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1892 Night Football in Mansfield PA - A First
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Article: 1892 First Night Football - Mansfield PA
Township: Richmond, Tioga County PA-
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Two Articles by Chester P. Bailey
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Night Football Game – 1892

 by Chester P. Bailey

Typed for Tri-Counties Website by Pat SMITH Raymond

Mansfield State College will mark its 85th year of football with a Bicentennial Monument to historic firsts. Played first night game in 1892, held first spring practice in 1891 and held the drop kick record of 55 yards.

In the spring of 1891, Professor John Edwards proposed that Mansfield State Normal School have a football team. Professor Edwards was a lover of sports and a recent graduate of Lafayette College, where the game already was popular. Encouraged by the enthusiasm which greeted the suggestion, Professor Edwards called the interested men of the school together and launched on Smythe Park what was to be the first spring football practice in the United States. The team played three games that fall. One was played with Wellsboro, winning 8 to 0. Two were played against the Elmira Athletic Club, winning one 11 to 0 and losing 6 to 4.

In 1892, even though Professor Edwards was not at the school, the boys carried on with about the same group composing the team. The highlight of the season was a game with Wyoming Seminary at Smythe Park on September 29, the Wednesday evening of the Mansfield Fair, which has been proved to be the first night game of football in the country. For this event, a special lighting system was installed—20 electric lights of 2,000 candle power and several incandescent lights of 30 candle power operated by a Thompson and Houston dynamo. Of course, this was unsatisfactory; and the game was stopped at the half with neither team having scored.

In his freshman year at Mansfield Normal in 1913, Orson W. Wilcox emerged as an outstanding player. He was to earn 12 letters at Mansfield and later made every team in his freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh. Wilcox, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Arch Wilcox of Wellsboro, was killed in France at the height of his athletic career. He was a member of the Ambulance Corps in WWI and the first Toga Contain to receive the Croix de Guie by the French Government.

In 1914, under Coach Emory B. Rockwell from Dickerson College, the team won the state championship. Orson Wilcox was again one of the outstanding players.

In 1915, Orson Wilcox was team captain and kicked a 55-yard drop kick in the last few minutes of play to win over Wyoming Seminary on October 16, 1915. It was recorded in Spauldings Book of Records and, as far as known, has never been broken.

Two plaques marking the three firsts will be erected in Mansfield this fall during the 1976 Bicentennial Year and Mansfield’s 85th year since the first spring practice. One plaque will be placed at the College, and one on Smythe Park. Souvenir certificates at $1.00 each may be secured in Mansfield at Garrisons Mens Shop, Mark’s Tire Service, Bailey Printing Company or by mail by writing to Mecca, Mansfield, Pennsylvania, 16933.

First Night Football

 by Chester P. Bailey

Typed for Tri-Counties Website by Pat SMITH Raymond

As 1992 approaches and Mansfield looks toward celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first night football game in America, lets take a look at what the circumstances were that lead to that game. How did Mansfield happen to be first?

The game was held as an added attraction on the biggest day of the Mansfield Fair. The Fair was in its thirteenth year and getting bigger every year. It continued to grow well into the 1900’s.

Two of the Fair’s original founders, Mart King and Charles S. Ross were on the Smythe Park Association Board. Mart King was also a trustee of the Mansfield State Normal. Charles Ross was a graduate of the Normal, class of 1876. Both were very active in community affairs and must have been very supportive of the Normal Schools attempt at starting a football team.

We do know that they were very aggressive in bringing special attractions to Mansfield during Fair week. Many acts were from the vaudeville entertainment circuit, among them were acts from the Hippodrome in New York City, Atlantic City’s boardwalk and one of the first flying machines. The Fair operated on a definite schedule of events and throughout the years there was always a baseball game every afternoon following the stage show. An evening event was the only time slot.

The Mansfield Normal football players showed their enthusiasm for the newest team sport the year before. The coach and team from Wyoming Seminary must have seen the value to the team and sport by playing at the Great Mansfield Fair. The Mansfield Fair was considered the largest and most successful in northern Pennsylvania. Smythe Park was also considered the most beautiful and best equipped grounds in the northern half of the state.

With this background perhaps it is not so strange that Mansfield became the first town to hold a night football game.

In 1892 it was a great promotion for the Mansfield Fair and Mansfield Normal. In 1992 it will be a great opportunity for Mansfield and Mansfield University to celebrate the event.

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By Joyce M. Tice

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