History | Were Paterson FC the first stateside association football club?

  • Peter Seddon, compiler of the British Library’s authoritative Football Compendium, has uncovered the oldest known photograph of an England national association football team. The picture, taken before a match with Scotland, dates to 4 Mar 1876. FA historian David Barber said, “I have to say that it is an extraordinary find. I have never seen anything close to 1876.”
  • David Wangerin, author of Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America’s Forgotten Game (When Saturday Comes, 2006; Temple University Press, forthcoming), writes that research on early American and Canadian association football traditions refers to a Paterson side, the Caledonian Thistles, that played organized fixtures in 1884. Wangerin references the self-published work by Melvin I. Smith, Early American and Canadian “Football”: Beginnings through 1883/84 (1stBooks, 2003). Smith dates the first report of an American association game in a non-scholastic context to 15 Nov 1879: a 6–6 draw between Brooklynites Foot Ball Club and Bostonians Foot Ball Club. The full provenance of Wright’s team, Paterson FC, is not known or whether it correlates to the team referred to as “Thistle” or the “True Blues.”

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6 comments on this post.
  1. Jennifer Doyle:

    Thank you—especially for that marvelous line from In the American Grain. Williams was a marvelous poet and writer, and I was waiting to see if you’d bring in his epic poem Paterson. What an interesting story, and what a great picture of 19th-century New Jersey!

  2. John Turnbull:

    Thanks very much, Jennifer, for the kind word. The “coarse fiber of football” still reads true, on either side of the Atlantic.

  3. Spirit of Football 2010 » Blog Archive » Bookmark this for 2014:

    [...] Turnbull has posted an interesting article on the birth of football in the US on The Global Game. The article details the history of Paterson FC, which has a strong claim to being the first club [...]

  4. Bookmark this for 2014 : SoccerHunt.com:

    [...] Turnbull has posted an interesting article on the birth of football in the US on The Global Game. The article details the history of Paterson FC, which has a strong claim to being the first club [...]

  5. Tom McGrath:

    I have been researching the Oneida Football Club of Boston and have found some of their original documents. The boys saw their original game carried across the Charles River to Harvard from Boston Common and meshed their rules with McGill’s Rugby play.

    Gridiron football did not develop from soccer according to their records.

    I visited the Oneida “round ball” yesterday … he does get lonely.

    I am publishing a photocopy collection of the documents in May 2010 for researchers.

  6. Caleb Raynor:

    Hi Tom and John, I am captain of Oneida FC here in Boston. The club has been re-established as a Rugby and Soccer team in 2010 and we would love to have any copies of the documents about the history of the club. Thanks for putting this site together! caleb

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