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

A New York Times report (31 May 1884) recounts a New York–Paterson match in Central Park, at West 86th Street and Eighth Avenue (Central Park West). Paterson forward G. Montgomery received an "azure eye" from a stray football. (© The New York Times)

Around this time, in 1883, the man who would become the poet laureate of New Jersey’s industrial north, William Carlos Williams, was born in nearby Rutherford. He said he chose Paterson for the setting of his epic five-part poem, published in increments between 1946 and 1958, in order “to embody the whole knowable world about me.” “A man is indeed a city,” Williams writes earlier in his autobiography, “and for the poet there are no ideas but in things.”

I thought of other places upon the Passaic River, but, in the end, the city, Paterson, with its rich colonial history, upstream, where the water was less heavily polluted, won out. The falls, vocal, seasonally vociferous, associated with many of the ideas upon which our fiscal colonial policy shaped us through Alexander Hamilton, interested me profoundly—and what has resulted therefrom. Even today a fruitful locale for study. I knew of these things.

Patricia Wright says of her husband’s great-grandfather, the one-time captain of Paterson FC, that he decided to return to England in the late 19th century. “He became very involved with football in the UK but we have no information,” she writes.

Naturally, we would welcome more in-depth news of this nascent Paterson side. Williams, himself, does not write of the association game and its north Jersey traditions, although he does speak of the gridiron variant, in the negative, in In the American Grain:

Our life drives us apart and forces us upon science and invention—away from touch. Or if we do touch, our breed knows no better than the coarse fiber of football. … To me, it is because we fear to wake up that we play so well. Imagine stopping money making.

Sources

Richard D. Margrave, “Technology Diffusion and the Transfer of Skills: Nineteenth-Century English Silk Migration to Paterson,” in Silk City: Studies on the Paterson Silk Industry, 1860–1940, ed. Philip B. Scranton (Newark: New Jersey Historical Society, 1985), 9–34; William Carlos Williams, The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams (New York: New Directions, 1967); idem, In the American Grain (New York: New Directions, 1956).

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