Shoemaker's Shop Ledger Yields Serendipitous Football Fact

The staff in the University Archives recently installed an exhibition on the history of Georgetown football from 1830-1951. Curiosity abounds whenever we open up the cases and change out the exhibitions on display, so many of our researchers ask questions about what is going in next. As luck would have it, a regular researcher at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections happened to notice an entry in the Shoemaker’s Shop ledger from 1843-1845 that was highly relevant to the football exhibition. That ledger contains an entry on October 5, 1844, that reads as follows:

Detail from shoe shop ledger regarding leather for football

“Leather for foot ball (paid) 37 ½ cents”

We know that football, in some form, was played on campus as early as 1830, thanks to a letter from student John Carroll Brent. Brent wrote to his sister Emmy on October 7, 1830:

Detail from 1830 letter from Georgetown student John Carroll Brent to his sister Emmy

“We play football at present. What I mean by football is that it is a kind of leather bag in which is placed a bladder filled with air which causes it to bounce up very high and is kicked about by the boys. I have had my feet skinned and bruised by it very often.”

The sport obviously seems to have remained popular on campus if, 14 years later, University officials were fashioning their own footballs from leather found in the shoe shop. As this particular ledger isn’t used very often, it is not likely that staff would have come across this interesting entry. Kudos to our eagle-eyed researcher!

To learn more about the history of football at Georgetown, stop by the 5th floor of Lauinger Library to see the exhibition, which is on display until mid-September, 2018.

--Ann Galloway, Assistant University Archivist

June 11, 2018

Page from Georgetown Shoe Shop ledger, 1844