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HUV 1331

Photographic views of Harvard Stadium, 1903-1954: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUV 1331
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Title: Photographic views of Harvard Stadium, 1903-1954
Date(s): 1903-1954
Quantity: 0.5 cubic feet (128 photographs)
Abstract: Located just south of the Charles River from Harvard Yard, Harvard Stadium was constructed in 1903 as a gift from the Class of 1879 in honor of its twenty-fifth anniversary. Based on an earlier design by Harvard University professor Louis J. Johnson, Harvard College Class of 1887, the architectural firm McKim, Mead and White designed the stadium, which is one of the first stadiums in the United States and was the first large-scale structure to be built with reinforced concrete in the country. The Photographic views of Harvard Stadium provides a visual record of Harvard University's football stadium, its grounds and surrounding areas from 1903 to 1954. The 128 images consist of photograph prints and postcards, and processes include gelatin silver prints, letterpress halftone prints, and collotype prints.

Acquisition information:

These images were acquired by the Harvard University Archives from the late nineteenth century through the late twentieth century.

Processing Information:

This finding aid was created by Amanda Sherman in June 2016.
Description of the Photographic views of Harvard Stadium, 1903-1954, was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collection initiative.

Researcher Access:

Open for research.

Online access:

All of the images have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Preferred Citation:

Photographic views of Harvard Stadium, 1903-1954. HUV 1331, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

Collections in the Harvard University Archives

Historical Note

Located just south of the Charles River from Harvard Yard, Harvard Stadium was constructed in 1903 as a gift from the Class of 1879 in honor of its twenty-fifth anniversary. Based on an earlier design by Harvard University professor Louis J. Johnson, Harvard College Class of 1887, the architectural firm McKim, Mead and White designed the stadium, which is one of the first stadiums in the United States and was the first large-scale structure to be built with reinforced concrete in the country. The design of Harvard Stadium was influenced by the Classical stadiums of Greece and circuses of Rome. At a cost of $310,000, the stadium was built to include a football field, a running track around the field, and seating for a capacity of 20,000 spectators. It has been used for football, track and field, rugby, lacrosse, professional football, and ice hockey.
American football, first played in 1869, made its arrival at Harvard University in 1874 when students played their first game against McGill University at Jarvis Field. The following year, Harvard played Yale University in the first of what is referred to as "The Game," an annual match between the two schools, marked by a considerable rivalry. Harvard did not win a game against Yale in the stadium until 1913. Since then, Harvard has won seven national championships, defeating Yale for their first in 1890. The Ivy League, the collegiate athletic conference to which Harvard belongs, officially began in 1956, and Harvard has won seventeen football league titles since its founding. In 1968, Harvard played Yale at Harvard Stadium in one of the most famous games in Ivy League history, in which both teams entered the game undefeated. Harvard had a last-minute comeback, scoring sixteen points in forty-two seconds to tie the game, and it inspired the Harvard Crimson headline, "Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29," which alludes to the sense of a moral victory that was felt among the Harvard community because Yale was heavily favored to win the game. Both teams ended the season with a record of 8-0-1.
The growing popularity of football, along with the inadequacy of Harvard's previous grandstands, led to a desire among those in the Harvard community to build a new stadium. Despite President Charles William Eliot's disapproval of the game, the Class of 1879 decided to give the school $100,000 in honor of the class's twenty-fifth anniversary, a dramatic increase from the traditional gift of $10,000. With further funds from Harvard Athletics, construction on the new stadium began in 1903. The material and methods of construction were innovative at the time, as reinforced concrete had previously only been used for flooring and sidewalks. The 573 foot by 420 foot stadium was built using 4,800 concrete slabs weighing 1,200 pounds each that the crew molded. The slabs were lifted into place with pulleys and attached to a frame of steel girders, and professors of mechanical and civil engineering at Harvard who developed the methods improved and changed them as needed throughout construction. Because the construction was so innovative, the stadium was named a National Historic Landmark in 1987, one of only three football stadiums to receive the designation. In 1910, a colonnade along the top of the stadium was added, along with wooden seats on the running track, increasing the seating capacity to 40,000. Steel stands at the open end of the stadium were added in 1929 to increase capacity to 57,750 but were dismantled in 1952. Seating capacity is now 30,323. In 2006, the stadium was renovated to have artificial turf, improved lights to allow for nighttime games, and a removable fabric covering to allow use of the facility in wintertime.
Despite having a newly constructed stadium, football was nearly banned from being played at Harvard. Football had its most violent season in 1905, with eighteen deaths and 159 disabling injuries, and President Eliot threatened to end the sport that year. The Board of Overseers disagreed, though, and the sport continued another year. The same year, the brutality of the sport reached the attention of United States President Theodore Roosevelt, who held a meeting of representatives from Harvard University, Yale University, and Princeton University. The representatives promised to find solutions to the problem of safety, but before solutions could be presented, several universities began to ban football, including Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Trinity College, and Duke University. Stanford University and University of California halted their football programs and transitioned to rugby. With so many schools ousting the sport, President Eliot was able to gain the support of the Overseers to ban football unless changes were made. In 1906, William Reid, football coach at Harvard, proposed nineteen rule changes and used the fact that Harvard would no longer allow football to be played to convince other schools to adopt the changes. These changes included allowing a forward pass, instituting a neutral zone at the line of scrimmage, requiring six players to begin each play at the line of scrimmage, shortening the game from seventy minutes to sixty, prohibiting hits to the face, prohibiting tackling out of bounds or below the knees, and increasing the distance required for a first down to ten yards. Another rule change that almost passed was to widen the field by forty feet; however, because Harvard Stadium could not be altered to accommodate that size field, the rule change did not pass.
Harvard Stadium not only hosts Crimson football games but also lacrosse matches for the Boston Cannons, soccer matches for the Boston Breakers, and briefly, football games for the Boston Patriots while Foxboro Stadium was being constructed. The stadium also hosted Olympic soccer matches in 1984 and was the site of Janis Joplin's last public performance before she died of a heroin overdose in 1970.

References

Arrangement

The Photographic views of Harvard Stadium has a legacy arrangement reflecting over 100 years of interfiling individual photographs of the structure from many sources into one collection. The images are arranged into ten folders, with the photographs loosely arranged in chronological order.This collection is part of the Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Views, in which Archives staff compiled images, whether acquired individually or removed from larger collections, and arranged them in categories based on locations, buildings, or landscape features for ease of reference.

Scope and Content

The Photographic views of Harvard Stadium provides a visual record of Harvard University's football stadium, its grounds and surrounding areas from 1903 to 1954. The 128 images consist of photograph prints and postcards, and processes include gelatin silver prints, letterpress halftone prints, and collotype prints. Some photographs were contributed by the Harvard Film Service, and two were taken by noted architectural photographer F. S. Lincoln.
Images show Harvard Stadium and the grounds from a variety of angles, with many displaying the construction of the stadium. In these photographs, the construction crew works at several stages of the process, including laying the foundation, building the frame, installing steel beams for the concrete seating, molding concrete pieces of the stadium, using a pulley system to install the seating, and building the concrete arches on the outside wall of the stadium. Images also show several samples of different types of concrete that may have been used during construction. Other images show a Yale University football game, film crews, the Charles River, the Harvard Business School, the nearby Speedway Café, and damage to the area after Hurricane Carol in 1954.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 August 29.

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