Tricycles were not scorned by men. They were sometimes as fast as the bicycle (the mile record was 2:33 minutes for the tricycle, 2:29 minutes for the bicycle in 1890), 47 and a day's run in the country could be managed with a good deal more ease. Professor Hoffman Tips to Tricyclists was written for both the sexes. It was an all-inclusive guide, with advice on the wearing of celluloid collars and on management of breath, on cleaning the machine and on the desirability of lady cyclists' carrying menthol cones for emergencies.
There were all types of tricycles -- the Surprise Tricycle, the Quadrant Tricycle, the Coventry Rotary Tricycle. Another vehicle was the Sociable. It was in effect a small self-wheeled carriage, the cyclists happily sitting beside each other. It was widely advertised for honeymoons. Other machines completely defy description -- the Coventry Convertible Four in Hand and the Rudge Triplet Quadricycle.
The social consequences of bicycling, to be so much more apparent in the next decade, were already becoming evident in the 1880's. Although the price of machines ($100 to $125 for an ordinary and $180 for a tricycle) still made them an expensive luxury, the number of cyclists was increasing year by year. The rediscovery of the outdoors had received its greatest encouragement, and the League of American Wheelmen was performing heroic services in demanding improved roads. "Bicycling is a fraternity of more permanent organization," Outing declared in 1882, "than ever characterized any sport since the world began."
The role of the colleges in the rise of sports was not one of leadership. It was not their example that first set people playing games, bicycling, or generally getting outdoors for recreation. The epidemics sweeping the country did not pass them by, but undergraduates neither introduced nor popularized any one of the games that have so far been described. The only sport they developed was intercollegiate football.
It descended from a game played in England at least as early as the days of Edward II. "For as much as there is great noise in the city," reads a decree of 1314, "caused by hustling over large balls from which many evils arise which God forbid; we forbid such game to be used in the city in the future." And again and again in later years England's sovereigns fruitlessly legislated against a sport which the common people insisted on playing. The early colonists brought it to this country, and throughout the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries it was popular in the colleges. The game generally played in this period was something like association football, or soccer, but it was completely unorganized, and any number of players was usually allowed on each side. The first recorded intercollegiate contests (there is notice of an earlier game between two groups of Boston schoolboys), took place in 1869 between Princeton and Rutgers. They played three games with twenty-five men on each team.
A revival of football at Harvard and Yale about 1872 (it had been prohibited for some years because of increasing roughness) was the first real step in its emergence as an organized sport. The English variant known as Rugby, rather than association football, was played, and at a conference among representatives of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia a set of rules derived from those of the English Rugby Union was formally adopted. If the game was still far removed from the intercollegiate football we know today, its development from that date, 1876, followed a steady and persistent course.
Among the early changes which transformed Rugby into our modern game were the reduction of the number of players from fifteen to eleven; their assignment to specific positions in line and backfield; new provisions for running with the ball, kicking, and passing; and the substitution of the modern "scrimmage" for the old "scrummage" -- that confused huddle of the original game in which, instead of being passed back, the ball was indiscriminately kicked out after being put in play. When the new Intercollegiate Football Association gave its sanction to these new rules in 1881, there was little left of English Rugby in American colleges.
Football aroused spectator interest from the start, and the Big Three of the eastern colleges -- Harvard, Yale and Princeton -- at first completely overshadowed all other teams. It was long before comparable elevens were in the field. The Thanksgiving Day games of these universities were consequently the great events of the fall season. Some four thousand spectators turned out for the first Princeton-Yale game in 1878; little more than a decade later, attendance was almost forty thousand.
Few adults found themselves able or willing to play football. Although teams made up of former college players were for a time quite active, the game was primarily for boys. But many were glad to watch so exciting a sport. Its dependence upon brute force satisfied atavistic instincts as could no other modern spectacle except the prize-fight. Baseball had become the national game because so many people played it as well as watched it. Football was destined from the first to be primarily a spectator sport.
This phenomenal expansion in the field of sports was the most significant development in the nation's recreational life that had yet taken place. Apart from all the considerations already mentioned, athletics provided an outlet for surplus energy and suppressed emotions which the American people greatly needed. The traditions of pioneer life had influenced them along very definite lines, and the restrictions of urban living warred against a feeling for the outdoors which was in their blood. With the gradual passing of so much of what the frontier had always stood for, sports provided a new outlet for an inherently restless people.
In subsequent years they were to become far more general. Outdoor recreation was to develop into a much more marked feature of American life as new opportunities opened up for ever larger numbers of people to play games. The democracy was to take over sport to an extent which its limited leisure and lack of resources still made impossible in these decades after the Civil War. But the path had been cleared. America had discovered a new world.