On November 30, 1876, Yale defeats Princeton, 2-0, in Hoboken, New Jersey in the first collegiate football game played on Thanksgiving. Nearly 1,000 fans attend the game, played in cold, rainy weather. “The friends of both colleges mustered in good force,” the New York Times reports. “Several carriages containing ladies were on the ground, and a goodly number of Alumni were there to cheer the contestants.”
The “football” was oval and made of leather, the Times noted, “similar to those used in Rugby Union rules.” The game resembled rugby more than a present-day football game.
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Playing conditions were not ideal. “[T]he ground was so hard that terrific thumps and bruises were the rule and not the exception,” the New York Daily Herald reported. But each team was superbly outfitted.
“The Yale team wore blue skullcaps, shirts, stockings of the same color and white flannel trowsers,” the Daily Herald reported. “The Princeton lads were gorgeous in their orange and black uniforms.”
Play became ragged, with the game reportedly resembling Greco-Roman wrestling, not football. Perhaps the first example of college football trash talk was noted by the Daily Herald. “Just wait awhile, and we will show these fellows something,” a Princeton player was quoted.
The Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving game started a collegiate tradition. Later in the 19th century, the universities of Kansas, Missouri, Michigan and others began playing football on the holiday.