image of an action photo captioned “Fighting Notre Dame”, it is likely to also be an image from the Notre Dame game which was played at West End Park in 1915.
Pingback: Rice’s Most Lopsided Loss? 1912 | Rice History Corner