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Reno, 1896, The Savage Game of Football

Reno, Washoe County, Nevada Territory

Cover Date: October 27, 1896

Called "Bloodbath" by some. The elderly were appalled and the establishment disgusted. But somehow football overcame all of this to become the most popular sport in America 100 years later.

Cover as History: The year was 1896. Football was gaining popularity among the lads of the United States. The University of Nevada played their first season of football (or as it was called by some "bloodbath") in 1896.  They beat Wadsworth HS 30-0, lost to Cal JV 40-0 and lost to Belmont College 70-0. Mr. Frank L Taylor, coach at Cal, was hired by President Stubbs to get the UNR boys trained.

But is was not just at the University level that the game was catching on. In January of 1896 the Corona Club of Reno (made up of high school aged students) challenged the football teams of Carson City and Virginia City High School. They suggested that games to be played February 21 and 22. They proudly boasted that they had already beaten Reno High School and are confident in any upcoming matches.

This truly was the beginning of the popularity of the sport in this country. But football wasn’t so popular with all  in 1896.

The Nevada State Journal reports that on December 5th bills had been introduced in many state legislatures to ban the game of football. “It is charged by many who have witnessed football games that in many instances they are merely slugging matches and that players who do not resort to the tactics of the pugilist invariably come out second best.”

One week later they reprinted an article from the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune reports the following football injuries that occurred on Thanksgiving. The article states such a list looks more like a battle in a war than a game played by youngsters:
  • Rue of Brooklyn killed in a rush of both teams
  • Kennedy of New Orleans jumped on and ridden over and will probably die
  • Davis of South Chicago badly crushed and will probably die
  • Ammon of Western Reserve University had collar bone broken (one of many broken collar bones reported)
  • Belt of Greensburg, IN injured by Beason of Shelbbville and had to be carried from the field
  • Coffeen of Lafayette bruised badly when eight men jumped on him
  • Coy of U of Chicago had should dislocated
  • Heard of Brooklyn had a dislocated hip
  • Jackson of Greentown, IA badly beaten by Black over umpire’s call
  • Pied of Cornell U. rendered helpless
  • Stocker of Scranton, PA had part of scalp torn off
  • Upp of U of Michigan freshman team crushed badly
  • Woolly of Tower, MN hit over head with brick thrown by an Indian
  • Many carried off of the field helpless
Altogether they report 43 such episodes and concluded with: “Who can read this list and say that football as played in our colleges is not a barbarous game. There is more brutality in one football game than in a dozen prize fights. But a broken limb or a life crushed out is a small matter.”
History of CoverBut football wasn’t just popular at the college level. High schools were fielding teams also, although not sanctioned teams. Wadsworth, Reno, Carson and Virginia City all seemed to have had a football team. 

There were also club teams. One of those was the Corona Football Club. They were made up of high school aged players. On November 28, 1896 they took on the Verdi football club and won the game 8-6. Patrick McCurran opened the game with an 85 yard scamper to give Corona a 4-0 lead. 

With this cover came a letter. The letter is from William R. Bowman of the Corona Football Club. It is asking Mr. Mulcahey of Carson City to come up with a team to take them on.

The Corona team consists of:
  • M Jacobs, center, age 18
  • F Berry, right tackle, age 17
  • R Stoddard, right gard, age 17
  • Phill Gilen, left gard
  • W Bowman, left tackle and author of letter
  • E Stewart, quarter, age 17
  • P McCurnan, left half back
  • B Evans, right half back, age 16, played football at UNR in 1899
  • E Hamilton, fullback

William Bowman goes on to tell Mulcahey that they weighed themselves the other night and the average was 142 pounds!

What was the name of the left half back? Could it possibly be Patrick McCarran? That was what I thought it was. But I did a little research. Patrick McCarran did enter UNR in 1897 and joined the football team. He must have played before then. Unfortunately he had just turned 20 at the time of this letter and that seemed a little too old for the ages of the other players. Then I read he didn’t start school until he was 10 and graduate until he was 20. This must be our Patrick. To seal the deal, McCarran set the Reno High School record for the 100 yard dash. Of course he could make the long runs when he got free. 

McCarran went on to play at UNR as can be seen by this 1899 roster in a game against Santa Clara. Nevada won 11-6.

This must be the Nevada United States Senator from Nevada from 1933 to 1954 taking part in a game of "bloodbath."