Bill Church Letter for sale

Right now, for sale on eBay is a letter dated October 26, 1896 on Essex County Park Commission stationery to “My Dear Mr. Church” from a person whose signature I can’t make out. From the tone of the letter, the writer was apparently a Princeton alum who was thanking Church for his hospitality by allowing him to stay in his room at the Cannon Club on a Princeton football Saturday. The recipient of the letter was probably one of the football-playing Church brothers, J. Robb “Bob” Church, class of 1888, or Bill Church, class of 1897. The seller states that the letter is from the estate of Bill Church. This makes sense because the Cannon Club was first opened during Bill’s time at Princeton. Bob was awarded a Medal of Honor for his valor in the Spanish-American War. Bill was named to the All America first team at tackle that year. After graduation, coached and played football for a few years after leaving Princeton.

A second purpose of the letter was to provide Church with some intelligence for the upcoming Princeton-Yale game. Two days earlier, the writer had attended the Carlisle-Yale game that was played on Manhattan Field in New York City. That was the infamous game in which the Indians were robbed of a touchdown. This Princetonian thought it was worse than that. He wrote, “The score should have been about Carlisle 18 – Yale 12, in order to represent the facts – and the relative merits of the teams. I wish you would say to yourself and to the rest of the Princeton boys that there is no reason now in sight why they should not win this year.”

And win they did. Princeton beat Yale 24-6. They beat Carlisle 22-6. These 12 points were all that were scored against that year’s national champions. Yale ended its season at 13-1. It should have been 12-2.

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