By Tom Dare
FASCINATING IMAGES, some dating back over 150-years, have shed light on the wacky pastimes that entertained our ancestors in years gone by.
Pictures from between 1910 and 1915 show two cars colliding in a game of Auto Polo in New York, while others from 1909 show two men squaring off in a good old fashioned ‘duel’, except using rubber bullets instead of real ones.
Further astonishing images date back as far as 1862 and show Union soldiers in the American Civil War gathering round to watch a round of cock fighting, whereas another displays the impact the invention of air travel had on sports as two women take part in a round of aerial golf.
The vast array of images just goes to show the evolution of sport over the past 150-years.
In the oldest one, taken between 1862 and 1865, Union soldiers stationed at General Orlando B. Wilcox’s headquarters in Petersburg, Virginia find themselves captivated by the impending cock-fighting contest.
One of the most popular pastimes in Britain and her territories in the 17th and 18th centuries, the ‘sport’ of cock-fighting travelled across the Atlantic to the new world in the 1700s, where it soon became a favourite in local bars and taverns. Both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were rumoured to be advocates of the sport, but the barbaric pastime was officially made illegal across the United States when Louisiana became the final state to outlaw it in 2007.
One theme that’s easy to spot throughout history is that of technological advances being coupled with traditional games, and nowhere is that more evident than in the ‘Auto Polo’ craze that swept the United States at the turn of the 20th century.
With the invention of the motorcar beginning to change the landscape of the country in the early 1900s, it wasn’t long before someone combined America’s love of motors with its love of sport, creating the short-lived game in around 1910.
The rules were, essentially, the same as traditional polo, except replacing horses with cars. The game proved hugely popular at fairs and sports venues, but began to die down towards the end of the 1920s due to the risk and cost involved.
After the motorcar it was the invention of the aeroplane which brought with it new opportunities to combine technology and sport, with the pastime of aerial golf beginning to take off in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Confined exclusively to the upper classes who could afford it, the game essentially revolved around flying over a ‘hole’ and dropping your golf ball from a great height. The plane would then land on the course, and a normal game of golf would take place from the place the ball had landed, before putting it and returning to the plane. Needless to say, once the novelty had worn off, the impracticalities of the game soon saw it die out.
Another sport popular in the early 1900s was that of wax-bullet duelling, which saw traditional gun ‘duels’ replaced with a much safer alternative.
All the rules of duelling remained the same but for the grizzly ending, with competitors receiving a bruising for taking part rather than a bullet-wound.