From the founding of the Harvard Lacrosse Association in 1877 until very recently the prospects of lacrosse at Harvard have been somewhat dubious. In fact, it is probable that the association would have collapsed before now but for the enthusiasm of a few individuals and for the sympathy and encouragement of the National Amateur Lacrosse Association. It is certain had the lacrosse men depended entirely for aid on the college at large the record of the lacrosse team would not present the almost uninterrupted series of victories that it does. But still, that external sympathy could not take the place of home support was shown by the fact that for about two years lacrosse hung between life and death. Indeed it was deemed of so little consequence, and the attempt to introduce it was thought to be so hopeless, that there is no mention made of the game in the college papers until May 9, 1879, when the Advocate editorially speaks the first welcome word for lacrosse in the following words.: "The members of the lacrosse team deserve the thanks of the college for having established the game at Harvard." It further ventures to predict that it will "take its place with foot-ball and base-ball as a game requiring skill and practice."
It is not very strange, however, that the college papers paid so little heed to a game which was unknown to most of the students. Even the records of the Lacrosse Association were very few previous to 1879, and these have been destroyed, as if the despairing supporters of the game felt that they had attempted too much in trying to introduce a new sport into a college where boating was at its height, where base-ball was all the rage, and where tennis and rifle clubs were rising into prominence. Lacrosse, though of slow, has still been of sure growth. We may imagine the first few forlorn players creeping out to some retired part of Holmes field to practise their strange sport. In the fall of 1879, however, the prospects of the game brightened. In that year the following set of officers were elected to the association: Wright, '81, president; Manning, '82, vice-president; C. F. Squibb, '81, secretary; Bradley, '82, treasurer; Robert Sturgis, '81, captain of team. Of these the two best players and most enthusiastic workers were Squibb and Sturgis.
Two games were played with the Unions of Boston on October 18 and 31, respectively; in the second of which Harvard was beaten by a score of three goals to nothing. This we believe to be her last defeat. There is no record of Harvard ever having been defeated by another college lacrosse team. At this time an attempt was made to form a second team, but there is no evidence that the idea was carried into practice. About this time a wise move was the payment of $25 toward the cost of the net in the gymnasium, whereby the lacrosse team secured the right, next after the ball nine, to use the cage.
In June, 1880, the meeting of the National Amateur Lacrosse Association at the Astor House, New York, gave a renewed impulse to the game. Harvard did not send a delegate, but was represented by Mr. Flannery of New York.
The season of 1880-1 started out well by a meeting held October 4, when C. F. Squibb was elected to succeed Sturgis as captain.
On May 14, 1881, a very important game was played between Columbia and Harvard on the Polo Grounds, New York. This game is notable for being, as is claimed, the first game of lacrosse ever played between college teams in New York, and more interesting as being the first appearance of the ill-fated Columbia team. The New York Telegram says: "The game was well contested, but the Harvards were too much for the Columbia boys." The New York World calls it "a series of well contested games, in which Harvard teaches Columbia a lesson." The score was 4 goals to 0. The Harvard team was composed of: Squibb, '81; Munro, '81; Paine, '81; Davis, '83; R. Sturgis, '81; O. M. W. Huntington, '81; A. Thorndike, Jr., '81; W. B. Noble, '84; R. B. Ennis, '83; R. Coit, '83; E. K. Butler, '83: R. M. Bradley, '82.
In the fall meeting of 1881 Machado, '83, was elected captain, and it was decided to play for the college championship. For this purpose the team went to New York, where a series of games was played on the Polo Grounds with the following result:
Harvard, 4 Univ. of N. Y. 0
Princeton, 5 Columbia, 0
Harvard, 3 Princeton, 0
Seven of the players on this victorious team were '83 men.
In reference to these games a Boston paper says: "In spite of the comparatively little interest taken in lacrosse in the college, and in spite even of some opposition to the support of a lacrosse team, such a team has been kept up to win." The "opposition" thus mentioned was such as an article in the Advocate of October 21, 1881, shows: The writer, after discussing the rights of the lacrosse team to use the land granted it by President Eliot, and stating that the "game was of very little importance to the university," goes on to say that since it interfered with tennis, "it has been almost an unmitigated nuisance." This is the first clear indication of the growing power of lacrosse, since the Advocate thought it worth while to attack it. But lacrosse now began to boom. On Feb. 23, 1882, it was voted to "invite the lacrosse associations of Princeton, New York University and Columbia to meet in New York city," but this meeting was delayed until today, when the delegates are expected to meet in Cambridge, and the result, it may be hoped, will make this a "red letter day" in the history of the game.
On April 29, 1882, a tie game was played in Cambridge between the New York University team and Harvard on Holmes field. A game with Columbia was to have been played on May 6th, but was necessarily postponed. The closing game of the season of 1881-2 was played at Princeton, N. J., which was won by Harvard-score, 3 to 1. Besides the regular team, a second team was organized, and three games were played, two of them with Andover, in which Harvard won. Thus, with the end of 1882, lacrosse prospects were brighter than ever before. This year opened with a meeting Oct. 5, 1882. Noble, '84, was elected captain; Machado, '83, president; Williams, '85, vice-president; Hobbs, '85, treasurer; secretary and manager, Reuter, '84. So far the work done has been in gaining the championship of the United States and the Oelrich cup, by winning in the contest held in New York last October.
In the last meeting, January 12 of this year, Messrs. Machado, Noble, Coit, Williams and Rueter were appointed a committee to draw up a constitution and resolutions to be presented at the convention.
In looking over the prospects for the future it seems that the only way for lacrosse to gain a firm and permanent footing is for the freshman class to take it up, so that the 'Varsity team can have recruits from the freshman team, just as the 'Varsity crew received material from class crews. Two attempts have been made to form second lacrosse teams, but have amounted to little because such teams could be at best but quasi organizations.
If it be true that no institution is permanent until it appears in literature, then lacrosse bids fair to become a fixture, for more has been published in the college papers on the subject within the last year than in all the previous four years.